Will Technology be the Key to Strengthening Client Relationships?
When any new change is introduced, there are always concerns about how it will impact the status quo. With every advancement in technology related to the accounting industry, accountants have feared that the same technology could one day render their skills obsolete. However, new research is showing that these fears might be completely unfounded. Far from threatening the accounting profession, technology could actually facilitate stronger relationships with clients. According to the Digital or Die report by Xero, 34 percent of accounting firms who have adopted the latest technology have increased their revenue per employee by a third.
Here are a few factors that explain why technology could bolster an accounting firm’s relationships with their clients.
Become trusted advisors to clients
The study by Xero revealed that around 72 percent of small business owners still rely on their personal accountants despite technological advancements. Rather than letting technology guide their financial decisions, they look towards their accountants to help them make sense of the evolving digital landscape. Accountants in the digital age will now be, in equal parts, consultants. To encourage their client’s trust in them, accountant should ensure that they should stay updated on the latest fintech advancements so they can provide domain expertise. This can help them form a closer advisory relationship with their clients that goes beyond just numbers.
Gain insights to widen expertise
If technology requires accountants to become domain experts, technology can also help them fit into this role. Accountants can combine the insights gained through technology with their existing knowledge gained through years of experience to provide even greater capabilities to their clients. Business intelligence software can provide accountants with valuable data that accountants can make decisions and predictions with. ICR technology which is the future of accounting can help accountants gain quick insights without having to manually sift through data. With the added information at their disposal, accountants will be better-equipped to deliver the best results for their clients.
Provide real-time updates for clients
Across firms, the number one reason why clients leave their accountants is that they are unhappy with the service they have received. If you aren’t being proactive and keeping your clients updated about the work you are doing for them, they are not going to feel valued. Most accountants don’t do this intentionally; lesser client face-time is often a by-product of other responsibilities piling up. But technology can make it very simple to stay connected to clients and be present when they need you. Clients aren’t satisfied with a monthly report anymore, they want to see real-time results. Fortunately, technology has made this entirely possible. Many accounting firms have witnessed positive results after developing a mobile app that helps their clients track their investments and how they are being managed. You can even consider building a dashboard on your website that does the same.
Improve communication with clients
Communication is the key to any relationship, including one between an accountant and a client. Right from the time of onboarding a client to nurturing the relationship, communication is a vital, yet often overlooked, component of an accountant’s role. Accountants need to ensure that there is a right mix of professional and personal communications in their interactions with clients. Apart from updates about their portfolio, personal messages like a welcome email for new clients and congratulatory emails about life events like birthdays and anniversaries can help your clients feel valued. Most accountants today are unable to follow through on such interactions because there is simply too much work. But there are advanced CRMs today which can automate most of these communications, allowing you to maintain a strong relationship with your clients with minimal effort. In this way, technology can increase the personal connect accountants share with their clients.
Provide complete transparency
As accountants have control of their client’s wealth portfolio, the responsibilities on their hands are enormous. Even the smallest error can cause clients to become suspicious, causing irreparable damage to the relationship they share with their accountants. An excellent way to be proactive and inspire confidence from a client is to make your processes as transparent as possible. By having an online tracker, clients can stay in the loop about every action taken on their account. This can prevent clients from feeling like there is a loss of control and gives them a sense of security.
Increase client face time
Even though technology might make it easier for you to actively communicate with your clients, the foundation for a strong accountant-client relationship is still personal interactions. Most accountants today cannot spend as much time with their clients as they would like because they are burdened with routine work related to data entry and processing. But with advancements in technology, accountants can free up their time from most of these tasks. Automation can streamline many processes in accounting and will take only a fraction of the time previously required. Apart from this, the rise of the gig economy, with its roots in technological advancements, enables accountants to outsource many basic processes. Accountants can use the extra time they now have on their hands to increase face time with their clients and develop a productive relationship with them.
Manage time effectively
For accountants handling a number of different clients, it can often feel like 24 hours in a day is barely enough. While time management is crucial for any profession, it is particularly significant for accountants. If accountants aren’t able to plan each minute of their day effectively, this can have an adverse impact on the accuracy and quality of their work. Accountants will also be unable to allocate adequate time to each client if they don’t map out their schedules efficiently. Both of these factors together can cause the relationship between accountants and their clients to deteriorate. Technology can be an accountant’s greatest ally when trying to become more productive. There are a number of productivity apps for accountants and devices that can help you become more organised and efficient. Improved client relationships will be a natural outcome of a well-planned schedule.
Technology might have come a long way, but it can’t compete with the intangible value of a human touch. However, as with any development, the growing presence of technology in accounting firms is not without its risks. But with the right cybersecurity measures for accountants, you can avoid them and make the best use of technology to improve client satisfaction.
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