The people who came up with SimpleTax are back with a new cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) app for accountancy practitioners called Pixie.
Pixie co-founder Celso Pinto tells the story of the product’s evolution over the past few years. Before he and his team sold SimpleTax, they had moved away from selling directly to consumers who did their own tax to a more business-to-business model.
“That led to more interactions with accountants,” he said. “Our own accountants were growing super quickly and things were getting lost or delayed by client calls. So I made a note to myself – ‘CRM for accountants’. That’s the only thing I wrote down.”
After selling SimpleTax to venture capitalists and angel investors in 2015, Pinto read an AccountingWEB article by Bobby Chadha about managing practice workflows with Trello that reminded him of that old CRM note in his idea file.
“I did about 100 cold calls to accountants, who were happy to talk about the challenges of keeping organised. That’s when I realised there’s still room for a solution to help accountants meet client expectations and say on top of their commitments,” Pinto said.
Those conversations fed into a specification for a product catering for small firms with 2-10 people. “In that respect we’re only charging £30/month as a flat fee, with no limit on clients,” he said.
Pixie acts like a front-of-house assistant, connecting to the firm’s Google or Microsoft 365 email inbox to manage the flow and trigger appropriate follow-up actions. The tasks it handles include:
- Filtering and prioritising incoming emails from clients and linking them to the right tasks and records
- Populating a daily task list and scheduling recurring jobs
- Contacting clients to request time-sensitive information. Pixie comes with a set of customisable job templates that include pre-set emails that can be dispatched automatically dispatched when jobs are started or completed to keep clients in the loop
- Encrypting documents so they can be shared with clients in a GDPR-compliant way “without any clunky portals”
- Synching internal systems: using Zapier, Pixie can update other apps and trigger workflows within the practice.
“Like Trello, Pixie is very easy to get on with, it’s useable from the minute it connects to your email inbox,” Pinto replied when asked what made it different to other CRM applications.
“Accountants don’t have time to stop everything and start up a new system. The reason many of them don’t use CRM is because they struggle with the amount of manual work needed to keep them up to date. Accountants we talked to were often overwhelmed by too much functionality in practice management systems.
“We don’t want to disrupt work habits. The schedulers and work managers pull out the right files for clients at the right time. It’s really easy to go on about your day with multiple things happening and still keep track. Once our customers are past that initial adoption and get that email control, they can start looking into other automation.”
Pixie’s other key characteristic is its openness and ability to work in tandem with other systems, Pinto added. If a firm uses Practice Ignition to manage proposals and bring clients on board, for example, Pixie can pick up the instruction, dispatch welcome notes and create a workflow within the bookkeeping system.
“Pixie caters for the needs of tech-savvy accountants who seek an open platform,” he said. “We don’t see Pixie as a monolith system. It’s all about working alongside all kinds of apps.”
When it comes to reaching target practices and the wider market, “Having those partners on board is going to be a big help,” he added.