6 Simple Ways to Educate Clients on the Cloud

IMGCAP(1)]You’re running late for a meeting. You have two modes of communication to let your contact know: a letter or an email. Which one will you choose?

The answer seems obvious. While handwritten letters used to be one of the main forms of written communication, these days an email (or even a text) would reach your contact much more quickly.

And yet, email faced resistance at its introduction and even as it grew in popularity. Some preferred paper-based communications or speaking via phone. Some just disliked computers. And yet now, businesses embrace email.

I write this to underline one common denominator in the world of business: There will always be people who resist change, even if the change is beneficial.

Take, for example, the cloud. As an increasing number of accountants move to the cloud to create more efficient and profitable firms, they face pockets of resistance from the one group that benefits them most: clients.

The 2015 Client Bill Payment Trends Survey, which includes responses from 540 accountants and bookkeepers, reveals that more than half of those polled support moving to paperless payments (such as ACH, credit cards and PayPal). Forty-one percent say they are planning to move to cloud-based bill payment systems within the next six months.

Some respondents indicate that while they’d like to move more assertively into the cloud, the resistance posed by a small percentage of their clients slows down the process. If a majority of clients are converting, the ones that cling to paper – even though they may be only a small percentage – can be a disproportionate drain on a firm’s productivity and profitability.

How do you coach these holdouts to the cloud? Here are six ways to support your cloud cause.

1. Share the Numbers

The truth of the matter is that paper can pose serious fraud risks.

When asked in the survey, 45 percent of the respondents say that paper related to A/P creates a serious fraud risk. Even more shocking is that nearly 30 percent of all respondents indicate they have had a client victimized by fraud related to the bill payment process.

A single check displays every piece of information needed to access your money. Plus, unrestricted access to bills, contracts and other A/P-related materials can present fraud opportunities. Cloud-based bill pay solutions augment security by hiding and encrypting bank account information, enforcing the separation of duties, automating work processes to ensure only authorized individuals have access, and eliminating all outgoing and incoming checks.

2. Demonstrate

A powerful source of persuasion can come from simply showing a client how the technology works. Most cloud-based services are intuitive and easy to use. Walk your client through the technology and demonstrate how tasks such as sending an invoice or approving a bill can be accomplished in just a few clicks. Better yet—since most cloud-based technologies offer mobile apps or at a minimum mobile access—take out your phone or tablet and show them the same tasks. A simple demonstration can often lead to an eye-opening understanding of how the cloud can help a business from an accounting perspective.

3. Turn to the Experts

The great news about converting clients to the accounting cloud is that you don’t always have to do it by yourself. You have experts outside of your firm who can help educate about the cloud.

If you are already working with a cloud-based service, reach out to them to ask for advice on how to sell clients on the cloud. Often, you’ll find that they have numerous resources, such as case studies and webinars that can help your clients learn more about the cloud.

4. Harness the Power of Peers

For every one client that may be hesitant to move to the cloud, you probably have five or six others that demonstrate strong results from the change. Now is the time to share those positive cloud experiences.

This can be done in a variety of ways. The first is to share the information anecdotally during conversations or emails. The second is to formalize the process by writing about or recording clients talking about their experience (think podcasts or videos). You can also schedule educational lunches for clients on the topic featuring your “star” cloud adopters. Finally, offer to connect your clients so they can discuss the cloud one-on-one in person or on the phone.

5. Crunch the Cloud Numbers

Sometimes, the best argument you can make for the cloud comes down to dollars and cents. Crunch the numbers to show your resistant clients how they can save money with the cloud. If a client balks at the cost of a cloud subscription, break down the processes that the service replaces to determine how much money can be saved with the cloud vs. paper. Cloud-based bill payment services often come with nominal costs. When you compare the cost of the cloud to supplies (paper, check stock, stamps, envelopes, etc.) and time spent (tracking down approvers, stuffing envelopes, etc.), you can find a clear cost benefit for the cloud.

6. Introduce a Paperless Bill Pay Plan

A major contributor to resistance is uncertainty. Take that off the table by introducing a step-by-step plan on how your client will move from paper to the cloud. The plan should outline a timeline and necessary steps, what is needed to accomplish those steps, and how your firm will guide them through the process. This plan will demystify the transition for clients.

To truly thrive in the cloud, accounting firms must ensure that all clients embrace it – even those still clinging to paper. With the right resources and information, even the most hesitant client can convert to the cloud and help your bottom line.

To download the full results of the 2015 Client Bill Payment Trends Survey, visit here.

Tanya Roberts is vice president of corporate marketing for Bill.com.

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