[IMGCAP(1)]If you’ve worked in the tax and accounting profession long enough, you know that strong client relationships are the foundation of a successful practice.

As technology becomes more and more integrated into our everyday lives, however, you may be hesitant to introduce it to your clients for fear of losing that personal touch. But more and more accounting firms are realizing that cloud-based applications, like client portals and document sharing, can actually build stronger client relationships. Here’s why.

1. 24/7 Access
Your clients want accessing their information to be simple—and they don't want to have to schedule an appointment to get it. 24/7 access to information is now expected for both personal and business information. Today’s consumers, especially millennials, are known for their constant connectivity.
Consider this: A husband and wife are having a budget discussion at 9 pm and want to access their tax return information. Shouldn’t that be just as easy as accessing their bank account balance? By offering them cloud-based technology, specifically client portals, it can be.

2. Proactive Collaboration
The key to stronger client relationships is to stay connected on a regular basis. Cloud-based file sharing enables you and your clients to exchange source documents and share files virtually, saving them the time and hassle of making the trek into your office. Not only is this a huge benefit to clients, but it also provides tremendous benefits in terms of firm efficiency as your staff can access information and get work done anytime, anywhere.

Further, the latest cloud applications provide full integration across all platforms—laptop, tablet and native mobile apps—with centralized information. So if you or your clients make a change in one place, it’s automatically updated across all supporting applications, with no manual synching, importing or exporting. It’s all done in real time.

3. Security
Being accountants, one of the first questions that may come to mind is whether or not cloud-based applications are secure. By working with a reputable cloud service provider that offers the highest level of security against hackers, fires and natural disasters, data becomes even more secure than it is in an office because the threat of possible break-ins and physical damage is eliminated.

Plus, if your firm uses cloud-based applications and your computer crashes, you can continue working using a spare computer or a new one, without data loss, because the cloud backs up all of your files, making them accessible from any device. Plus, all software updates are pushed out live, without the need to download and install a program. This virtually eliminates version control and other potential conflicts with getting software updated.

4. More Personal Time
Just like you, your clients strive to achieve work/life balance. By having information readily available through cloud-based solutions like client portals, you enable them to conduct business with you quickly and conveniently—and get back to spending their personal time on activities they enjoy. The cloud also frees up time for accountants, which is particularly important during the long hours of tax season.

5. They Expect It!
Virtually everyone uses cloud computing today, even if they don’t realize it. If your clients access their bank accounts or retirement funds online, check in to their online health portal, or stream a movie on their tablet or smart TV, guess what? They are already using the cloud. In today’s world, clients expect it.

The bottom line is that cloud-based technology not only enables you to build stronger relationships with clients, it also makes it possible for your firm to become more efficient and productive. That’s a win-win. So don’t worry about losing that personal touch. Use the cloud to your advantage and provide your clients with the technology they’ve come to expect. You’ll be happy you did.

Christina E. Wiseman, MBS, serves as Product Manager - Web Services & Mobile Technologies with the Professional Tax & Accounting business of Thomson Reuters. Christina has over 14 years of experience in the profession, and works closely with the sales, marketing, training, development, and support areas to deliver quality web and mobile solutions to tax and accounting firms via the CS Professional Suite. She holds a master’s degree in IT Management from Colorado Technical University and a bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems, and is a certified product management professional accredited by Pragmatic Marketing.