5 Easy Ways for Accounting Professionals to Effectively Collaborate with Clients
Running a successful accounting firm isn’t just about having the right tech stack or a streamlined workflow. It also requires great client collaboration.
After all, accounting is no longer just about “customer service.” Collaborating with your clients will lead to improved outcomes not only for your clients but for yourself as well. Read on to learn our top five tips to help you improve your client relationships.
5 Tips to Improve Client Collaboration with Accounting Clients
So, how can you improve client collaboration and create a more profitable firm and positive relationships with your clients? Read on to find out.
1. Make sure you and your clients work together on inclusive online platforms.
In the past, sharing progress on a project with a client or getting a signature from them required you to, at minimum, send them an explanatory email and wait for a response. People accepted issues like missed emails and crossed wires as “part of the process,” and the same went for needing additional meetings to discuss what one party had already explained in an email. However, new tech has seen the rise of online platforms – referred to as client portals – that improve collaboration. You and your clients will receive, for instance, automatic updates that a certain task is finished and has moved to the next level. Everyone who’s received permission to view the project knows exactly what progress has been made. This improved communication makes client collaboration much simpler.
2. Ensure you can provide the high-value services modern clients are looking for.
These days, people expect more from their accountants than just filling out tax forms. More and more clients are seeking information to help them grow their businesses and make the right financial choices for their families and futures. As indicated in a recent Intuit report, technology is key to collaborating with clients to give them what they want: high-value services like financial reporting, advisory, and so on. A whopping 66% of the accounting professionals surveyed noted that the ability to deliver real-time financial insights to their clients was extremely important to the success of their firm. In the same report, 35% of those surveyed also said that technology had allowed them to meet more and different needs as well. This is significant for client collaboration: The more flexible and adaptable you are, the better you’ll be able to work with the changing needs of your clients.
3. Use updated technology and cybersecurity best practices.
You’re probably already aware that cybersecurity is a top priority. The rate of tax scams and fraud has skyrocketed, and a breach can not only create an expensive problem you then have to clean up, but it costs you money in other ways. Once word gets out your firm is compromised, potential and current clients might take their business elsewhere. But you never really hear about how cybersecurity improves client collaboration.
Updated, secure technology will help both you and your clients feel better about working together online, since neither of you has to worry as much that an important form will be compromised or lost. And, completing projects is simpler because you can send and receive documents all while using just one secure platform that offers features like multi-factor authentication (MFA), data encryption, and other cybersecurity tools.
4. Make communication clearer and easier.
Great relationships need clear, effective communication to grow and thrive. It also takes two; in other words, you and your clients need to proactively work at communication to achieve success. For your part, learn how to listen empathetically and put yourself in your clients’ shoes. This will ensure you not only develop a deeper relationship with them and demonstrate that you genuinely care about your work, but it will also help you figure out when a client needs some background information to understand a concept you’re explaining and when they don’t.
Additionally, make sure you’re not just talking about concepts! Clients who get actionable, clear steps from their accounting and finance professionals feel more confident and secure when they know exactly what’s going on and will be able to work with you better because they understand what’s needed from them for a project to be successful.
5. Share information with clients rather than waiting to explain it to them.
Depending on how long you’ve worked in the accounting profession, you probably remember the days when you had to carefully explain just about everything to most clients in an almost teacher-student-like relationship. With increased access to information as well as technological advances, however, today’s clients are more educated. But that doesn’t mean they don’t still need you. Accountants who foster collaborative relationships with their clients–one in which both accounting professionals and clients work together and equally contribute information–can move from simply providing clients with instructions to being able to work effectively with knowledgeable clients who are seeking professional assistance achieving their goals.
One simple way to transition from a teacher-student to a collaborative relationship is by changing how you give clients information. Move away from waiting to explain things to them or gatekeeping information to sharing documents and projects with them and getting their input in real time.
When your clients feel comfortable and honest and view the relationship as a collaborative one, they’ll be more likely to take advantage of your additional service offerings, rather than going someplace else. This not only ensures client retention, but also increases your bottom line.
Document Management Systems for Accountants Increase Client Collaboration
A document management system with an online client portal allows you and your clients to work better together. Instead of having to call or email you to find documents they need, for example, clients can access all their documents online – from wherever they’re located.
SmartVault client portal software facilitates a secure, private, and authenticated online platform for you to gather documents, exchange information, and provide services to clients. Learn more here.