Technology & Client Collaboration Are the Keys to Accounting Firm Growth
For the majority of accountants, business is flourishing: According to a recent Intuit survey, 82% of accounting professionals are seeing firm growth, and this trend is expected to continue.
Unsurprisingly, a lot of this is due to technology. The same Intuit report thanks the increased efficiency the right tech stack provides as a key reason the accounting profession has been able to expand. But it’s not just about tech: The participants in the Intuit report – a significant 36% – say increasing income streams have also been a major driver behind growth.
The conclusion you can extrapolate from the report and similar data is clear: Technology has improved the ways accountants work with clients, as well as client satisfaction, which has, in turn, increased the amount of business accountants are getting.
What reports like these don’t make clear, however, is exactly how technology can help you improve client collaboration. In this blog, we’ll review why great client collaboration – not customer service – is half of the puzzle to growing your bottom line. We’ll also review a few ways technology will ensure client satisfaction and improve collaboration.
Why Should Accountants Focus on Client Collaboration?
No matter how much tech is out there, at its core, accounting is – and always will be – a people-oriented job. After all, there’s no successful firm without a base of happy clients, right? And, as accounting has grown as a profession, it’s become clear that rather than being great at “customer service” (in the traditional sense of the term), it’s those firm leaders who are excellent at collaborating with their clients who have been the most successful.
But what exactly does client collaboration mean, and what does it look like?
Simply put, collaborating with your clients means both of you are actively involved in contributing data and information and are proactively focused on obtaining the positive results the client would like to see.
An accountant who has a great, collaborative relationship with their client will provide high-value services – like, say, financial reporting – to a client who, in turn, can provide the data the accountant needs in a timely manner, understands what the accountant is looking for when they ask for certain data and wants to be an active member of the relationship. The client looks forward to communicating with their accountant.
The bottom line: Collaborating with your client isn’t about serving their needs. The goal is to make the relationship more of a two-way street.
3 Ways Technology Improves Accountant-Client Collaboration
Back to the Intuit report: Nearly 50% of the accountants surveyed said they were intending to set aside part of their budget for investment in technology tools like automation, AI, and blockchain. Here, we’ll discuss three ways technology improves client collaboration, with a view towards helping you select the right new tools.
1. It allows clients and accountants to work together via inclusive online platforms.
In the past, sharing progress on a project with a client or getting a signature or more information from them required you to, at minimum, send them an explanatory email and wait for a response. People accepted issues like missed emails, crossed wires, and additional meetings to discuss what they already explained in an email as just part of the job. 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. It gives clients and accountants peace of mind because it’s more secure.
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 about your firm was 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 platform that offers features like multi-factor authentication (MFA), data encryption, and other cybersecurity tools.
3. It ensures accountants can provide the high-value services 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 the Intuit report, technology is key to collaborating with clients to give them what they want. 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.
Drastically Improve Collaboration with a Branded Client Portal for Accountants
When Casey Lynch, CPA, looked to add tech to his practice, he prioritized ease of use and how the software would provide extended convenience for his clients. “Back in the ‘old days’ a client would call in and request a document for a bank loan or mortgage, and we would have to locate the paper file and send it,” he recalled. Casey realized things had to change.
“I’m 100% about client satisfaction, whether that means a paperless process, portals, or still delivering a paper copy,” he explained. “I want my clients to be happy.” So, Casey implemented SmartVault’s document management system and client portal.
“SmartVault is easy for clients to learn, and that’s what you want.” SmartVault combines a secure document management and file-sharing solution with an online client portal, all of which can easily be accessed through the cloud.
Learn how SmartVault can improve client collaboration – and so much more – in a 15-minute demo. Schedule today.