There is a lot of talk among accounting firms about workplace flexibility and work-from-home options. In fact, many firms of the future are actively seeking out employees that will not be physically located in their offices. Virtual working leads to virtual service and regardless of where you are located, service is the cornerstone of your accounting firm’s perceived value. Great service leads to the ability to charge clients more, creates loyalty among clients and positions you to become a better advisor to your clients.
As accounting firms expand their boundaries and try to find ways to do more with less, they must consider how to provide the best possible service to their clients. As a virtual company that works with accounting firms, we have found four key things to delivering virtual services.
Your investment in technology is absolutely critical. Virtual doesn’t have to mean that you aren’t face-to-face with your clients. To succeed with virtual services, you’ll have to utilize video and screen sharing technology, as well as software that allows your clients to easily connect with you. Video and screen sharing makes engaging with clients as easy as if they were sitting right in front of you. Chat features, like the ones that many companies outside of the accounting profession employ on their website, will enhance communication on all levels. I believe that accounting firms will have to begin embracing these elements over the next few years as another way of offering access to their clients.
While communication with your clients is always important, it becomes even more important in a virtual service environment. Working virtually forces you to really focus on how you communicate with clients, whether verbally or in writing. It’s important that your clients see communications related to the work you are doing, as well as ongoing proactive communications. Today, communication takes many forms. From emails to video, newsletters to social media, accounting firms must employ a variety of methods when communicating with their clients.
When you work virtually, clients need to feel like they have access to you. Response time becomes critical. You’ll need ways that clients can reach you, outside of email and phone. We employ texting, instant messaging for clients that use Office365, as well as more traditional methods in order to give our clients access to us. It’s also a good idea to share guidelines around expected response time with your clients.
The linchpin to delivering great virtual service is ensuring you have a process that supports a virtual environment. For accounting firms, this means you have to use technology to manage your workflow and delivery of services. You also need everything to be securely accessible from wherever you might be. While most firms are embracing paperless at some level, many firms still aren’t truly operating at 100%.
While the demographic for most accounting firm clients today is widely varied, it is changing. Accounting firms must find ways to adapt how they are delivering their services and start to embrace virtual services.