The increased automation of routine tax and accounting tasks might spell the end for some accounting services, but the industry isn’t dying—just shifting. Business owners are now relying on accountants for solutions computers can’t provide—things like mentorship, strategic planning, and consulting. This shift in client expectations from once-a-year tax calculations to business consultation means that accounting firms must evolve accordingly in order to grow and thrive. Those firms which are unable to be flexible and embrace innovation will lose clients to those that do. In this article, we’ll discuss some key innovations that can your firm help meet client expectations and even exceed them.
Embrace Digital Literacy
No matter how established or respected your firm is, to many clients, using outdated equipment or processes is indicative of outdated industry knowledge. For clients who use cloud storage in their business, for example, encountering a firm that cannot securely accept file uploads will most likely result in the client’s quick exit to a more cutting-edge organization. It’s also important to be familiar and even proficient in the latest tax softwares. More and more initiatives are pushing businesses into digitizing their taxes, and as a result, clients will expect you to be informed and capable of helping them in the transition.
Communicate Quickly and Clearly
Gone are the days when business owners simply left CPAs alone to pore over financial reports and data, then accepted whatever deliverables we turned in. Nowadays, clients prefer to collaborate with us on long-term business growth strategies that are informed by current best practices. In order to accommodate this deeper level of client involvement, we must be able to communicate rapidly and clearly. Rather than just handing clients their financial reports, we must be able to explain how the report aligns with the client’s goals and challenges, in jargon-free, concise language.
Be Proactive, not Reactive
In the past, accounting was generally reactive, looking backward to what happened and trying to find an explanation. Nowadays, however, clients expect us to be forward-thinking, anticipating problems and plotting courses based on the most current available data. Accountants should begin to think of themselves, and behave, like knowledgeable business consultants rather than number-crunchers. As the number-crunching is done by computers, human decision making will become all the more valuable.
Identify and Eliminate Inefficiencies
The digital world has no time for bottlenecks and stop-gaps. In order to thrive, your firm—and all businesses—needs to be agile and responsive. Take stock of your current processes and workflows, and identify situations which prohibit efficiency. For instance, if your firm exchanges client data across multiple, separate email servers, communication is likely more confusing than if all information were compiled on one Cloud-based file sharing software. Practice management software for accounting firms can also help streamline a number of crucial processes, like scheduling appointments, tracking and submitting billable time, and sending invoices. A client portal software can take over the task of reminding clients about deadlines and due dates, freeing up your staff for more important concerns.
Make Data Security a Priority
Finally, it’s essential to secure your sensitive client data against hackers and cybercriminals. If your employees are sharing sensitive files across unsecured email servers such as Outlook and Gmail, you are at great risk for a hack that could compromise that data. If your firm is found to be in breach of its duty of care, you could be fined a sizeable chunk of your profits, enough to destroy many small and medium firms completely.
Secure Your Practice with ImagineTime Client Portal Software for Accountants
Instead, make sure you are using encrypted email or a secure client portal to save all private information. An encrypted client portal is almost impossible to hack and will keep your firm safe from liability. ImagineShare client portal software for accountants makes it easy for clients to submit their own private data and communicate with your firm in a secure, recorded environment. Our client portal for CPAs uses 256-bit bank-level encryption to ensure client data is protected at all times. To download a free demo or learn more about our practice management software, click here!