• Guest Author - Ben Spoerl

How Cutting-Edge Accounting Firms Are Harnessing Technology to Stay Competitive in the Digital Age


The Wall Street Journal estimates that the “average executive wastes 6 weeks per year searching for important documents,” and Document Magazine states that “employees spend from 25% - 35% of their time looking for information needed to do their jobs.”

As the digital revolution has changed the way businesses interact with customers, many accounting firms have adopted new technology to stay relevant and keep up in the digital landscape. When used effectively, technology can provide huge improvements in efficiency and profits. Seeking expert advice, asking colleagues to share their experiences and carefully planning implementation are great ways to approach technology changes at your firm.

One such solution takes the form of “omni-channel” management platforms: digital service platforms that streamline many of the most time-consuming processes involved in sales, marketing, and customer relationship building which allows firms to spend less time talking about what sets them apart from the competition and more time actually doing so.

Some of the key features and benefits savvy accounting firms are harnessing by incorporating omni-channel management platforms include:

Relationship Management

In addition to finding new and better ways to keep track of their important documents, tech-savvy firms have also made great strides in using automation to foster and manage the relationships they build with their clients.

Like document organization, keeping customers actively engaged with your brand takes a lot of work. While advances like social media have made it easier than ever for a business to form personal connections with their clients, increased ability leads to increased expectations. Customers aren’t delighted by a personalized experience anymore; they expect it, and in some cases, demand it.

This is where customer relationship management (CRM) tools come into play. As with document management, while CRM tools can carry a host of great features, their biggest draw is the ability to free employees from mundane tasks like data entry so that they can instead focus their efforts on what matters: finding more prospects and finding the best ways to cultivate relationships with them.

Beyond the ability to schedule and automate emails, social posts, and promotions, CRM platforms also have tools that can give firms unprecedented insight into their clients’ buying behaviors. With lead tracking data and buying history at their fingertips, firms can now watch the relationship between their clients, partners, and resources grow in real-time and respond accordingly.

Workflows

On the user side, customizable workflows now empower employees to monitor progress on every project they’re a part of. This goes beyond a status update; workflows provide a bird’s eye view into every document, email, contact, and note associated with the project, ensuring everyone involved has no question as to what deadlines are looming and which next steps are required. Clear visibility into every project with due date tracking improves resource allocation and will help ensure that your team never misses a deadline again.

Document Management

While the industry’s natural transition from paper-based to digital document management certainly made things easier for users, systems were far from perfect. Files could come in various forms hosted on a number of different platforms, and any time a user had to switch platforms or open up a new file type, they were forced to waste time in front of a loading screen. Those minutes add up, resulting in a considerable amount of lost productivity over time.

Luckily, the rise of document management systems have started to make the process of moving back and forth between multiple file platforms a thing of the past. With a document management platform in place, users get the ability to access all of their important files in their native formats, from one centralized location, all viewable on one screen from a single connected device.

For firms with big client lists, document management is also great for keeping different clients organized. All of the necessary QuickBooks files, workpapers, and so on can be accessed easily from the client’s portal, eliminating any ambiguity as to a file’s location and allowing firms to respond to customers and resolve problems in a way that’s faster and easier than ever before.

Email Management

Automating emails and social content is a great feature, but email-specific management platforms can go much deeper than that. In addition to making it easier than ever for users to filter, sort, and search for emails on their database, modern email management platforms also allow users to easily identify the most current iteration of an email thread, thereby eliminating the common problem of saving multiple copies of messages and attachments, and will also automatically update and track the history of attached files with where and when they were sent, and to whom.

Integration is also a key feature, and popular existing email platforms (such as Microsoft Outlook) can be easily incorporated into the email management platform facilitating automatic storage of attached documents and message content. Every email can also be attached to a specific client’s record, enabling firms to see every communication they’ve had with the client all on one screen. This way, entire email threads can then seamlessly be shared across the organization to all relevant parties, ensuring that everyone involved is on the same page.

Client Portals

Client portals are a big part of why omni-channel platforms are so effective at helping firms connect with their clients and keep them organized. Every client gets their own portal, in which they can submit, download, and update documents you need from them. A dashboard in the portal displays status of each incomplete request, making it easier than ever to emphasize exactly what needs to be done on the client side so that you can move forward.

As with document management, the key draw of client portals is that they allow firms to access every piece of information they need about a client (and vice-versa), all in one place. Instead of having to manage multiple file repositories or educate employees on how to use multiple platform interfaces, sharing files between organization is as simple pressing a button, regardless of the file type.

For expert advice on which solutions and tools will help your firm grow, connect with Conarc’s Technology Consulting Team. They are always ready to roll up their sleeves to help firms explore what options are a great fit for your business. Ben Spoerl can be reached at bspoerl@conarc.com

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