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February ’20

Ideas for the journey to better every day.

February ’20

Reduce busy season friction with these initiatives

By Darren Root, CEO

Technology innovations have enabled modern businesses to create a simpler, more convenient client service experience—as well as offer the opportunity to reduce friction for clients and firm staff. Reducing friction is a winning strategy from all angles, but more so for busy season—helping reduce work hours over the next few months while also increasing profits.

Let’s now take a look at a few initiatives that will help you reduce friction all around:

  1. Proactive data gathering: Dedicate one team member to gathering tax return data, communicating with clients and making sure clients send documents digitally. Data gathering is a huge friction point for clients and staff, but it can be tamed.
  2. Digital document flow: In our firm, we used to make copies of client documents. From there, we moved to scanning. And from scanning, we transitioned to flowing digital documents directly into our organization/workpaper tool. Removing scanning from the process reduces a significant amount of friction for your team. It’s important to have a thoughtful data gathering initiative in order to move away from paper altogether. 
  3. Refined tax return review process: All tax returns are not created equal, meaning that the process doesn’t need to be the same for every return. Consider categorizing returns upfront—identify Level 1 and  Level 2 returns. Level 1 represents your simpler returns that do not require review. Level 2 are your more complex returns that require a review—that second set of eyes to ensure accuracy.
    Every time you move a return from one desk to another, you create a degree of friction. Reviewing only the returns necessary will remove a significant amount of that friction and save you significant time over the next couple of months.
  4. Digital document delivery: Getting 8879s signed has always been a bottleneck for many firms and added friction for clients. In addition, returning client source documents has friction written all over it. It makes sense to gather client information digitally—and return it the same way. The client should also be able to sign digitally to get to a no-friction process.
  5. Online payment: Mailing an invoice and waiting for a check creates more friction. When the tax return is complete, send an invoice digitally with a link to take payment on your website. Use a tool like CPACharge to easily take credit cards, debit cards or ACH payments. 

Don’t get bogged down with the mindset of just slogging through tax season. Now is the best time to reduce friction. Schedule a weekly check-in meeting and invite everyone involved with the tax return process. Ask the group: “Where is the friction and how do we reduce it?” Work as a team to help improve your tax process. Now is the time. Just 30 minutes a week can potentially save you hours over the course of busy season.

Improve tax season by making key changes today

 By Leah, Education Team

February is here, and that means if you have a role in your firm’s tax process, you are probably starting to get busy! It’s hard to focus on anything but the task at hand at this time of year due to the volume of work coming in. Even if your firm has adjusted tax season to be fewer hours, fewer returns, etc., there are still ways to improve it.

Rootworks has developed numerous resources and conducted tons of coaching calls over the years to help firms improve their tax season and morale during the busy season. The biggest key to making tax season better is to identify issues and document them, communicate throughout the busy times, and keep personal stress levels lower. Now is not the time of the year to make huge tax process or firm changes, but consider the following to help improve today or even plan for next year.

To help with improvement:

  1. Have all tax staff download the Tax Season Scorecard from the Online Learning area of rooworks.com. The scorecard is used to keep track of what went well and what didn’t go well, and can be very useful after tax season.
    • Have all staff keep notes on process- or software-related issues as things arise during tax season.
    • This information should be gathered and discussed in a post tax-season debrief to address issues and work on making things better.
  2. Whether you have already identified Level 1 and Level 2 returns, keep in mind those levels can change. Put a process in place to keep track of clients that need to move to Level 1 or that became more complex and need to move to Level 2.
  3. Identify non-ideal clients for your firm. Very often, we keep working with clients that do not appreciate our work, complain about our fees or are difficult to deal with. Keep a list of those. Then, focus on removing and replacing those non-ideal client with ideal clients.
  4. Keep everyone informed during tax season. Everyone should be informed on where the firm stands during this time. It is just better for morale.
    • Send a message every week or two indicating how many returns are in, how many are not in and how many need to be completed per day to get to the firm goal by extension time.
    • Send a message with information of what is being done to drive clients to get their information in—call campaigns, email blasts, etc. If your firm doesn’t communicate with clients to get info in, we highly recommended keeping touch points with clients and keeping staff informed.
  5. Pre-schedule your post-season debrief. Yes, it may seem premature, but if you schedule it now, there won’t be the excuse that you just never got it planned or on the calendar.
  6. Do something fun in the office throughout tax season—whether it’s massages, happy hour(s), March Madness brackets, bringing lunches in, etc.  Do something that will allow you and your staff to take your minds off of tax returns and allow yourselves to hit the reset button a bit!

Multi-factor authentication

By Chris Dickens, IT

An increasingly mobile workforce demands access to data from anywhere, and from multiple devices. While this creates convenience, it also creates challenges for security. 

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a great way to keep your users and data secure. It protects against the following risks:

  • Identify theft is on the rise
  • Users still tend to use weak passwords
  • Users sometimes fall victim to phishing 

MFA apps offer a more secure and easy-to-use method by sending push notifications to users’ smartphones. Additionally, most MFA apps support other methods of login scenarios, including offline users or those without smartphones. 

