Better Every Day: A contactless experience is the big, new competitive advantage

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It’s a whole new world out there. The pandemic has created “new normals” everywhere you look — including how we shop for groceries, how we dine out, how we travel and, of course, how we do business with our clients. The current environment has pushed the accounting profession past simply working digitally with clients. Today, to some degree, it’s important that we also offer a contactless experience.

Just a few months ago, all you would read about is the need to transition to a fully digital environment. It’s the way of the world — on-demand access to data, 24/7. And while this is still true, right now, firms must also take clients’ feelings into account — the fears, concerns and stress that come with the current pandemic. This requires firm leaders to set up processes based on the needs of your most vulnerable clients. Clients over 60 years of age and most at threat from COVID-19 are a good place to start. Also, consider that you will have clients (probably more than you think) who are currently idling at “high alert” and will appreciate a contactless experience.

This is an opportunity to show clients that you are mindful of the current situation and are being proactive in providing alternative solutions to serve them. It’s another opportunity to shine … to stand out from your competitors. Moving more toward contactless service can benefit firms beyond the COVID-19 crisis to create a better client experience overall.

Social awareness as a competitive advantage

People are more socially aware than ever. There is a level of vigilance now in most people in relation to limiting physical contact while in public venues. And even after we are looking at COVID-19 in the rearview mirror, it’s likely that people will hang on to social distancing practices.

Firms need to be aware of this and take the necessary steps (now and into the future) to ensure that every client feels secure and safe. This could mean several changes to common firm practices, including:

  • Eliminating onsite meetings by moving to video conferencing.
  • Offering fully digital processes that further replace the need for onsite visits — for example, uploading and downloading documents and paying invoices via your firm’s website.
  • If office visits are necessary, implementing guidelines to ensure a contactless experience.
  • Providing clear and regular communications to clients about your firm’s social distancing and awareness policies, along with guidelines on how to use your website for online actions.

Being socially aware is the big, new competitive advantage in 2020 — requiring firms to show a clear understanding of and share clients’ concerns around social distancing and safety. Consider a quick example …

My wife and I were recently in Florida, about the same time the state began opening up restaurants. We dined at two venues. The first offered a nearly contactless experience. From ordering food to paying the bill, menus and my credit card were never passed between myself and our server. We were able to order and pay via an app. The attention to social distancing policy was palpable and appreciated. In the second restaurant, the only social distancing effort was represented in tables being pushed six feet apart. Other than that, no other effort was made — it appeared to be business as usual. This showed a lack of social awareness and a lack of understanding and concern for customers’ health and safety. As a result, we have no plans to return to the second restaurant.

Final thoughts …

The fact is that every one of your clients feels the pressure of the pandemic to some degree. As such, firms need to take a proactive stance on social distancing policy. Be the business (like the first restaurant) that acknowledges clients’ concerns and feelings. You just never know how deeply these concerns run, so play it safe by doing everything you can to make every client feel safe and secure. This could very well be the competitive advantage that further fuels your firm ahead of the competition.

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Coronavirus Client strategies Client retention