Selling the benefits of real-time information to your clientsby
Della Hudson looks at the best ways to sell the benefits of real-time information to clients and how to avoid the pitfalls of getting started with new technology.
I’ve been using Dext (or Receipt Bank as it was then) for 10 years. A large part of the success of my first business was due to the software. I’m clear on the benefits that it had for us.
We run a paperless office. Everything is online so no clutter and no paying additional rent just to store shoeboxes of receipts or filing cabinets of paperwork.
Because we are paperless we are able to work remotely so we have no problem recruiting high-quality staff to the team. I can also work while travelling between meetings and speaking engagements.
Smoothing your practice workload
We encourage clients to snap as they go so that we are able to do monthly (or more frequent) bookkeeping. This means that the work is smoothed throughout the month/quarter/year and much easier to manage than having team members juggling the traditional yoyo workload where they are either waiting for paperwork or overwhelmed when it all arrives together just before the deadline.
Thanks to optical character recognition and machine learning (yes, Dext were using AI before it became popular) the bookkeeping itself is much faster. Supplier rules can save lots of time and you’re not dependent on the bookkeeper remembering where they posted it last month. (This article isn’t about Dext Precision but that’s also useful for checking bookkeeping consistency and identifying missing invoices). Spending less time on the data entry improves profitability.
Up-to-date information helps your practice and clients
We have up-to-date bookkeeping so faster turnarounds for VAT returns and year ends. If your firm only bills once the work is completed then this will be good news as you can invoice and get paid faster.
Because bookkeeping is up to date we are able to spot opportunities to help clients. Sometimes this is just a little bonus that earns goodwill and enhances our reputation and client loyalty. Other times it can be a lucrative business advice project.
Making Tax Digital for income tax self assessment (MTD ITSA) may have drifted further away but with up-to-date bookkeeping making the transition to quarterly reporting will be simple.
Our improved margins mean that we had the choice to reduce fees, keep the profits for ourselves, or to provide additional valuable services to clients. We chose the latter and built a reputation for advisory work but you may want to do things differently.
Clients actually like it!
But it’s not one-sided. There are plenty of benefits for our clients so they love Dext too.
No trips to the office or post office to drop off papers.
No printing out digital invoices as these can just be forwarded to their personal email address within Dext.
No fiddly receipts fading on the dashboard of their van or lost down the back of the sofa. Every business expense is captured to minimise tax liability. Because clients snap as they go it isn’t a major quarterly/annual chore to prepare everything for ‘The Accountant’.
No paperwork cluttering up their offices either. We do suggest that clients drop all their scanned/photographed papers into a box as they go. This means that they will be roughly in date order if they ever need the paper copy. They can then ditch the box after their annual accounts are completed as the electronic copies in Dext are imported to their bookkeeping software and are suitable for HMRC.
Because bookkeeping is up to date we are able to spot opportunities to help clients. This may be identifying that they need to VAT register promptly rather than waiting until several months after the year end to find that they have to pay over VAT that they never charged. (And the recent HMRC backlog in VAT registrations exacerbated this problem).
So how do we get clients on board?
First, we check their level of technical ability. If they can take photos of their children/grandchildren on their phone then they have everything they need to use Dext. (If they want to include the odd photo of their grandkids then we don’t mind as it makes our bookkeepers smile)
We do all the set up and linking to their bookkeeping software. All the client has to do is accept the invitation, download the app to their phone, and save their personal Dext email to their address book.
We have a helpsheet on how to use Dext but we sometimes need to talk clients through what to do. As we are a remote business we do this via Zoom. There are so many ways to upload invoices to Dext that we usually only tell them one or two to keep it simple.
We encourage our clients to scan/photograph as they go. Buy a cup of tea? Photograph the receipt while you drink it. Fill up the van? Snap before you pull off. We might even ask them to practice snapping one-handed while they sip their coffee or a glass of wine. ‘One-handed’ bookkeeping is very popular!
Although some clients are initially terrified at the thought of tech, every single client we have introduced to Dext has loved it. As with all new technology start using it internally. Then roll out to your most loyal/adventurous client. Adapt your onboarding process and then invite your next best client to try it. Once you’re comfortable with the process you can proceed to introduce the tech to all the clients who could benefit from it.
So, if you want to provide a better service to your clients and improve your own profitability at the same time, why not give it a go? There’s a handy guide from Dext here that will help you to start helping your clients.
If you want to know more about how to get started automating your data processes or want insights on how to get your clients using technology that will make their working lives easier then download Dext’s guide to Automating Data Extraction - Your Guide to Getting Started.
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Della Hudson was part of the class of 2009. She built up Hudson Business Accountants and Advisers from her kitchen table to a small team of flexible workers with independent premises in Nailsea, near Bristol. The firm ran regular Money Matters seminars and other training and webinars. Della sold the firm in 2017 in order to focus on the...