Four top client trends for 2018

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With every calendar year comes an uptick in client communication. With this increased face time (be it in-person or virtual) comes an opportunity to check in with our clients, alleviate any of their concerns and demonstrate true value. Every year, Xero recognizes the accounting partners that have demonstrated excellence in different areas at the Xero Awards. This year, some of the award winners shared their perspectives on the trends they’re observing across their client bases, the biggest questions they have and how they’re helping them.

1. Questions about tax reform

Perhaps one of the biggest changes affecting small businesses this year is tax reform. Cindy Hovig, founder of Beyond Balanced Books, has been hearing this concern from her clients.

“People are really concerned about tax law changes and what that’s going to mean for them,” Hovig explains. “The tax changes are really complicated, so for clients, knowing what they need to do to prepare for them is key.”

Cindy says she is making changes to the way her clients’ track things like deductions now so, come the end of the year, they don’t have to backtrack and make extensive corrections.

“A lot of clients have their meal and entertainment expenses tracked together,” Hovig says. “We’re setting everyone up so they have one for meals and and one for entertainment. We don’t want that to creep up on us at the end of the year.”

2. Remaining focused

For Nick Pasquarosa, founder of Bookkeeper360, he perceives a trend among his small business clients where they’re trying to be the jack of all trades, which is not allowing them to hone their focus and concentrate on more important things.

“Businesses are in a position to do a good thing, but they’re struggling to focus,” Pasquarosa says. “They’re not welcoming as many advisors as they should into their life. They’re working till 4 a.m. on things like doing their books. They need to focus more on what they know and bring in the experts who know what they don’t.”

3. Leveraging the ecosystem

In general, clients are more interested in building their cloud accounting app stack. Michael and Mindy Levy, owners of Bean Counter 4 Hire, are seeing an uptick in requests for advice from clients on the best apps to pair with their industry organization.

“Customers are more aware of app integrations now than they were in the past,” says Mindy. “They’re requesting information on particular app integrations based on recommendations, so we need to be well-versed in all apps, not just the ones we know. The ability to customize the tech stack is the best it’s ever been.”

Allison Hawkins, founder of Hawkins Accounting, has found that clients are eager to use the ecosystem to gather insights and data to paint the bigger picture of their business.

“Clients are more excited, maybe because we’ve grown so much, they’re more interested in the ecosystem and the potential,” Hawkins says. “They’re able to think more broadly than the traditional accountant box, because if you can think of an app that you need for your business, someone’s probably at least started building it. The traditional app stacks have broadened to include different CRM systems, KPI and project management systems. It’s become much more about the ecosystem.”

4. Tech turning point

We’re at an inflection point where clients are beginning to realize the value of making the investment in advisory services and technology to get an accurate view of their businesses. It’s a trend that Cindy Hovig from Beyond Balanced Books has observed.

“In general, clients are feeling more comfortable with technology and they’re asking how to expand the automation of basic business functions,” Hovig says. “I talked to a client recently who I set up on Xero two years ago, and when we first started, he was concerned about the monthly cost. I told him it was nothing, and today he has finally realized the value.”

Michael and Mindy Levy from Bean Counter 4 Hire see clients coming to them ready to transition to the cloud and get their books in order, especially at this time of year.

“Because it’s a new year they come to us and want to do it now,” Michael says. “Nine times out of ten we can get them set up because of the technology, and we can work a lot faster than we used to.”

While things like legislation and clients’ attitudes towards technology will always change, by being there to answer their questions, we can demonstrate our true value and be our clients’ most trusted advisors.

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