05 Jun June ’19
In my last column, I discussed the significant investments being made in the accounting space by venture capital companies. To refresh your memory, I updated you on the millions of dollars going toward building out competitor platforms like Bench, Pilot and Scalefactor. I also indicated that in order for small firms to compete against well-funded disruptors, firms must execute in three key areas—clarity of business model, client experience and relationship building.
This month’s column focuses on client experience and the necessity of delivering one that is rich, seamless and modern. To accomplish this, having an advanced client experience platform in place is mission-critical.
Offering a seamless client experience is not a new concept. Many companies have been doing this well for years, such as United and Delta Airlines; Uber and Marriott for travel; Chase Bank and Schwab for managing money; and Apple, Google, and Amazon for books, music, search and everything else. A great experience is defined by the customer getting what they want—when and where they want it. The question I’m exploring is this: What’s a modern experience today for accounting firms and their clients?
Let me first say that an awesome client experience in today’s environment must be more than just the digital delivery of tax and financial documents. Second, a great experience is defined by the client, not the firm. The experience must meet the client’s expectations of access to information—when and where they need it, clarity on what they are purchasing and how much it will cost them. Providing this requires crystal clear products in a well-defined business model, along with a technology platform for the modern era.
At Rootworks, we believe strongly that our member firms must have every advantage when it comes to business clarity and a world-class client experience platform. Over the last couple of years, we’ve acquired the needed resources, at all levels, to begin building a modern client experience platform for our members. We’ve developed our platform to tightly integrate front-stage (website with client login and mobile) with a robust back-stage that supports marketing, sales and client relationship management.
So what does all this mean in terms of functionality? Here’s a peek at a few features within our performance platform:
- Firm website pre-login—Prospects can connect with the firm and submit information to begin the sales process.
- Modern, clear products for each stage of the business life-cycle, coupled with the needed presentation resources that enable your firm to clearly articulate solutions and price them accordingly.
- Integration with proposal software, pre-loaded with Rootworks designed proposal templates to support each of your business life-cycle solutions.
- An elegant digital onboarding platform to seamlessly onboard your new clients. The onboarding experience will integrate with our Client View tool (coming soon).
We have many more projects on our development roadmap, all designed to enhance your clients’ experience working with your firm. The new frontier for accounting firms is clarity and a modern experience.
Don’t miss our firm retreats—Too much is happening!
Firm Retreats start in just a few short weeks. Know that we are working hard to deliver the initial stages of the Rootworks Performance Platform™—developed to empower small and medium-sized accounting firms to deliver a modern, unparalleled client experience.
During our retreats, we will demonstrate what a modern sales experience looks like. We will show you how a prospect moves from the firm’s website (via the prospect request form), flows into Client View for evaluation and nurturing, and finally, creation of an aesthetically beautiful and engaging sales proposal and digital client signature capture.
In addition to platform discussions, we will also share new client education materials (business advisory and much more) along with a library of proposal templates—all created to enhance your firm’s client experience and help you thrive in the age of disruption. I am confident that our materials are unparalleled in the profession and that you will love what you see!
The pace of change continues to accelerate. Bill.com just introduced artificial intelligence to assist in data entry, and Bench has declared that they are the largest bookkeeping business in the United States after just a few short years in business. Demand is growing rapidly for an online modern experience. We must adjust and compete with clarity and a modern digital experience. So, if you have not yet registered for one of our summer events, make sure to do so right away—they are almost full.
All my best,
June is here! Many firms take this time to catch their breath, take vacations and catch up on work that was put off during tax season. While all those items are important, we now are in the window of time where firm advancement and change can be made. At this point, your firm should have a three- to six-month plan of any changes you want to make. If your firm hasn’t done that yet, carve out some time this week to make that happen. To help plan out your summer, here is a list of common areas firms are working on:
- Implement Business Foundation Services and Business Management Services – These are services that many firms may offer currently but typically are done one-off and aren’t specified services. Business Management Services uses Fathom to generate the deliverable to the client. Rootworks provides a full complement of instructions, sales presentations and pricing calculators to implement these services.
- Convert annual business clients to full-service clients – This is an ongoing project for some firms, but can change what you think of tax season. Instead of spending January and February figuring out what a client has done to their accounting records for a year, keep them updated and tied-out throughout the year to make the tax process much easier. You should target your clients by the most likely to transition over to the least likely. (Consider using Client View on Rootworks.com to manage this process.)
