Client relationships can be automated, but should they?

With the ever-increasing advances in technology, there is constant pressure to find ways to automate every aspect of your accounting firm. A new app here and a new zap there can help you save time in all kinds of places.

But on the other hand, you have a lot invested in your clients, and it’s understandable that you’re hesitant to do anything that risks jeopardizing a human connection.

So, it begs the question: how far should you go with automation? At what point do you risk not keeping up with technology to enhance your client experience? Or cross a fine line into disruptive or irrelevant automated communication?

Continue the discussion in Karbon Community: Share your tips and experiences with automating client experiences

First, take a closer look at areas where automation can enhance your clients’ experience. Introducing change means thoughtfully assessing the pros vs. cons based on your own data, as well as feedback from both clients and your staff.

Striking the right balance will be different for every firm, so it’s important you stay focused on your needs and what works best for you, your firm and your clients.

How automation can improve and streamline the client experience at your firm

There are many situations where automation can be a big plus for streamlining workflows between your team and your clients, and instances where it can enhance two-way communication.

Recommended reading: 8 time-saving accounting automation ideas

When you free up your team’s time from manual, repetitive tasks, you increase their ability to build stronger one-on-one connections with clients.

Here are a couple of examples where automation can improve your client relationships:

Automated email communication and nurture campaigns

When done right, building client relationships with email automation keeps you in contact with your clients at the right touch-points without bogging down your team with one-off emails or playing phone tag. 

Your firm’s communication also stays consistent when you create standardized templates for your team to use. And with the ability to personalize, your messages remain authentic and true to your brand’s voice.

Depending on your needs, you can get started with simple email tools and work your way to more sophisticated marketing automation or CRM platforms with robust features and capabilities. 

Email communications can be set up as automated ‘drip’ campaigns that are triggered by your own specifications. This might be an upcoming tax deadline, or a specific action taken by your client, such as them downloading a piece of content from your website. 

Automated emails are also a great way to share updates about your services and offerings. Even to provide a subtle reminder to your best clients that their referrals are appreciated.

Automated client requests and collaboration

By automating frequent client tasks, you make it easier for your clients to engage with you when actions are needed, saving you both time. 

The client onboarding process is an example of a common workflow with a significant number of manual processes. 

This is where accounting-specific practice management tools like Karbon come into play. With Karbon’s Client Tasks, all the initial back-and-forth to collect client information can be automated. Plus, you can set up automatic gentle reminders until your clients have provided all everything you need to get started, which frees up your team’s time so they can focus on providing value to other clients.

When automation can create a negative client experience

There’s a time and place for everything, and automating certain interactions can quickly lead to frustrated clients.

With studies showing that 90% of consumers cite customer service as a deciding factor in choosing to do business with a company, it’s important to get this right.

An example of automation-gone-wrong is relying too heavily on chatbots for client support. Not all client requests can be answered easily—they’re likely to be complicated and unique to their situation. It’s unrealistic for you to set up an automated chatbot to deal with an infinite number of potential situations. Plus, your clients will immediately know they’re not talking to a human and they’ll become frustrated quickly.

In situations where emotions are heightened, nothing can replace a genuine connection with a real human.

Is there a hybrid approach to managing client relationships?

The key lies in striking the right balance between automation and human interaction.

Focusing on the client experience and expectations will set you up with a strong foundation. From there, you can choose the right strategies and tools that can be tailored to deliver the best experience for your clients, whilst streamlining your internal processes.

The secret is using technology and automation to enhance your connection and enable a better outcome for your client.

What a blended experience looks like between automation and human touch

There are many ways accounting firms can leverage technology without risking the client’s need for direct interaction with a team member.

Examples of using automation and human interactions include:

Client support (automation > human touch)

Using a chatbot on your website or an automated phone tree can help quickly route people to the right department or person at your firm. Think of it like traffic management.

It’s important to keep it simple and brief, with the intention to have the person connected to the right destination with as little friction as possible.

If you’ve ever contacted Karbon via our support chatbot in Karbon itself, on our website or on Karbon Magazine, chances are that your first experience was with an automated chatbot designed to direct your query to the right person or department. Once you answer a few questions about your request, you’re directed to an actual human 24/7.

This experience uses automation to get to the heart of your request as efficiently as possible, whilst ensuring our support team isn’t spending their time asking discovery questions, and instead providing personalized assistance once the issue has been established.

Client onboarding (human touch > automation > human touch) 

Bringing a new client on board requires a high-level of personal interaction upfront—often in the form of a discovery call or meeting. From there, automating the process can streamline all the detailed tasks, such as generating an engagement proposal/ letter, collecting client documents, sending follow-ups and reminders, etc.

If you already use Karbon, you know how useful the Client Tasks feature can be to execute this.

Don’t let fear hold you back from developing stronger client relationships

If you’re still wondering whether your client relationships should be automated, think about your own interactions with vendors, businesses and consumer brands you purchase from or interact with online. 

How have they used automation in place of, or in addition to, human interactions? What have those experiences been like for you and what learnings can you apply to your firm?

Creating a well-rounded relationship with your clients involves identifying the areas where your firm can most-benefit from automation, and leveraging technology to improve your clients’ experience.

Recommended reading: How CRC is providing meaningful client interactions with technology

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