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 work leads to virtual service. Regardless of your location, service is the cornerstone of your accounting firm’s perceived value. Great service is what enables you to charge clients what you’re worth. Also, it creates loyalty among clients and positions you to become a better advisor.
As accounting firms expand their boundaries and 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 keys to deliver virtual services.
Your investment in technology is absolutely critical. Virtual doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t face-to-face with your clients. To succeed with virtual services, you’ll need 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 a 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 written word to video messaging, accounting firms must employ a variety of methods to reach their clients.
When you work virtually, clients need to feel like they have access to you. Response time is critical. You’ll need ways that clients can reach you outside of email and phone. We employ texting, instant messaging, as well as more traditional methods to give our clients access to our team. 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. While most firms embrace paperless at some level, many firms aren’t truly operating at 100%.
While the demographic for most accounting firm clients today is varies widely, the big picture is changing. Accounting firms must find ways to adapt their practice and start embracing virtual services if they want to stay at the front of the pack.