- Each client should have a quote using the fee calculator (for pricing consistency) as well a video, phone or in-person meeting to sell the new service.
- This is a process that takes time, but the reward is well worth it.
- If clients decline, keep those tracked. As you bring on clients that fit your model, these non-compliant clients should be dealt with.
- Implement client facing technology – The technology your firm uses internally matters. However, what the client sees is even more important. Most clients want to be compliant, but in an age of fast-paced advances in technology, the solutions and products you provide to your clients should show your firm in the best light. Solutions such as Fathom, Zoom, Receipt Bank, Bill.com, Slack, Liscio or portals are common ones. Other popular options are plugging a front-end solution to ACS (if you use ACS for Payroll) such as Swipeclock or implementing the employee app with RUN Powered by ADP. Anything you provide to a client should be evaluated to see if there is a better fit out there.
- Fixing items that came up in the “Tax Season Debrief” – It is important to have a structured debrief after tax season, and hopefully your firm has already done that while tax season is still fresh in your minds. Based on priorities from that debrief, it is recommended to put items in place that you plan to change during the summer so your extension season can be your implementation time. Here are some common items firms are working on for changing tax season!
- Putting levels on returns. The levels determine the structure of the tax process. Does it need a partner review? Can someone else review it? Is it one that can be done and go out the door? Leveling returns allows your firm to start the process of eliminating the review bottleneck.
- Changing your structure for scanning and admin tasks. This one has many variables, but it could mean changing the software you scan into, changing your timing for scanning or even changing delivery models.
- Developing client communication structures. If your firm had lots of returns come in close to the deadline, it’s time to fix that. Communicate hard deadlines to ensure returns are done on time. Stop letting the clients control you.
None of the items in this section are difficult. They may take some focus to implement, but if you spend just a small amount of time to work on the business and keep evolving, the business will continue to thrive. There are many resources to refer to for all the items above. And for members who have Coaching in their membership, feel free to work with your coach to help you get rolling on these things.
You may or may not be old enough to remember Dick Van Patten as Tom Bradford in the early 80’s TV show “Eight is Enough.” The iconic theme song told us that “eight is enough to fill our lives with love.” But eight characters is not enough to protect you from nefarious hackers who want to steal your identity. So, get rid of those eight-character passwords. Go to 12- to 16-character passwords, and get a password manager like Keeper Security, LastPass or Dashlance, etc. Let them do the heavy lifting for you on password management. If “Eight is Enough” were still on the air, Tom Bradford would have taught his kids this lesson as well.
Customer online reviews are powerful…especially in today’s world where consumers turn to review sites to gain a better understanding of a business. The more positive reviews you have, the better your chances of solidifying your reputation as a leader in the accounting profession. Online reviews also play a big role in SEO and help you connect with your clients. Don’t be afraid to ask your clients for reviews. Your clients will be honored that you value their opinion! And be sure to specify the platform for which you are requesting the review—such as Google, Facebook, Yelp or other. Keep in mind, managing your online reputation requires your regular attention. If you solicit reviews from clients, be sure to make time on a weekly basis to comb the review sites and stay abreast of what’s being said about your firm online.
If you’re looking for a consolidated place to keep track of new things Rootworks is rolling out, check the What’s New in Rootworks channel in Connect.
- June 6: Spring Technology Webinar. We’ll cover four different sales proposal programs we’ve vetted as well as an update on Thomson Reuters’ Onvio platform. This will be a 90-minute webinar.
- June 12: Staff Training: The ADP Transition – What we have learned so far. This class will cover setting the right expectations when moving from a full-service solution to a hybrid payroll methodology. We will address what reports to run and when for a smooth experience…and we will also cover the new client dashboard, OTTO.
- June 19: Staff Training: Advisory Services Class 1 of 3 – Value Pricing. This class covers a four-part value pricing methodology firms can use to confidently and consistently quote fees using value as the key driver of the price. We will use the Business Foundation Services product as an example in our discussion.
- June 27: Staff Training: Advisory Services Class 2 of 3 – Business Foundation Services. This class will cover the Business Foundation Services product, which is our first advisory services product. It was first introduced in late 2018. The Business Foundation Services product is a one-time engagement designed around educating and training a new business owner on basic but important tax and accounting concepts as well as on the basic use of QuickBooks Online.
Academy Members: On June 13, we’ll also have our Marketing Resources Update Webinar for the summer.