Evolving technology and shifting business trends have wrought changes in accounting. What worked as recently as five years ago isn’t so effective in 2018. Is your accounting firm giving its clients what they want? By understanding the needs of modern business clients, you can position your company as the solution to their problems.
Do You Have the Right Credentials?
With competition growing by the day, it counts more than ever to have the right credentials. Before 2012, Canadian accountants held one or more of three designations. A chartered accountant (CA) designation indicated a broad knowledge base and successful completion of a rigorous three-day exam; a certified management accountant (CMA) focused on management consulting; and a certified general accountant (CGA) designation was a common starting point when entering the field.
Then in 2012, leaders from the three designations agreed to merge into one. The Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) designation is the new industry gold standard. Any accounting professional wanting to go far in the business should pursue a CPA. When hiring help, try to focus on candidates with CPA designations. The more of them you have on staff, the more professional and experienced your firm looks to prospective clients.
Are You Accessible?
What happens when a client or prospective client calls your office at night or on the weekend? Do they get a message like this: "Thanks for calling our office. Our business hours are Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please leave a message or call back during those hours." If so, it’s no secret what they’re doing immediately afterward, hanging up and calling a competitor, one who’s accessible when they need help.
This isn’t to say you should be a slave to your business, never take a vacation, and sleep with your cellphone ringer on high so you never miss a call. But in this fast-paced world, business owners can’t afford to wait more than 24 hours to get back to a customer, especially one with a pressing need.
Make accessibility a key part of your offerings. Set up a system where someone in your organization always gets back to a customer within a set time, preferably a few hours or less. If you leave customers hanging, it’s just too easy for them to conduct a quick search and find someone else.
Are You Tech Savvy?
Still touting Excel spreadsheets in sales pitches? If so, you’re behind the times. Accounting technology of the 1990s and 2000s is fast giving way to cloud computing, software-as-a-service, and blockchain. If these terms sound like a foreign language, make it your goal to get up to speed on modern technology.
Be prepared for prospective clients to ask probing questions about your technological savvy. Are you on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn? If not, some customers might actually hold it against you. Do you store customer data on a hard drive in your office or a secure cloud server? If it’s option A, prepare to lose out to competitors who embrace more sophisticated, up-to-date technology.
Do You Have a Broad Skill Set?
Remember how accountants used to have a reputation as dull number-crunchers? In 2018, accounting covers far more than debits and credits, and the modern accountant is anything but boring. Accounting firms that have yet to branch out beyond audits and taxes risk finding themselves obsolete. Technology is quickly removing the need for accountants to perform the rote tasks of yesteryear.
The accountant of the future serves more of an advisory, consultative role. This person is who customers call for advice before making an acquisition or changing their business structure. He helps draw up business leases, employment contracts, and franchise agreements. Instead of just being the person clients call during tax time, weave yourself into the fabric of their business. Take the time to learn what they do, and apply your broad business acumen to help them do it better.
Do You Have Any Business Ownership Experience?
As the field of accounting broadens, clients want to see you as the person who can help with all their business needs. And what better person to do that than someone with business ownership experience? If you lack such experience yourself, consider hiring people who have been business owners. When pitching prospective clients, you can tout the combined years of business ownership among your management team. In doing so, you position your firm as one that’s been where your clients are and can draw on its experience to help them do things better. As a general rule, people value advice from those who’ve done what they’re trying to do and have done it well. Your clients are no exception to this rule.
Communication Is Key
Communication means more than responding to calls, emails, and texts promptly. It means being proactive and reaching out to your clients when you think of something that can help them. A great way to do this is with a weekly or monthly newsletter. In this report, you can update your clients on any upcoming law changes or provide tips that might make their lives easier. You also keep the communication line open, so when a client needs something you offer, your firm is the first name that comes to mind.
The accounting profession is forever expanding and evolving. By staying on top of these characteristics, you can give your clients what they want and need.