Take it Personally: Client Engagement in a Tech-Driven World
IMGCAP(1)]There is no question that technology is changing the accounting profession and the one-two punch of the cloud and mobile technology creates greater efficiencies and capabilities for CPAs and their clients.
These days it is easier than ever to share relevant information with clients, at a speed that can make a big difference in business decision-making. But some things have not changed, though.
Client engagement and collaboration still requires a personal touch and while digital connections are becoming more welcome, they cannot replace the collaborative effect of picking up the phone or visiting your clients where they work. Spending the time to get to know a business owner is where CPAs can really shine and show their value: asking a lot of questions, determining business needs, and providing the right tools and guidance.
If you are thinking of specializing in an industry sector or vertical market, lay the groundwork for engagement before you build your client base. I like to perform what I call a N-W-H (Now, Where, How) analysis; a high-level survey of a market’s current versus ideal environment, to determine how our firm can help them. Find out the problems that plague a particular market—maybe it is compliance headaches, lack of consistent sales tracking data, or hard-to-gauge variable costs. This step enhances your position in developing a workable plan to meet your clients’ goals.
Once your plan is in place, technology can make communication easier. Cloud solutions permit you to build client dashboards with up-to-the-minute financial data that may be accessed anywhere. This data breakthrough is a starting point for engagement and collaboration, though, not an endpoint.
So which aspect of the dashboard report is most vital to your client? One company may be focused on cash flow, another on gross profit, and another on employee morale. You must ask is the technology you have recommended useful to their organization and is it helping your client solve problems. Ultimately, you must play the role of project manager here and collaborate on the best course of action.
Also, make sure you check back with your clients about meeting their goals. If your client communicated a goal of two or three action items to increase sales, make sure to ask and measure how the company actually performed once a deadline passes. Clients appreciate the bond of being held accountable by their advisor; it establishes trust and demonstrates that you are listening and that you care.
In the early days of the Internet, people with common interests could gather online and form a digital community. As much as that online bond was liberating, though, people still like being around people – that is why Starbucks has become a popular hangout to park one’s laptop.
In the business world, CPAs can function as that type of connecting hub and local community for business people to gather. The benefit of cloud solutions in client accounting services is they allow you to maximize your effectiveness and not just reduce efficiencies. This gives you the gift of more time – to talk with your clients, to create a personal connection, to delve into their business, and to become the kind of trusted advisor you were born to be.
Dixie McCurley is a partner and co-founder of Trusted CFO Solutions, an outsourced accounting and CFO services provider and cloud solutions implementer. She’ll be speaking about these topics in more detail at the AICPA/CPA2Biz Digital CPA Conference on Nov. 20-22 in Washington, DC.