Many accountants have now replaced their desktop software with cloud solutions and are now wondering what they need to do next to become a successful firm of the future.
Having put the technology infrastructure in place, practitioners should look to use their new tools to cultivate better client relationships, according to practice software developer Capium. In a new guide, Capium sets out a step-by-step action plan to help firms make the most of their cloud investments.
Using cloud software does not in itself make a firm part of the future. Businesses expect more from their accountants than easy to use, online accounts. Market research consistently shows that clients want advice in areas including cash management and forecasting, productivity, profitability and growth, and help developing new business models.
Successful accountants respond to those needs. To deliver the services that clients really want, practitioners need to free up more time from compliance actitivites so they can focus more on client relationships and business advice.
AccountingWEB’s Practice Excellence Award-winners say that the all-round “client experience” is their top priority. Face-to-face contact with clients is essential, but technology has a huge role to play in supporting these conversations.
Good analytic tools can help frim add value to their client relationships by identifying problem areas and using up-to-date data to guide their business decisions.
Speed and availability are important ingredients of good client service. While face-to-face contact is paramount, web technology and mobile apps can answer client questions and provide the information they need at any time of the day.
Client service action plan
Accountants to adapt their firms to be more flexible in how they respond to clients in providing more advisory services. But they also need to be more consistent – for example by returning calls and resolving queries or problems within measurable times. Eliminating unnecessary data processing work will move the firm towards a more uniform service model while also freeing up time in the diary to schedule client calls and visits.
This article summarises of the key steps recommended by Capium to start implementing these changes.
Good client service starts with good people. Training your staff with the right skills will boost their efficiency and make them more valuable for your clients. Your team needs to know how to use their software tools effectively and able to adapt and respond to the technological changes that your firm will navigate in the years ahead.
Developing their expertise with financial information, analysis and people skills will also help them meet the challenges of modern accounting.
Set clear expectations
Managing client expectations holds the key to customer satisfaction and retention. Set out clear definitions and milestones for your services in you engagement letters by explaining the procedures you will follow and how you expect prospects and clients to work with the firm. Make sure they know how often you plan to meet them and any other routines they will become part of.
As important as setting the right expectations is to achieve your desired service quality consistently. Onboarding new clients in a structured way at the outset may take a little work, but will help you embed good workflows to ensure you both meet deadlines comfortably – and give you room not just to meet, but also to exceed your clients’ expectations.
Keep up with technology
Cloud software is a cornerstone of 21st century accounting, but adopting cloud software is really just an initial step in the process. As you roll out your new approach, don’t forget to monitor new practice technology innovations as these may help you along your way or open the door to new efficiencies.
Only by being able to respond and adopt new technology you will be able to become a true 21st century accountancy firm.
Capium’s guide ‘How to Become a 21st Century Accountant’ is available for download here.