If you’ve chosen the tumultuous path of being an accountant, chances are you’re already detail-oriented, meticulous, and a stickler for accuracy. It’s one of the reasons why you’re the expert.
Most of your clients won’t be. Sure, you may occasionally get one who sends their accounts well before the deadline, and takes the time to review their data. But the majority of your clients need your accounting expertise to get them into shape.
Sadly, even simple errors in their records can cost both you and your client time and money. Some particularly creative mistakes can take a lot of work to unpick. More than that, having an error slip through the gaps can lead to some ugly HMRC attention and penalties.
Luckily there are actions you can take to help clients reduce errors in their bookkeeping and avoid any oversights, so you can focus on what you do best.
Send your clients email reminders
Although it may seem obvious, it’s often deadline dates that trip people up. Submitting information too late, sending it to you the day before the deadline, or inputting data into records which are already complete are all common issues.
There’s certainly plenty of dates to keep track of. The Self-Assessment deadline, financial year end, PAYE reporting and VAT returns can bewilder even the most organised.
This is where automated tech can be your friend. Set up automated reminders for key dates in their accounting year, and give clients a nudge well in advance.
Automated emails are pretty easy to set up, thanks to services like Mailchimp, or accounting software which includes reminders. Which brings us to…
Introduce them to accounting software that works for both of you
Thanks to the ever-rumbling incoming rules for Making Tax Digital, accountants and their clients need to start planning the shift to fully digital accounting.
But compliance isn’t the only advantage here. Digital accounting software is a life-changing asset for accounting firms – and you don’t even have to invest in developing your own.
Some providers, including Pandle, offer a white-label solution. That means you can provide clients feature-rich, always up-to-date, software that’s intuitive to use.
Pandle is also available as mobile app too, so clients can manage everything on the go. That means taking photos of receipts and managing transactions is much easier, and you’ll both be able to view and work on the accounts in real time.
The beauty of this is that the software can help flag up any potential problems as the client goes. You can even communicate in-app or swoop in and amend anything you need to.
You probably already complete some sort of client onboarding process, but did you know it can potentially reduce client errors?
Short onboarding tutorials in the form of videos or guides are a great resource which clients can then refer back to as needed.
They add value for clients, and you could even tailor what they’re sent at the start, such as a welcome pack with FAQs specifically for their company structure and industry.
Their welcome pack could also include a calendar of key dates just for them. This way you can mark the client’s specific VAT, year end and payroll deadlines. Don’t forget, this can be digital too! Sync those Google or Outlook calendars so you’re always aware of your client’s upcoming deadlines.
Why not also schedule a call a month later? By this point, clients will likely have some experience of the process, and will undoubtedly have questions. You can resolve any issues at this point, and it’s going to score you some bonus points for customer service too.
Host webinars and skill workshops
Business owners love learning new skills that help them and their businesses develop. It’s just that they usually don’t have access to the knowledge they need. Few entrepreneurs have time to sit through long tutorials, but that’s where you come in.
Deliver easy-to-digest snippets, which are available to access when convenient. Perhaps short introductions to the following topics would work well:
- Key accounting dates for your calendar
- Your monthly accounts review checklist
- How to organise accounting records and processes
- A short introduction to using accounting apps
Clients trust you, so it’s a great idea to deliver these videos yourself. If you’re a bit camera shy, there are plenty of other formats to consider.
Create a knowledge base
Your website is a valuable tool, and the chances are you’re not utilising its full potential!
There are common queries that cause headaches for business owners when completing their accounts. For example, your clients may not be familiar with:
- How much they should set aside for tax
- Properly accounting for staff wages
- Any new legislation which will affect their accounting (such as Making Tax Digital or Brexit)
- Managing the accounts of multiple companies
- How to pay themselves from their own business
Engaging with your clients means you’ll see what are common areas of confusion, so you can address these directly.
You’ll save time dealing with calls and errors, and clients can simply head to your website to find help.
Set up a facebook group
Having a social media presence is important, even in the accounting industry! It’s a great way for service based businesses to connect to their clients directly and instantly.
Some clients will hate making phone calls during their busy day. Others won’t have the time to go back and forth with emails.
That’s why a Facebook group is a marvellous solution to cutting down those potential client errors.
Almost everyone has Facebook and it’s usually on their phone too. By setting up a group, your clients can be part of a community with common issues. They can post any queries they have and the chances are if you’re not there to answer, another client will be!
It’s a wonderful way to utilise the power of your community to ease your workload. Just make sure you post a disclaimer that you only recommend advice that comes directly from your business.
Implement live chat on your website
If you have the time and resource, a live chat function on your website allows clients to access help quickly.
With a live chat, you can instantly connect with your clients and offer them useful advice. If your website is built with WordPress, there are plenty of easy-to-install live chat plugins, such as Tawk.to. Hubspot and Olark also provide great solutions.
Installing a live chat feature doesn’t need to be expensive either, there are options to all budgets. Plus, even if you’re not confident with website management, there are installation options for all skill levels.
Just remember, if you’re too busy and you’re going to leave customers hanging on live chat, the previous option of setting up a Facebook group might be better for you.