How to hold onto your client base in the age of digital? It’s a question that keeps many an accountant up at night.
And no wonder: it’s a competitive world out there. We live in a global economy where just about anything can be outsourced overseas. Where a smart and ambitious professional can set up and manage a business on their laptop with minimal overheads and highly competitive prices. Where tasks that were once entrusted to an accountant can now be performed by an app.
To survive in this brave new world, it’s not enough to be a good accountant. It’s not enough to be a trusted pair of hands. It’s not even enough to be have charisma, charm and a knack for wining and dining clients.
The old ways of doing things are – well, they’re outdated. Client expectations have changed. They’ve evolved. Sure, they still expect you to be highly competent and professional, to give great advice and relieve the burden of managing their finances.
But these days, there are four major differentiators that affect whether you win or lose a client. In a nutshell, here’s what they are… and how to bring your business up to speed.
1. They Expect You to Get Back to Them FAST
Clients will not accept delays in communication in this day and age. They will not expect slow turnaround. They don’t like to hear, “can you wait until I get back to the office?” Increasingly, they’re able to work on the run and be productive from anywhere – and they expect the same from you.
How to Fix It: Rolling out mobile workspaces for your team and moving your data to the cloud means that you have uninterrupted, secure access to your files, folders, programs and emails. You can utilise your dead time to maximum effect and communicate with clients without getting chained to your desk.
2. They Expect You to Be Cost-Efficient
The financial crisis shook things up in ways that are unlikely to revert. Budgets are tighter, expenses harder to justify. The focus isn’t just on reaping profits but on streamlining processes for maximum efficiency and minimum waste. This goes for your costs too: any indication that your fees are bloated or more complex than they have to be and you’ll have some hard questions to answer.
How to Fix It: Switching to cloud computing cuts infrastructure costs, allowing you to move to scalable, manageable monthly billing. What’s more, it has enormous benefits for your team productivity, reduces downtime and automates simple tasks and processes, resulting in less admin and more billable hours. All of which means you can charge less without cutting into your profit margins and it means you can be more transparent than ever before about your costs.
3. They Expect You to Keep Your Technology Up-to-Date
Scarcely a day goes by without a flash new app or B2B solution that aims to revolutionise the way we work, and forward-thinking company execs are always on the lookout for ways to make their working lives as well-connected, tech-serviced and easy to manage as our personal lives have become. Dragging your heels will make you look like a corporate dinosaur – and frustrates companies that are used to doing things in faster, easier ways.
How to Fix It: Make sure that your system is compatible with their needs by introducing better ways to collaborate and communicate in real time. Switching to the cloud for file hosting and Microsoft Office will allow you to share access and work together on documents remotely or collectively, improving efficiency and turnaround and making sure you’re always working with clients, rather than against them.
4. They Expect You to Be a Partner, Not a Supplier
Clients today want more than a service provider: they want a strategist. They want someone who can contribute to their overall business objectives, using their expertise and resources to contribute to the bigger picture, too.
How to Fix It:
A move to the cloud won’t only fuel your own business growth, it also means you’re perfectly placed to share your insights and learnings with clients. Consulting on how to use the cloud to streamline cashflow, cut unnecessary outgoings, improve internal communication and boost productivity go over and above usual accounting advice, making you invaluable – and, of course, potentially opening up an additional revenue stream for your business.