As accounting firms seek to differentiate their services and attract more business, client experience has become a key area of improvement for organizations of every size. Eighty-two percent of firms feel clients are now more demanding and 87% of firms agree that clients now expect increased flexibility and service levels from accounting firms without an increase in service rates.
One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is by streamlining service delivery through technology. This means creating efficient workflows that facilitate faster, smoother interactions and services, both internally and externally with clients and third parties. Research shows inefficient workflows can penalize firms by costing them up to 30% of their revenue.
Areas of improvement are all around you
Consider how many steps go into the preparation of a financial statement.
There might be a kick-off with the client followed by gathering various types of financial data. Once data is collected, transactions need to be classified in order to prepare the financial statement, and then the statement is ready for review before it can be finalized… Each of these steps can be further broken down into more minute tasks.
There are existing processes all around you that can be streamlined to improve service delivery, benefiting your clients and your firm. This can make a huge different in a competitive industry where 82% of firms say clients routinely expect more accounting resources and services than just five years ago.
Three common areas for improvement
So, what’s the most effective way to evaluate your firm’s workflows? Start with three key areas: repeatable processes, pain points, and long lead times. These are easy places to start as you look for time-consuming tasks or areas of “friction” that can be streamlined to delight customers in a new way.
Repeatable processes are central to workflows. They save us from creating a net new workflow every time we deliver a service. But some repeatable processes can be low-value or time-consuming tasks that must get done to move the project forward.
Automation is the ability to use technology to complete these activities without requiring a human to oversee them. Repeatable tasks can be perfect candidates for workflow automation because they have clear steps with few exceptions. In fact, 45% of surveyed firms said they plan to automate repetitive accounting tasks to help save time.
Take client onboarding. Instead of having an admin manage the same onboarding steps for every client or project your firm takes on, automating part or all of the process frees administrative staff to focus their time on activities that contribute more value.
Pain points are areas in your workflow where obstacles occur.
This could be having to call clients multiple times to get answers to questions. Or waiting on clients to complete key tasks (such as sign a service agreement to kick the project off or provide key information to get the project started). It can also be points in the engagement where clients get confused or frustrated. Maybe they’ve even offered feedback about these moments once the service is completed.
Because accounting services tend to be document-heavy, utilizing a document-focused collaboration solution like ShareFile for Accounting can help ease these pain points.
By providing more visibility into the workflow (both internally and client-facing), facilitating smoother document collaboration, increasing security for confidential information sharing, and even automating task updates and reminders, you can ease service bottlenecks. And 58% of firms said updating their technology increased productivity and efficiency while giving them time to consider offering new services.
Long lead times
Extended lead times make it difficult to keep a service engagement moving smoothly. They can delay project completion, increase budget, even shake a client’s confidence in your firm. It also can lower employee morale, an important consideration in an industry facing a talent shortage.
To help resolve this issue, automation and document-centric collaboration come together to pare down service lead time. Whether the obstacles are internal or external—or both—automating workflows help your team focus on tasks that require human input, while the tools and features in document collaboration tools streamline the service engagement for quicker delivery and higher levels of client satisfaction. A side benefit: 60% of large firms point to technology a way to keep staff engagement and morale high.
15-minute workflow evaluation
The reality is that nearly 75% of accounting tasks can be supported by technology. And in the competitive accounting market, there’s no time to waste to begin differentiating your firm and the services it provides.
With secure client collaboration solutions like ShareFile for Accounting, your firm can automate those low-value and often labor-intensive workflows to accelerate service delivery and enhance the experience for both clients and staff. In fact, a quick 15-minute brainstorm can be all you need to begin.
In fact, a quick 15-minute brainstorm can be all you need to begin. Get started today by downloading our free worksheet