[IMGCAP(1)]Today more than ever, firms are trying to find a differentiator, an edge, a unique brand that elevates them over their competition. A new set of automated processes can be just the thing to set them apart, since simply offering tax return processing doesn’t present firms as being unique. Instead, tax firms that want an edge are automating their office management with new technology that shows clients a unique brand experience.

Tech-savvy tax offices are investigating automations for their management team to explore, and finding some interesting results. Some newly developed tax office software automations include online scheduling, portal connections, lobby kiosk check-in systems and online invoicing. These automations have been in dental and medical office for some time, and are only now beginning to show up in tax firms.

These online systems are necessary to satisfy a generation of new clients who demand to use the latest technology. This generation demands to use mobile devices, interact through online portals, and enjoy their experience when dealing with their taxes. The tax office that embraces this generation and new automations will see an increase in efficiency, revenue and the bottom line. In addition, firms will see a reduction in costs and errors, giving them the edge over all others.

 

Online appointment systems

Implementing online appointment requests and reminder systems can revolutionize your front office. Tax office management teams normally use manual means to manage a high volume of appointments during tax season. Things like phone call appointment management, reminder card mailings and letter confirmations are being replaced.

So many efficiencies can be found by eliminating these manual systems with more client-friendly technology. When this is done, the firm is creating a unique brand. Online scheduling features allow clients to request an appointment based upon a tax professional’s availability, which can be accepted or declined by an administrator. Once accepted, the client will receive automated reminders via text, e-mail or phone, instead of manual calls or mailings. This simple interaction creates an incredible experience that displays your elevated brand of service. Clients will appreciate the ease of which they can interact with firms, and this automation can become a powerful differentiator.

 

Portal connections

Using portals is a must for the modern automated tax office trying to make a digital connection with its clients. Whether your client is sending you additional source documents, reviewing their return, or being reminded of an estimate due, they will experience your firm’s efficient service. Ultimately they will determine that you provide thoughtful service.

Clients no longer want to commute back and forth for another visit to the tax office to pick up their tax return or drop off information. In addition, they know this information is too sensitive to just send it through the post office or in an e-mail. They will determine that you are interested in their security and providing a high level of service. This is also attractive and a great time-saver for both parties when dealing with clients who live far from the office or have moved out of state.

Portals can ultimately have a positive effect on your firm’s tax workflow too. Think of connecting tax processing to document management systems so no additional steps are needed when processing returns. The good news is that this portal interaction doesn’t replace the personal tax interview, but complements it with digital connections, while providing a desired edge over other firms in the industry.

 

Kiosk check-in systems

Introducing a kiosk or iPad system in the tax office lobby, instead of handing out clipboards or questionnaires during the tax interview, is a unique branding opportunity. It will certainly get your clients’ attention. Image the expression on a client’s face when the walk into your lobby or waiting room and experience a kiosk check-in system for the first time. This kind of automated tax office management will allow clients to easily check in, update their contact information and answer important tax questions all from the comfort of your lobby or waiting area. What a stark contrast to filing out a paper survey with pencil or going through a series of questionnaires. This will also affect your team and your client’s time. Your team will enjoy not having to key in updated information, and your client will appreciate the streamlined process of getting their taxes done.

Check-in systems can alert your team that a client has arrived and whether their contact information has changed since they were last seen. Even professional staff not near the lobby will know their appointment has arrived. These systems can also be used anytime during the year where a client can update their account info right on line. If integrated well, these changes can update other systems like tax, the general ledger, and e-mail, too, simplifying your admin team’s job.

 

Online invoicing and payments

Every forward-thinking tax office should consider online invoicing and payments as a firm differentiator. Printing and mailing invoices is a thing of the past and can be costly to do, not just in terms of printing and mailing costs, but in admin time as well. With new automated tax office management, billing becomes simplified and invoices can either be e-mailed or sent to an online client portal. In some cases, PDF return files can be locked down, to prevent a client from downloading or reviewing them until the tax return invoice is paid.

This kind of automation streamlines your workflow and reduces administration time in managing client billings and accounts receivable. Some automation includes integrated tax return invoicing directly into the practice management software, client portal and can provide automated AR reminders for collections. This is not difficult if firms will embrace technology and implement change. This change provides exceptional service and differentiates one firm against others.

 

Embracing new technology

Taking advantage of these automations will provide many benefits to the firm, team and clients — but most importantly, it will bring firms a step closer to a new era of technology. Automated tax office management can accomplish this by streamlining processes, transforming firm image and improving the client experience.

This can all be done at a substantial savings to the firm, because implementing new technology actually improves productivity and efficiencies creating the savings. So the real cost of new software and hardware is offset by savings. In some cases, return on investment is accomplished in the first six to 12 months. This is only possible by embracing new technology. Those who embrace automation are perceived as taking care of business and providing exceptional service, which contributes to the process of creating a unique firm brand. It’s truly a win-win for the tax office.

Michael Giardina is CEO and founder of Office Tools Professional, which provides practice management software, educational conferences and My Office Today magazine. Previously, he owned his own tax practice, provided IT consulting to accounting firms, and was employed by multiple tax accounting firms, and prior to that, he worked with CCH Computax for 10 years as a trainer and product specialist.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access