Practice Management Small Business Tech Trends

How to Bring Old School Clients into the Digital Age

Written by Nellie Akalp

You know the type: Those clients who stubbornly cling to paper ledgers, use shoe boxes to “file” their receipts, and maybe even have their employees punch time clocks. You recognize how much time and energy they’re wasting (and how much more time it takes you to manage their accounting), but you’re making little progress on getting them to modernize their operations. Here are a few tips on how to gently nudge such clients into the digital age—and save yourself from working with clients stuck in outdated practices.

Time for a Reboot

Although they may be hesitant to admit it, clients stuck in the old ways of doing business are most likely scared of new technologies. In a 2018 Pew Research study, roughly one-third of respondents say that in the next 10 years, digital life will be mostly harmful to human health, mental fitness and happiness, citing loss of human interaction and security risks as outcomes of too much technology. To help assuage these clients’ fears, you need to show them how entering the digital age can make their work less stressful, how automation can reduce human error, and how technology can actually improve security.

Moving to the Cloud

How much easier would it be if all your clients made their financial data available to you in the cloud? No more constant back-and-forth asking for files or figures—instead, all the information you require would be accessible whenever you need it.

There’s no need for your clients to fear putting their sensitive financial data in the cloud as long as both they and you follow smart cybersecurity practices. Create your own cybersecurity plan and share it with your clients. The FCC suggests the following:

  1. Make sure all computers, mobile devices and networks have the latest security software and applications to protect against viruses, malware and other online threats.
  2. Provide firewall security for your internet connection and make sure employees working remotely have the same firewall systems.
  3. Train all employees in company security principles, such as using a strong password system, establishing appropriate internet use guidelines, and how to handle and protect customer information.
  4. Mobile devices are especially vulnerable to cybercrime. Require users accessing data on a mobile device to password-protect their devices, encrypt their data, and install security apps, especially if information is accessed on public WiFi networks.
  5. Make sure your business’s WiFi network is secure, encrypted and hidden (and that the wireless access point or router does not broadcast the network name).
  6. Let clients know your employees have limited access to their financial data. Implement multi-factor authentication that requires additional information beyond a password to gain entry.

By showing your clients how seriously you take data security, you’ll go a long way in convincing them to put their data into the cloud and streamline your processes. Remind them that they, too, will have access to their data at all times, giving them a better overview of their finances 24/7.

App Adoption

Most clients are comfortable using apps in their daily lives. Suggesting a few helpful financial apps could make a huge difference in your professional relationship by enabling easy integration of expenses into the accounting system, eliminating annoying reminder calls about deadlines and more.

Whether your client uses QuickBooks, Zoho, Xero, or another application you suggest, all popular accounting software programs have mobile apps. If your client meets with customers out in the field, you might want to suggest a mobile pay solution such as Google Pay, Apple Pay or Venmo. Point out to clients that mobile payments eliminate the need to send out paper invoices, wait for payment and manually enter accounting data (since most mobile pay solutions integrate with any accounting system).

You might also want to look into creating your own app for your business. App development is not as complicated as it used to be, and many small businesses are developing personalized apps to keep in touch with clients, offer discounts and share important financial data. The choice is yours as to how much you want your app to do. If it helps your clients reach their financial goals, you’ll be rewarded with more loyal clients.

Digital To-Do’s

Here are some other basic technology upgrades that can help old-fashioned clients enter the digital world.

  • Upgrade computers. Ask your client how old their computer systems are. If any are older than three years, it’s time for an upgrade. Outdated computers take longer to boot up, struggle to run today’s sophisticated software apps, and are prone to crashes. New computers quickly pay for themselves by enabling your clients to work more efficiently. 
  • Update routers. Tell clients to contact their internet service provider for a more powerful router and to ask the ISP for other suggestions to speed up their networks. If your clients are business owners, make sure they have a router appropriate for business needs.
  • Suggest videoconferencing. Videoconferencing no longer requires a big investment. Use apps such as Skype or Zoom and show your clients how helpful meeting face-to-face over computers can be.
What’s the best strategy you’ve found to help reluctant clients enter the digital age? Share your digital suggestions in the comments. 

About the author

Nellie Akalp

Nellie Akalp is a passionate entrepreneur, small business advocate, and mother of four. She is the CEO of CorpNet.com, a trusted resource for Business Incorporation, LLC Filings, and Corporate Compliance Services in all 50 states. CorpNet also offers business dissolution services. Nellie and her team recently launched a partner program for accountants, bookkeepers, CPAs, and other professionals to help them streamline the business incorporation and compliance process for their clients. More info at: CorpNet.com/Partners.