As the world we live and work in becomes more digitalized, the ways in which CPAs and their clients connect, collaborate, and communicate are being reshaped.
Technology is disrupting the traditional relationship between firm and client by enabling non-accountants to become the first port of call for queries on accounts, finance, and tax. Clients and prospects already use Google to find answers to questions they would once have asked their accountant, and although the profession does not have its own Uber or Airbnb yet, the direction of travel is clear. Rapid evolution means that those who do not grasp emerging possibilities can very quickly find that they have been left behind.
The advent of cloud-based tools and software solutions for SME businesses has made a huge difference to CPAs. Clients are increasingly being steered toward engaging digitally via their mobiles and Smartphones from third-party software vendors, and CPAs run the risk of losing their trusted adviser status. This is not because of poor performance or malpractice, but simply the result of disengagement.
Apps Are the Game Changer
Geni Whitehouse, author of the entertaining blog, Only a nerd can be heard, and a favorite among CPAs, is a firm advocate of the potential of mobile. She says: “A firm’s own App is a no-brainer for any accountant who wants to stand out, own their brand and meet their clients where they are – on their phone. The mobile solution is the missing piece in providing timely and relevant information when managing clients.”
Yet fewer than 5% of US accounting firms have a mobile solution to engage with their clients and prospects on their Smartphones and Tablets. A relative newcomer to the US, the UK software company, MyFirmsApp, has set about solving this problem and has devised a way for accounting firms to gain the ability to communicate with their clients “anytime, anywhere and on any device” with their own custom App.
Named the best new online App by Accounting Today in its list of top new products for 2017, the editors make the point that although “accounting firms can create new tools, it’s just easier and more efficient to let someone else do it for you, and MyFirmsApp is a great example of that. MyFirmsApp is ready to do it quickly and easily.”
Somerset CPAs Takes an App Approach to Get Ahead of the Curve
One of the first firms in the US to take an “App approach” to differentiate the firm is Somerset, the Indianapolis-based accounting, tax, and advisory team of forward-thinking CPAs and Advisors, which turned to MyFirmsApp to develop its first App.
This “App approach” puts Somerset ahead of the curve and demonstrates that with Smartphone penetration now at 90% in the US (source: Gartner), the firm understands the importance of having a solution to engage with clients and prospects on their mobile devices.
Having an icon for the Somerset App immediately visible when clients open their Smartphones or Tablets is set to simplify and streamline access by bringing together all of a client’s accounts, finance and tax information, tools, calculators, and systems in one easy accessible place.
More than just a conversation piece, the App is helping the firm to communicate quickly and easily on a one-to-one basis by automating the delivery to individuals and groups of personalized messages – which immediately “ping” onto the home screen of clients’ mobile device. A 93% open rate means that these “push notification” messages are almost always read – typically, within minutes of delivery, and they provide a great opportunity for firms to distribute content including educational pieces, as Somerset CPAs is doing.
Because an App tracks which tools and services clients are using, it creates opportunities for the firm to respond more quickly and appropriately to client needs. By improving the efficiency and effectiveness of Somerset CPAs’ communication and marketing with new and existing clients, the new App is set to facilitate client acquisition, collaboration, engagement, and retention – and build brand strength. It will also cement the firm’s role as a trusted and authoritative adviser to business – and position it as an innovator.
92% of CPAs Say They Are Not ‘Future Ready’
The above statistic comes from CPA.com. During its long history, the accountancy profession has repeatedly demonstrated its capacity to adopt and adapt to changes in business practices, statutory regulations, and technology. The flexibility and technical proficiency this demands is part of the professional DNA of accountants all over the world. However, in the digital age, the speed of change and its fundamental nature can make keeping pace difficult, even for the most well-resourced and tech-savvy firm.
With support from a company that understands the challenges accountants face, CPAs can harness new technology to meet the changing needs of clients and regulators, while simultaneously building, developing, and promoting their firm and its services to clients and prospects.
It’s time to rethink client services and support for the mobile world. Thousands of accountants already agree that custom branded apps are the future of client engagement.
There is a window of opportunity for firms to see and seize the new digital possibilities. Firms that fail to do so may be seen as irrelevant by businesses, and overtaken by “first movers” that step up to use software and client data to meet changing demands and develop new advisory and consultative services.