During product demos in firms, we hear a familiar refrain: “That sounds great, but our clients won’t use it.” Whether we’re talking about electronic signatures, digital organizers, portals or digital delivery of tax returns, financial statements and other project deliverables, some accounting firm leaders use client aversion to technology as an excuse to maintain the status quo.
When we hear that the firm anticipates client pushback, we ask more questions. How does the firm roll out technology to clients? What are clients’ specific concerns? Usually, we find that it’s not an issue of clients refusing to try new technology. Instead, the problem is the firm hasn’t done a good job of selling the internal team or its clients on why the change will be better for everyone involved. The truth is, most clients today are comfortable with technology.
Consider how widespread technology is in your clients’ day-to-day life. In 2017, HSBC Bank surveyed over 12,000 people in 11 countries to explore how people feel about industry and society being transformed by technology. Seventy-six percent of respondents said they felt comfortable using new technology, and 80 percent said they believe technology makes their life easier.
Your clients use mobile devices for everything from banking and investing to shopping and handling business transactions. So they’re likely technically capable of filling out digital organizers and electronically signing engagement letters and snapping pictures of receipts with a mobile app. Often, the real issue that it’s easier for firms to stick with how things have always been done because change is difficult?
Clients increasingly expect a digital client experience. Are you up to the task? If not, here are five tips for becoming a tech-savvy firm.
Invest the time
In the short term, it seems quicker to do things the way you’ve always done them. That’s why many firms still have staff accountants manually entering trial balances or sorting through shoeboxes full of receipts at year-end. But short-term thinking is short-sighted. Time invested in learning new technologies pays off mid- and long-term.
Focus on the client experience
Remember utilizing technology to make our lives easier isn’t just about improving our own workflows—it’s about providing ease of use for your clients. When you actively bring solutions to your clients that make their lives and work easier, it sends a clear message to clients that your firm is not stuck in the past or oblivious to innovations taking place all around. You’re adopting new tech and processes to make the client experience easier and more enjoyable.
Ask for help
If you personally struggle to adopt new tech, it’s okay to admit you need help. Reach out to the tech-savvy people on your team and ask for assistance with training and onboarding clients. Remember, this doesn’t necessarily mean turning to the young people on your team. People of any age can be comfortable with technology. It’s about mindset, not age.
Partner with solution providers
Start thinking of your solution provides as partners in this transition rather than simply vendors. When you collaborate with them with them, they can help you with rollout, onboarding, training and change management in your firm and your client base.
If you’re still worried that your clients won’t use new technologies, try rolling it out to a handful of loyal clients with whom you have an excellent relationship. This will give you a chance to work out any kinks before introducing it to a larger client group. Getting a few short-term wins under your belt will provide proof of concept and help you gain confidence in the value of the solution and your firm’s change vision.
Do you need help getting firm leaders in alignment on IT strategy?
Boomer Technology Consulting can help you prioritize IT projects and ensure they support the firm’s overall vision and strategic plan. Complete an interest form today to begin fast-tracking your firm’s success.
Jim Boomer, CEO of Boomer Consulting, Inc., is an expert on managing technology within an accounting firm. He serves as the director of the Boomer Technology Circles, The Advisor Circle and the CIO Circle. He also acts as a strategic planning and technology consultant and firm adviser to CPA firms across the country. Accounting Today called him a “thought leader who can help accountants create next-generation firms.” Jim is a prolific writer with a monthly column in The CPA Practice Advisor and has been published in a number of industry publications including Accounting Today, Accounting Web, the International Group of Accounting Firms and several state society publications.