If we had to single out the biggest blocker preventing firms from getting work done as efficiently as they are capable of, two words would suffice: chasing clients.
“Nothing outranks the importance of clear and timely client communications in successfully navigating a busy season.”
The client chase is a constant battle. It’s the accretive time it takes to request information from clients, send reminders when the team has not received what they asked for, go back to them when they have given the accountant the wrong thing, and nag them when they forget yet again to come back with more information. It’s this constant chase that snowballs and sucks so much time out of every day. And how long this will take is impossible to predict and plan for.
The impact of the chase goes beyond frustration. When accountants arrive at missing information, all momentum can be destroyed. Work constantly needs to be picked up and put back down again, changing the dynamic of a process. Despite doing everything in their power to be efficient, something out of their control slows them down. And no amount of planning can prevent this.
“All it takes is one document that makes you miss a lodgment deadline, your fee budget or destroys a client relationship. We’ve been facing the challenge of chasing information for years now, yet it is still left up to the individual to remember.”
And the chase doesn’t only impact internal resources: it slowly but surely erodes the relationship between accountants and their clients, and can even risk damaging the reputation of a firm.
Because even though clients might be (part of) the problem, they don’t want their accountant to have to spend their time asking them for information or reminding them of what they’ve forgotten. And accountants definitely don’t want to be seen as naggers.
“We created our firm to put our clients first and to never compromise our service or commitment to them.”
Is this something that just needs to be accepted as being a part of an accountant’s role? Is it a necessary evil that everyone in this industry, from the doers to the partners, needs to accept? If you’re not going to do it, who else will?
So we ask: can technology play a role and alleviate some of these issues and frustrations?
If there was a way to incorporate your clients into your existing workflow you’d have the power to provide automation around the chase. Processes inside your firm’s four walls are changing and becoming automated thanks to technology, but what about the processes that extend outside your firm?
If we look beyond accounting, there are examples of this being done. Typeform is one—allowing users to custom-build forms and collate responses in one central location. The quality and accuracy of responses might still be uncontrollable, but users can cut the time they spend on administration and reduce the likelihood of errors.
Can accounting firms also make use of technology to automate their processes that rely on inefficient steps such as individual emails, phone conversations, and constant manual reminders?
It is unlikely that the client chase will ever completely be eradicated from the lives of accountants, but the process can without a doubt be automated. Technology has the power to eliminate the zero-value tasks and give back time to accountants so they can focus on the more meaningful work. The overall relationship with clients will benefit so that the actual human-to-human conversations are not anchored in finger pointing, but on building a better business.
And this is exactly what accountants should be spending their time on—the work that humans, not technology, are best at.