Practice Management Tech Trends

How Top Accountants Are Digitally Managing the Client Journey to Secure Lasting Relationships

Written by Mike Page

8 tried and tested tips for building digital relationships

Anyone running a business knows that customers need to be continually made to feel special, but how can accountants afford to go the extra mile when fees are being so tightly squeezed? Successful firms that are addressing the service challenge all have one thing in common: they are turning to digital technology to economically optimize every step of the client journey and secure longer lasting and ‘stickier’ relationships.

Here are some of their tips for enhancing the client experience:

1. Technology helps lay the foundation

With the technology that is now available, accountants are in the best position possible to get everything done more quickly and easily than ever before. The clever use of digital technology can help to lay a firm foundation so that there is more time to invest in developing the advisory role rather than focusing solely on compliance services. This ultimately helps to build better engagement.

2. Move the relationship onto a digital footing

Being able to own and serve the client is paramount, and moving the relationship onto a digital footing can enhance the relationship by ensuring that everything the client needs to do business (i.e., their financial applications) can be accessed from the one piece of tech they carry at all times – their smartphone.  

This use of a mobile engagement platform is helping top firms to communicate more effectively by providing clients with a wide range of tools that deliver heightened security, ranging from two-way instant messaging to secure document portals for the quicker approval of tax returns. Accountants who use the platform are able to differentiate their firms, aid digitization and collect data more effectively.

3. Encourage more digital interaction

Digital interaction is now more of an expectation than ever before. With so many using bank apps and social media messaging, and with Alexa telling them what to do, clients expect their accountants to communicate with them in the same way. If they don’t, the perception is that they’re not fulfilling their role as accountants for business.

Sharing information in a digital format on a mobile engagement platform is seen as a key element in building a stronger relationship with clients. Successful firms say it makes it far more flexible for both parties and allows information to flow freely. The simple tasks, such as the scanning of receipts on smartphones and tracking mileage, enhances the relationship because there is constant interaction. Being in touch several times a day instead of only several times a month secures the connection and helps create a more meaningful relationship.

4. Human touch is essential

None of the accountants that have taken the digital lead have ditched the human touch completely and they tell us it is now more essential than ever. Because technology allows the accountant to better understand their clients’ preferences, and that might be as simple as phoning at 8 in the morning rather than in the afternoon, the big takeaway is that the client feels valued and their experience is enhanced.

5. Track against tasks to see if there is slippage

Slow creep can be a problem, especially when most firms now offer fixed fees. One of the biggest mistakes accountants tell us they have made is not tracking tasks to see how the firm is performing.  Those that have solved the problem now utilize technology to assess the time spent on the projects undertaken for their clients and they compare this with what was agreed at the outset. If the amount of work undertaken isn’t correct anymore, then slippage becomes a real problem. In these circumstances, firms are taking steps to review their fees and ensure they drive other opportunities, such as training, to help strengthen the offering.

6. Make the client’s life as easy as possible

Accountants can take on the role of technology experts if they lead their clients along an ‘easier’ path. One of the biggest challenges, as any accountant will know, is getting information from directors, even for simple items such as expenses claims.

Digital tools make the collection of data a simple day-to-day occurrence and their use removes much of the struggle that so many clients experience. Putting solutions in place that make their lives easier is a positive step towards enhancing the client experience.

7. Take advantage of tools that level the playing field

Whether a client is an innovator, early adopter or one of the late majority, ‘snapping’ receipts with the camera on their smartphone in real time has a positive benefit of leveling the playing field. Some clients may have to be persuaded to do things differently, but if they are given a reason why it will make their lives more efficient, they are more likely to move across the technology adoption curve.

8. Bring tools together so they are all in one place

Storing all client programs in one easy-to-get-to place on their smartphone helps to streamline information and simplify access to it. The top accountants keep it simple by providing clients with a single portal, so they can easily work on any of the software recommended to help run their businesses while they are on the move.

By putting the solutions in one place and creating a unique set of industry specific tools for that particular client’s digital journey, there is a distinct sense of tailoring the offering to suit the individual.

Takeaway

The most successful firms all have one thing in common: they are creating the kind of client experience that is vital in this new digital world.

They are keeping up with fast-changing technology and tailoring their approach to suit where the client is on the technology adoption curve, so they always feel at their most comfortable. It’s not a case of putting the tools in place and walking away: The top accountants are always there for their clients and will actively help them to use the programs that make running their businesses easier. This improves the overall client experience and helps build the stronger, stickier client relationships all accountants dream of.

About the author

Mike Page

Mike Page is Head of Product Management and Customer Experience strategy at MyFirmsApp™, developers of the largest global App platform for accountants. As a qualified accountant himself, Mike appreciates the challenges faced by the profession in a world where always-on clients are demanding instant answers and he firmly believes that Apps can help put accountants at the heart of their clients’ mobile lives.

As App stacks and App Add on Communities grow, the role of MyFirmsApp as the leading App integrator for accountants will become increasingly critical. Mike's goal is to put an App in every accounting firm in the world.