MFA apps, such as Microsoft Authenticator, Google Authenticator or Prompt, or Duo make deployment of multi-factor authentication fairly easy. 

Using MFA with computing substantially decreases risk of a data breach. In the event where a hacker has a user’s password, an unauthorized login would still get blocked with the second factor of authentication. 

Here are three use cases for using MFA apps. 

  • Laptops that leave the office
  • Remoting into an office computer via VPN
  • Accessing the organization’s private cloud-hosted systems

If your firm accesses applications and data in any of the above use cases, you should consider adopting MFA this year. 

Calculating social media ROI

By Chris, Marketing Team

A quick way to see if your efforts on social media are paying off

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”  —John Wanamaker

That quote by American retail merchant John Wanamaker no doubt strikes a chord with firm owners who find themselves in a state of unknowing or uncertainty about the effectiveness of their communication expenditures. And probably none of these is more of a question mark than social media.

Here’s the good news. Measuring the impact of social media is easy, if you have data to put it into context. In fact, the mechanism for measuring social media effectiveness is the classic ROI calculation. It’s probably unnecessary to spell it out for accounting professionals, but, for the record, it looks like this:

ROI = (return – investment) ÷ investment x 100

Now let’s consider data to populate the variables:

  1. Investment: This is total social media expense, including staff hours and out-of-pocket costs for tools such as software subscriptions, stock artwork, photography, etc. Let’s use round numbers for illustrative purposes and say that we have an administrative assistant at $18/hour devoting 10 hours a week to social media activity. That’s $9,360 annualized. Add to that $640 in software subscription fees and miscellaneous resources, and the total annual social media investment is $10,000. That’s the easy part.
  2. Return: Here’s where it gets tricky. How exactly to you attribute new business to social media activity? There’s more than one way to approach it. You could, for example, directly ask each new client what prompted him or her to contact you and then directly track the number of conversions resulting from social media. (Someone needs to be accountable for manually keeping track of this data and assuring it’s constantly updated, however.) The downside of this method is that it relies on client recall, which is subject to misreporting. It’s also possible that social media posts may have been a secondary influencing factor, even if not directly cited by the client.

    Another method is to use basic web analytics to create a composite picture of overall prospect and lead activity online. Again, let’s use round numbers: Say your website generates 1,000 new, unique visitors every year. And during that same period, you sign 10 new clients. That’s one new client for every 100 new visits to your site. Now let’s say that your web analytics report reveals that 20 percent of your web visits are referrals from social media sites (i.e. people clicking through from your social posts to your website). That means two of those 10 new clients may be directly attributable to social media activity. More round numbers: Let’s say the lifetime value (LTV) of your typical client is $100,000. That yields a total return of $200,000. Let’s complete the ROI formula:

ROI = ($200,000 – $10,000) ÷ $10,000 x 100
ROI = 1900%

In other words, every dollar spent on social media brought in $19 of revenue. Not bad at all!

Is this method a perfect assessment? Certainly not. For example, your web analytics may underreport social media referrals, because some people may not follow links directly to your website, but rather visit your site directly in a later online session. (This is referred to as “dark traffic,” because we lose the ability to directly trace prospects’ pathways back to social media.) Some might also argue that equating website traffic with new client conversions is based on correlation, rather than causation. That’s a discussion for another time. 

Regardless of how you collect and analyze your data, the key is just that—be data-driven. Adopt a consistently applied data-gathering process for evaluating ROI for social media (and all of your communication vehicles, for that matter), and you’ll never be in the unenviable position of John Wanamaker.

New How-to Videos

For those of you with Rootworks-hosted websites that use NetClient CS or Onvio, we have four new how-to videos that we can add to your website. 

You can find the videos here on our sample Modern Advisors website: https://modernadvisors.rootworks.com/video-library

If you’d like any of the videos added, please send an email to support@rootworks.com and specify which video(s) to add.

Upcoming Webinars

  • February 12 – Staff Training: QBO – What’s New. Learn about some of the new features in QBO including Receipts, Mileage Tracker and QBO Bill Pay. We will also cover the different subscription levels of QBO and any other new features.

Educational Webinars

We’ve published our calendar of Educational Webinars for the upcoming year. Our Educational webinars create the core framework that we use to communicate with and educate members. Register for each session to help keep your firm moving forward throughout the year.

Our curriculum includes:

  • Resource Update webinars – Review new resources, lessons, products and other materials we have created for members.
  • Technology Update webinars – Review software or technology that we’ve vetted, discuss updates to existing software products that we use, and discuss new vendor relationships that Rootworks has.
  • Planning webinars – Give members time to celebrate accomplishments and think through upcoming firm projects or issues to work on.
  • Culture webinars – Give members ideas and practical guidance to improve and strengthen firm culture. Focus on our 4 Cs of culture: Clarity, Candor, Connection and Consistency.
  • Cybersecurity webinars – Examine cybersecurity threats and ways firms can identify and avoid them.
  • Rootworks.com Update webinars – New this year, we’ll explain updates and enhancements to Rootworks.com.

And for our Academy members:

  • Academy Marketing webinars – For Academy members only, we review new marketing resources in the Marketing Library.

Register in Rootworks.com under Membership > Events > Virtual Events.

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