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How can I communicate with you? What records should I keep? How do I send my invoices?

If you’re an accountant in a small to medium-sized business (SME) or run your freelance department, you’ve probably had these conversations with your clients or departments within your organization.

To be a smart accounting firm, you need to understand how the right accounting software can help improve the customer experience. This means using technology to keep your books better, offer detailed financial reports, and save time providing free consulting services to your clients.

Customer experience is key to retaining existing customers and attracting new prospects. A study shows that 96% of customers will consider leaving after just one bad experience. In addition to receiving quality work on time, clients also expect accounting services to be delivered in a practical, thoughtful and professional manner.

In this article, we look at how technology can help your accounting business reduce time-consuming, low-value workload; systematize communications; automate workflows; and better manage customer relationships, to the same extent.

1. Automate customer onboarding

Integration is the cornerstone of a new relationship. Yet many aspects will be the same for every client. Create a system that automates repetitive tasks and, in turn, gives your teams more time to better understand unique customer needs.

Here are some technology tips to help with customer onboarding:

  • Start with a welcome email, then send an automated engagement document that lists “what comes next” for new customers. Send this document to your team as well to let them know about the new client and get the ball rolling on their account.

  • Appoint a team of accounting and integration experts for new accounts. This will help foster trust between the client and your team.

  • Provide dedicated communication and document sharing platforms to allow customers to contact you whenever they need help.

  • Create PDFs, email templates, and how-to videos to introduce your clients to your accounting technology stack and workflows.

2. Digitize manual accounting processes

Many accountants still manage various financial and accounting tasks in spreadsheets. This doesn’t sit well with the new generation of customers who find dealing with paper submissions or tracking down missed emails time-consuming and, not to mention, boring.

Use digitalization to simplify your accounting processes and make them run like clockwork. Here are some tips to help you automate manual workflows using technology:

  • Adopt accounting tools to power front and back office operations.

  • Make invoicing, invoicing, and file sharing easy using accounting and collaboration software.

  • Set expectations within your team on the estimated time it takes to become familiar with a new technology and implement it internally. Also let your existing customers know about the same. Talk to your technology provider for an accurate estimate.

3. Be available on several communication channels

You will need to interact with customers frequently to discuss their private financial details. Keep communication flowing by creating an “always on” brand that is easy to reach and safe to work with.

Here are some tips for using technology to become more elegant in your communications:

  • Leverage conversational AI (chatbots) and communication platforms to provide 24/7 customer service or allow customers to register their queries anytime, anywhere. Respond to all customer inquiries immediately or at least within 24 hours.

  • Add an FAQ section to your website, giving answers to all basic questions. This will help your customers find most of the answers on their own before asking you for help.

  • Have a mobile app to give customers more control over communication, their accounting books and financial reports.

  • To get started, invest in accounting software that offers free phone support functionality to give your clients better customer service.

4. Generate revenue forecasts

Customers love the added perks. These not only enhance the overall customer experience strategy, but also demonstrate the value of your expertise. In addition to providing regular accounting services, contribute to the strategic understanding of your customers by providing insight into their accounting data via sales or revenue forecasts.

Key stat: Accounting firms can increase their monthly revenue by up to 50% by offering strategic consulting services to their clients.

A futuristic view of their business operations will empower your customers to make informed decisions and targeted improvements. Here are some key considerations to make when providing forecasting services:

  • Use forecasting software tools to analyze customer business performance based on historical and current trends.

  • Decide on the scope and frequency of your forecasts (quarterly, semi-annually or annually) and stick to them by generating projections over time.

  • Send your forecast as an email template or mobile report.

  • Collect customer feedback on what they would like you to measure in future forecasts: sales, costs, revenue, or anything else.

5. Prepare financial reports

According to Software Advice’s 2019 Accounting Trends Survey, financial reporting is the most requested software feature by customers. Businesses generally need three types of financial reports from accounting: cash flow statement, income statement, and balance sheet. Use technology to create financial reports and add more value to your customers.

Here are some technology tips to use:

  • Simplify the process of generating financial statements with automation tools such as financial reporting software.

  • Don’t wait until tax season to prepare and present financial information. Stay ahead of the game by deploying monthly, semi-annual, or annual financial reports to help management make decisions.

  • Generate two sets of financial reports: internal and external. The first for distribution within the company and the second for distribution to agencies outside your organization.

  • Provide clients with an analysis of these financial reports, which may be difficult for them to understand. In these reports, highlight key takeaways for client companies, action items, and recommendations.

6. Give a 360 degree view of expenses and income

Take traditional accounting services a step above by managing costs and revenues for your clients. More information on costs and revenues will directly help management understand how to optimize the cost of running their business: a persistent problem for SMEs.

Here are some tips for providing your clients with practical information on cost and revenue management:

  • Use information such as payroll and other expenses to suggest where to cut costs or adjust budgets.

  • Use business intelligence tools to perform cost and revenue analysis. Deploy different models such as activity costing or total cost of ownership to uncover the different factors that contribute to each.

  • Analyze costs and revenues against your client’s product lines, initiatives and departments.

7. Present data visually

Pattern discovery becomes easier when data is displayed through colors, shapes, and graphs. Use technology to help customers visualize and extract useful information underlying their finances. Here are some tips for integrating data visualization tools into your accounting skills:

  • Make your budget, forecast and financial statements more interesting using interactive dashboards.

  • Go beyond basic bar charts to represent data. Graphic visualizations use well-thought-out metrics such as depicting the growth of product lines against their margins.

  • Tailor your visualizations to the audience. Keep in mind the department and people reading your report and select representations accordingly.

8. Improve compliance with global regulations

Your customers need your help to combat compliance risks. As companies operate in international waters, help your clients globalize their accounting practices too. This means ensuring that they comply with global regulations by adapting to different accounting standards and methodologies.

Here are some ways technology can help you do this:

  • Set common operational standards across borders while complying with local rules and laws.

  • Overcome language barriers by using translation services to understand regional rules.

  • Use accounting software with compliance management features to monitor changes to local accounting laws and regulations.

Focus on improving the customer experience

And there you have it, a few ways technology and digital transformation can help your accounting business deliver a personalized experience to clients. And now?

If you’re looking to improve your accounting processes to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, start with these steps:

  • Collect customer feedback. Before you work on delivering service in a way that will appeal to customers, learn where you stand. Send surveys to your existing customers to determine the likelihood that they will recommend your services and identify their areas of dissatisfaction.
  • Choose the most suitable accounting software. While some accounting software tools have become household names, that doesn’t mean they should be must-have software for you as well. Look for alternatives that fit your budget and also meet your needs.
  • Invest in the right integrations. Build a technology stack by introducing software integrations to facilitate file sharing, invoicing, and invoicing, among others. Make sure you can use these auxiliary software tools with your main accounting software so that they blend seamlessly and increase the flow of information instead of hindering it.