A lighthouse in a digital fog

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Joel Oliver explains how you can improve your client engagement with mobile technology

In today’s mobile world the smartphone is the glue that binds people and information, businesses and their clients together. Having replaced computers for internet use, two-thirds (65%) of all adults now use a smartphone to go online, according to the 2016 Ofcom report into ‘Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes’. And the average number of interactions a person makes on their smartphone in a single day is over 2,500.

There can be no doubt that the business world is changing because of the rate of mobile adoption of devices such as smartphones and tablets. These devices are used for all kinds of business activity: for talking to customers, for raising quotes, creating invoices, capturing receipts and for searching for information, guidance and help that is relevant to their business. A smartphone or tablet holds all that’s important to that person, whether its choice of music app, sports app or financial app.

Capturing data digitally

The transformation of the tax system by HMRC to fit the digital age presents an opportunity for accountants to harness the power of mobile technology and show clients that they are interacting in the way they prefer.

Because businesses will need to electronically record their income and expenses and submit a summary of that information electronically to HMRC, accountants can help make the process simpler by providing a collection point for this data. And the most obvious place to collect and share this data in the new mobile world is via an app.

A custom app quickly becomes the first point of contact for the client and it can also provide on-the-go access to online accounts and to the client’s accounting software of choice including Xero, Kashflow, Sage, Quickbooks, etc.

The client submits all the core information required using the app in a way that will help them get used to the process in advance of the introduction of the new Making Tax Digital regime and smooth the transition.

With an app it is possible to provide a unique and high-value way to give clients with advice and help at their fingertips in a way that until now has not been possible. Every time the owner opens his or her smartphone the firm’s icon is immediately visible and it provides an easy and effective way to reinforce the position as a key business adviser by bringing all the information, calculations and systems into one easily accessible place. An app also proactively promotes the firm and its’ services to staff, business partners and prospects.

Effective and secure messaging

With the growing threat of scam emails making it imperative to find more secure ways of communicating with clients, an app offers a more trusted method for interaction. All messages take place within the app, which ensures that the client knows that any message has come from his or her accountant and not someone claiming to be so. These ‘push notifications’ are created easily and sent to the client’s smartphone instantly and research shows that they are always read, with a 93% open rate.

So if you still need convincing that mobile is the way forward, let me ask some basic questions. Do you have a smartphone? Do your staff have them and more importantly, do your clients?

Now for the difficult questions: are you or your firm visible on your clients smartphone? Are you and the services you provide important enough to your clients to be permanently available and accessible on their device so that getting business support or communicating with you would be quicker and easier? Do you really want your clients turning to Google or another finance app instead?

An app can help cement relationships by becoming the go-to anchor point in the always-on, mobile world. Whenever the client needs information, the accountant is literally just a tap away – even when the office is closed. Only today, it goes much further than that. The app is not just a symbol of modern thinking; it’s a tool that has a key role to play in reducing the cost of advice and developing new ways to engage consumers. It’s this ease of accessibility that is helping accountants to ‘lock-in’ their clients’ loyalty.

Mobile technology is a tool for business to leverage in a similar way to websites 10 years ago. Apps have now gone mainstream and there is a clear preference for accessing content through apps rather than browsers with smartphone users spending 90% of their time within an app. So, with all the evidence pointing to a clear preference for communicating within an app, it’s time to rethink the subject of client engagement if accountants want to be part of this mobile world.

• Joel Oliver is CEO of MyFirmsApp. Download a copy of a new guide ‘A Lighthouse in the Digital Fog’ at http://www.myfirmsapp.com

This article is taken from “Accounting Practice” the ICPA quarterly magazine. Dedicated to supporting and promoting the needs of the general practitioner. You can find us at www.icpa.org.uk or email [email protected] or by phone on 0800-074-2896.

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