By Dave Bergstein, Senior Strategic Customer Leader, Intuit.
Technology and age demographics have changed the way we interact with our clients. There is the opportunity to become a trusted advisor and sell more services if we adapt and adopt.
Just having signed the client is not enough. Clients expect more contact with their CPA firm than ever before. They want their advisor to be proactive instead of reactive, providing more reliance work and less compliance work. Implement technology solutions to improve your clients’ business workflow and then provide ongoing consulting. This will help them be more profitable, liquid and solvent.
For a long time, most client accounting services such as write up and payroll / payroll taxes was considered compliance work and not very profitable. A prime example of this is doing write up work at the end of the month or quarter and then preparing financial statements that are historical in nature. This has limited benefit for the client. Today, progressive firms of all sizes are re-thinking this strategy because of the cloud. The cloud allows your firm the ability to take advantage of being connected to your client and their online applications so that you can service them with profitability and increased realization.
Today’s online tools, like QuickBooks Online (QBO), Online Payroll just to name two, change the game in that once set up, they become mostly self-service with the client and automation doing the work. But clients prefer not to have to learn accounting in order to know how they are doing – after all, that’s why they’ve hired you.
Consulting Using Real-Time Information
The CPA should be providing advisory services and consulting to their client instead of doing compliance work. Online tools are more about process than bookkeeping. A trusted advisor should set up the clients system (billable) so the business owner can see what is going on in real time and have workflow steps mapped out for them. The dashboards in these online tools keep the business owner as well as the CPA in the loop about what is happening, which is better than giving the client a financial statement at the end of month that they don’t read. I can look at the Client Home Dashboard and see exactly what is happening (i.e. Income, Expenses, P&L, what needs attention) and then be proactive by calling my client. Better yet, I could set up a monthly billable consulting call to work through problem areas while we are both onscreen together. QuickBooks Online Accountant allows you to collaborate with the client as well as use the accountants’ tools.
Client Home Screen
What’s even more effective is for your client to see a money bar (below) which tells them in real time what needs attention and what doesn’t. A simple click allows them to send reminders and collect money to speed up cash flow. Technology makes this possible, and by offering consulting services to both set this up and teach them, you can also sell additional services when you are meeting with them. Every time you touch bases with your client gives you the ability to ask questions and see what keeps them up at night. This means opportunities for succession planning, business valuation and process improvement. You can also offer them Business Process Outsourcing, because by being connected on the cloud they can see the results and you can be their back office. You could even utilize your staff from remote locations. Accessibility of the client to you becomes more important than proximity.
Increase Realization with Tools and Apps
There are so many other opportunities to service your client and increase realization by being in the cloud. You can connect to an ecosystem of add-on tools and apps. It is not the number of applications that are there but usefulness of such. I have been advising my clients to add the QuickBooks Online Operating System as their business grows.
Two apps that come to mind are Tallie and Bill.Com, which effectively allow you to set the processes that the client follows.
Tallie automates a business’ expense report process from point of purchase all the way through accounting and reimbursement. It connects to QBO on one side and Bill.com on the other, which they can use to automate bill payments and invoicing processes, and allows them complete visibility of their cash flow.
I just want to emphasize that your opportunity to help your clients and improve realization directly correlates to training them on how to utilize the tools that you have chosen for them. Most clients, as well as the accountants themselves, are only utilizing about 60-70% of the tool set. A number of CPA firms that I am dealing with are successfully marketing training sessions on how to be more efficient using QuickBooks and online tools.
Technology makes a difference if deployed and set up properly. For further assistance please contact me at David_Bergstein@Intuit.com or 954-614-1116, or your own business partner of the particular software you are using.