How Accounting Firms Can Prioritize Client Relationships

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By Mairtini Ni Dhomhnaill.

Whether or not you like numbers more than people, client relationships are a necessary evil in the accounting world. In my experience, the number one reason new clients give for leaving their old accounting firm is lack of responsiveness, especially over email. Today, with economic headwinds raising fears that a recession is imminentBuilding and maintaining strong client relationships is one of the best ways for accounting firms to mitigate potential economic fallout as corporate clients seek to reduce expenses.

In an uncertain economy, reliable customer relationships are more important than ever for accounting. In fact, 46% of accountants believe relationship building is the most essential skill for future accountants, according to Sage’s current practice. Meanwhile, the same report reveals that 82% of accountants say customers are more discerning these days, expecting better and faster service without paying higher rates.

Let’s explore why customer relationships are so critical to dealing with the current moment and how to navigate these changing tides.

The Changing Face of Accounting as the Landscape Goes Digital

The state of accounting has changed significantly in recent years. In the past, the main communication with customers was monthly, quarterly or even annually. Today, clients expect their accounting firms to be much more involved in day-to-day operations.

This development has largely coincided with the pandemic-induced digital transformation, as automation and artificial intelligence (AI) have disrupted the accounting space. As new technology proliferates in the industry, the market for AI in accounting is expected to grow to $16.07 billion by 2028 from $1.7 billion in 2021. Artificial intelligence and automation deliver significant value to back-office roles, taking over the tasks that machines can perform while providing greater accuracy and efficiency. That said, AI cannot present a financial report at your next board meeting.

AI comes at the perfect time to help businesses manage the deluge of customer communication on a daily basis. But without investing in automated workflows and the right technology tools, companies can quickly lose pace with customer demands and fall short of ever-increasing expectations for responsiveness.

While understanding appropriate response times may differ by customer, the reality is that when they are a priority for business management, there are tools available to ensure effective customer support. For example, my company, Countsy, uses Front to organize our communication and streamline collaboration by quickly calling on the people needed to best respond to a request. With a finger on the pulse of emerging business technology, you can ensure your accounting staff is set up for success and able to scale as your business grows.

Use the human touch to drive customer retention and expansion

Multi-year client relationships are the bread and butter of any accounting business. A customer relationship that goes beyond the strict transactional and offers human touchpoints through interactions can make the difference when it comes time to renew your contract. People like to work with people they like, that’s why Deloitte found that B2B customers are on average 32% more likely to renew with B2B companies that master the customer experience.

Investing in the customer relationship and providing a robust communication protocol will allow you to better build these human relationships using digital tools. With less time spent on ad hoc requests, teams can instead focus on higher value conversations that really show the depth of their service. When the pandemic started and Countsy moved remotely, our customers did not see a change in the quality of service since we were already using Front for our customer communications. Without having to spin the wheels of relevant stakeholders to get answers from clients, we can deliver faster while deepening the analysis that really makes us valuable as accountants.

Instead of being overwhelmed with email aliases and playing hot potato with your team waiting for someone to spearhead a response, customer communication tools can help you divide and conquer. . Above all else, people want to be heard, and focusing on that personalized human touch will build trust, making your customers feel seen and understood.

Workforce needs to evolve with the times, but don’t give up on company culture

As the United States saw the great resignation peak in March, near two job offers remain for each unemployed person. The accounting profession has been hit hard by this attrition, which has compounded the already insufficient number of accountants as the number of accounting graduates has fallen sharply. seven percent in 2019 since the peak in 2012.

Following the recent increase in turnover and the resulting job creations, companies must prioritize the complete integration and maintenance of the company culture to ensure sustainable growth and strong relationships. with customers. Replacing an individual employee is not cheap – it costs between half to twice the salary of the original employee. Inadequate knowledge sharing has an even higher price. According to Panopto Workplace Knowledge and Productivity Reportthe average large US company loses $47 million in productivity each year due to inefficient knowledge sharing.

Maintaining a thorough understanding of your history with a client is essential for strong client relationships in accounting. Communication tools that give new hires access to their company’s entire email history with a customer greatly simplify onboarding. Such tools that streamline efficiency around customer relationships and knowledge sharing will help maintain a company’s identity while allowing more time to build a strong corporate culture.

Hybrid workplaces have demonstrated their endurance and businesses must leverage technology to simplify collaboration as they adapt to this enduring standard. When the tools streamline such extensive knowledge sharing, there’s more time to build stronger internal relationships and create a place where people want to continue to grow their careers.

Also tangential to the actual services provided by accountants, hard numbers and detailed analysis mean nothing without strong client relationships. As technology changes the landscape and helps accountants meet growing client demands, a robust communication framework will help accountancy firms retain clients while preserving company culture and expanding their workforce. The industry will continue to face significant technological and societal changes, but high-quality customer relationships will remain the keystone of long-term success.

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Mairtini Ni Dhomhnaill is the founder of County.

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