7 top tips on what clients want from their accountants
In today’s world, every part of our daily lives is governed by technology, with endless choices that promise to make us more streamlined and efficient. We have all come to expect achieving more in less time, and new methods of electronic communication are driving a demand for instant access to information, day and night.
Accountants face real pressure to provide the same self-service options, real time information and mobile capabilities their clients get from their banks, online retailers and other service providers.
So, what do clients expect from their chosen accountant in the digital age? Here are 7 top tips from firms that are at the top of their game:
1. Real-Time Advice
Cloud technology has been transformational because it allows accountants and their clients to work together and share information in real-time. Collaborative online solutions enable clients to see at a glance how the business is doing, and accountants gain the opportunity to offer advice in real-time rather than at year-end, when it may be too late.
This creates a massive shift in the accountant client relationship and prioritizes collaboration and accessibility to deliver an enhanced client experience.
2. Less Paper
Clients don’t want to wait days for paper documents to arrive in the mail. Documents can now be sent electronically in a fraction of the time within a digital communications platform that integrates with the firm’s preferred document management system.
This process helps save time when a signature is required, as the client no longer has to sign a paper document and ensure it is mailed back to the accountant. Digital signatures provide a much faster turnaround and the client can be confident that their information is being kept secure at all times.
3. Help 24/7
Clients may need your help outside office hours, and if they want to run a quick calculation to see they should incorporate, for example, they can now find the answer within a ‘self-service’ area found within a custom app. This reduces the risk of clients turning to Google for answers to financial questions and helps reinforce the accountant as the go-to, even when the office is closed.
New technologies in the form of chatbots will soon be able to answer some of the most frequently asked questions and will go a long way to helping make the accountant’s expertise accessible whenever it is needed.
4. Virtual Meetings
Increasingly, clients believe that spending time away from their businesses in meetings wastes valuable time and they prefer to hold ‘virtual’ meetings using such tools as Skype or Zoom.
This saves both parties time and can also help to dispel any formality. It can also come in useful when taking on a new client, as a passport can be held up to the screen and it is possible to instantly verify their face against the photograph.
5. Secure Messaging
With privacy emerging as one of the key priorities for 2019, one-to-one messaging is set to increase in popularity. When an accountant’s message appears on the home screen of their smartphone in the firm’s own app, the client knows immediately who it has come from and that it should get their immediate attention. This method saves time – they do not have to work through the emails in their in-box, dividing out the important from the junk email. A typical 93% open rate means that one-to-one messages are almost always read – typically, within minutes of delivery.
Other options include WhatsApp, which offers secure and encrypted messaging and text messaging, which carries cost implications.
6. One Place for All Financial Information
Rather than wading through numerous ‘best of breed’ apps on their smartphones, clients find it easier to access all their accounts, finance and tax information, and systems through the accountant’s icon on their home screen.
Being able to go to one place for all cloud accounting logins is a huge boon for busy business owners who want a quicker and simpler way to access the tools they need to run their businesses. For the accountant, it allows the firm’s name to be the first they see and reinforces their place at the heart of their clients’ digital financial world.
7. A Great Experience
Accountants, like other service providers, face the challenge of making the service they offer memorable. Technological developments mean that this no longer requires hours of one-to-one time to make the service appear highly personalized; automation can achieve this quickly and easily.
Some of the accountants we work with find it effective to undertake a full system review when they take on a new client and suggest the software that will best suit the business and solve the problems it faces. Clients like this personalized approach that focuses on software and demonstrates that their accountant understands their business right from the outset.
Facilitate the Level of Connection Clients Expect
Even though technology marches forward, one thing remains constant: the importance of the relationship between the accountant and client. Staying accessible and responsive are key requirements, and recent innovations can easily facilitate the level of communication high-value clients increasingly expect on their smartphones and tablets.
This new digital world is fundamentally transforming the way client relationships are handled and rewriting many of the rules. Taking those legacy clients that may still be using spreadsheets on a digital journey may be a challenge, but with a modern digital platform that allows them to connect with their accountant 24/7, the benefits will soon become apparent, even those who steer clear of technology.
All of this helps position the ‘connected’ accountant as more than just a technician and instead as a highly trusted advisor working at the heart of their client’s business. This approach has the potential to unlock collaboration and delivers a positive step towards building better, more long-term and more profitable client relationships.
Grasping the digital lead is essential if firms are going to meet mounting client expectations. ‘Connected’ accountants that put digital at the heart of their clients’ financial lives are not only meeting expectations, they are going above and beyond and exceeding on all levels.