5 tips for onboarding clients to a technology stack

Do I have to use this? How long will it take to learn this? I have to remember another password?

If you’re an accountant, you’ve probably heard these sentiments or ones like these when introducing clients to new software.

Many accounting firms understand how the right technologies help them better retrieve and analyze financial information, manage cash flows, offer in-depth reporting and provide several additional benefits that complement traditional offerings. They understand the correlation between technologies and an enhanced quality of service. As a result, they work with a particular technology stack.

Clients, however, often must be coaxed to ditch their status quo tools, even (and maybe especially) if those tools are paper, spreadsheets and emails.

How do you do that? We asked leaders of five accounting firms to weigh in on how to tackle the onboarding process. Below are five tips and tricks your firm can apply today that just might convince those reluctant clients to adopt and even learn to love your technology stack.

Create expectations and anticipate questions
Cassidy Jakovickas, CPA and president of MBS Accountancy Corporation, recommends that “firms should introduce clients to their ecosystem of cloud technology immediately. Then you can create the expectation that this is how you can best serve their needs. We typically tell clients that implementing this technology will reduce their manual task hours by at least 50 percent.”

You should also set your own internal expectations on how long this will take. The tech stack for MBS Accountancy includes QuickBooks Online, Receipt Bank, Bill.com and ShareFile. Typically, the firm implements new tech within one to three months depending on the size of the organization.

Despite how much you’ve discussed technologies, clients will still have questions. Anticipate their hesitations and address them, counsels Jakovickas. Having this discussion presents another excellent opportunity to stress the benefits of your tech stack. For example, if a client asks about the security of cloud-based solutions, the MBS Accountancy team can reassure them with, “Cloud technology uses security protections like Transport Layer Security and can typically be much safer than local applications and physical documents.”
Collaborate and update
You always want to work using a timeline that your clients are comfortable with, advises Jason Wolcott, project director at Venturity Financial Partners. Although it may seem counterintuitive, he stresses that it’s essential not to rush when it comes to onboarding. His firm, which is software agnostic, often works with solutions such as QuickBooks Online and Bill.com, and implementation takes between one and four months depending on the size of the business.

“Let clients drive the timeline so they don’t become frustrated,” he explains. “Usually, they end up coming around to something you said months ago.”

He also prescribes consistent updates to complement timeline planning. “We provide weekly updates of where we are in the process and lots of training in advance, during and after.”
Build trust
Jason Blumer, CEO of Thriveal and owner of Blumer CPAs, recommends using the onboarding process as an opportunity to build trust with clients.

“We view software implementation as a deep commitment to the accurate tools that allow clients to run their businesses more effectively,” says Blumer. “When they see that you’re investing in improving their business, they’re more likely to trust you in the future and take further suggestions for additional services, cementing your role as a trusted advisor.”

That trust will pay off when it’s time to onboard your existing clients to new technologies. “It takes the same amount of consideration and time to onboard a new client and an existing client,” says Blumer. “The trust required to onboard clients onto new software is already laid and present with existing clients, but ultimately existing and new require the same amount of time to onboard.”
Round up experts
Successful onboarding requires having a strong pool of experts at your disposal — team members with a variety of skills and expertise who can navigate beyond unexpected roadblocks.

“Clients are far more likely to have a positive response to onboarding new technologies and learning new processes if they are comfortable with the team they are working with. If the client knows the team has experience implementing new technologies for similar companies or companies facing similar issues, the transition is much smoother,” said Manoj Bhutani, director of business development at Furey Financial Services. “You should start with a small number of individuals dedicated to onboarding new clients. From there, you can move to include members who possess a wide variety of skills that may come into play during onboarding.”
Document
Onboarding clients onto new technology is ideally not a one-and-done event – after all, your goal is to onboard all your new and existing clients to expand your services and create value. If you document the best practices, you won’t have to reinvent the wheel every time.

Scott Orn is COO of Kruze Consulting, a leading finance and accounting firm focused on venture capital-funded startups. The firm recently earned an honorable mention for the Accounting Today Top New Products of 2020 Awards. Orn advises firms to “document all the benefits of each technology system you expect your clients to use. This includes creating PDFs, template emails, and help videos. Your clients need to understand that the technologies are not optional but instead part of a tech stack they’re required to use. Your documentation will provide all the necessary information so you can avoid surprises at any point during implementation.”

Jeannie Ruesch works as the director of marketing at Bill.com and has worked in the accounting industry for more than seven years. She previously worked at Xero and at The Sleeter Group.