15 Feb February 2017
Jack Welch, the famous former CEO of General Electric, once said, “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” I don’t believe the end is near, but the rate of change on the outside has escalated quickly. As someone who deals in the tax world, you couldn’t have watched H&R Block’s Super Bowl ad without a bit of “OMG.”
H&R Block’s ad campaign is all about Watson, IBM’s name for Artificial Intelligence (or as they now call it in Silicon Valley, “Machine Learning”). The campaign and their capabilities may not be much right now, but it’s the beginning of a mainstream shift. I now have a Google Home in my house and an Amazon Echo (Alexa) at the office. Neither one of them do much right now, but they will. It’s the beginning of their integration into the mainstream.
Intuit initiated its concept of Siri for QB at its users’ conference last November. (That’s right, it’s no longer QBO, just QB. The world is changing quickly.)
H&R Block is working hard to modernize its technology, as should we. What does modernization or the modern firm look like going forward? It’s clear that it’s a collaborative cloud-based firm, but what does this mean? The challenge I see for firms is not just looking at solutions that were provided in the past and moving them to the cloud, but in thinking about how to reinvent what was done in the past by asking ourselves how should this be done in the future. Some software vendors are happy reproducing their on-premise solutions as cloud-based ones.
The world is changing and we, as modern firms, must get out in front of the change.
The late—and in my mind great—Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, gave us Habit 2, which I believe clearly helps us in this situation: Begin With The End In Mind. In doing so, Rootworks has developed what we call our RW Touchpoint GPA, which we will be presenting to you in-depth this summer at our Partner Retreats, held at our Indianapolis Learning Center.
For now, as a general overview, consider every touchpoint your firm has with a customer and ask yourself how you rank on a scale of 0 to 4 (analogous to a GPA) compared with world-class organizations? For example, when you think of the best onboarding experience in the world, how do you compare?
If we consider every single touchpoint in our organization and rate it on this scale, we arrive at our RW Touchpoint GPA. This GPA will serve as our benchmark in building a great modern firm in the manner of the world’s best organizations—those which have set the bar.
The world outside our four walls is changing, and if we’re going to build world-class firms, we have to change with it.
Now that tax season is here, it’s inevitable that we start thinking about which returns will be extended, what type of timeline we’ll need to follow and what the best process is to ensure no returns are missed. Below are the best practices that we recommend to make your extensions manageable, less time consuming and bullet proof:
- Set a deadline at least 5 days prior to the actual, original deadline to have returns extended.
- Use your tax software status to mark returns as complete and mark this status as reviews are completed.
- Run a report out of your tax software to single out returns that are NOT marked as complete.
- Run a report out of your practice management program to single out projects that are NOT complete or canceled.
- Cross check these reports. Any discrepancies should either be waiting for e-file acceptance or client signature/payment.
Meet your clients where they want to do business.
We continue our examination of the four “Ps” of marketing (Product, Price, Place and Promotion) this month with a consideration of Place. Marketers of consumer goods will substitute the word “distribution” for place, but that doesn’t quite put a fine enough point on it for professional services practitioners. Here’s what it means for firms in our business:
- Place is where you’re relevant. In days past, it was all about geography; firms’ worldview and scope of business were limited by the radius they were willing to travel from the office to meet and serve clients. In today’s modern firm, geography is no longer a limiting factor. We have technologies such as Zoom video conferencing that eliminate the need for anyone to do “windshield time” for face-to-face meetings and document reviews. Practical technology, coupled with a distinctive competency or niche specialization (e.g. dental practices, veterinary practices, optometry practices, etc.) means a small firm can have relevance over a vast geographic area. Our accounting practice, RootAdvisors, has engaged and served clients more than 3,500 miles from our doorstep.
- Place is where you meet your clients. The front door to the modern firm is radically different than the traditional notion. Today’s best clients are looking for an online presence, rather than a streetscape. And that doesn’t mean a static, online brochure. Your online presence needs to be something more…
- Place is where you conduct business. We’ve spoken about this for years. The modern firm’s website is a mobile-enabled platform where your clients can perform all the actions necessary to conduct business with you.
- Place is where you shape the client experience. The space you create online to conduct business with your clients naturally becomes the focal point of the client experience. From the onboarding process to client communication, document exchange and signing, payment processing, and a host of other interactions, your online platforms are key to giving your clients an exceptional, world-class experience. This is what we had in mind when we began designing our Liscio platform, which is currently in development and testing. (More at www.liscio.me.)
- Place is where you sell. The experience you create online becomes the foundation for growing and deepening your client relationships. Exceptionally good client experiences build trust and confidence, which is the first step to higher-value engagements with your existing clients. And nothing makes a statement and attracts the most desirable new clients like the credible promise of a world-class online platform and experience.
Place—it’s not just another “P” word; it’s the “where” in your marketing plan. Know where your best clients want to do business with you, and shape a world-class experience for them in that space.
If you missed any of January’s trainings—Getting Ready for Busy Season Part 2, How to Offer Audit Protection to Clients, Tax Return Delivery (including 8879s), Electronic Filing Refresher—the recordings are in the Online Learning System in the Staff Training Video Library course.
The “Paperless 1040 Tax Process” is now live. Choose Learn→Online Learning System to get there. This course is for firms looking to learn Rootworks’ 1040 tax process with assignments along the way to keep you focused. You must log into Grow first for the course to be added to your dashboard:
- In the left navigation in the Online Learning System, you will see a Groups icon. Each firm has a group for the course. The group is comprised of your firm’s staff. You can use the groups area to collaborate with others on the course (share notes, make comments, etc.).
New Marketing Materials Available: 1) IRS Audit & Identity Theft Protection and 2) IRS Audit Protection fact sheets. Find them with the new navigation path: Learn→Online Learning & Resources.
Winter Technology Webinar:
The video and presentation from Friday’s Winter Technology Webinar are in the Online Learning System→Education Resources course under Educational Webinars.
- We discussed two Unified Communications (technical term for VoIP) platforms: 8×8 and RingCentral. If you are looking to move away from traditional phones, this is a pretty informative session.
- We’ve provided contact information for both RingCentral and 8×8 at the end of the document. Both platforms are solid and very similar in functionality. We ended up choosing 8×8.