This article was originally posted on AccountingWEB and was written by Bill.com’s Pete Potsos.
We all have those reliable – albeit static – clients, but many of them subscribe to the idiom: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and are as such less, likely to move off aging systems.
As a result, your firm inherits these outdated technologies with complex user interfaces and no integrations. When these clients’ work comes in, your staff sighs. “Oh yeah. This one will take a while.”
Autopilot for Accounting Technology
These static clients run on what I describe as accounting technology autopilot. They know what they’ve done in the past. They stick with it. Your firm doesn’t object because:
- The client resists change, and
- Why upset the apple cart?
By accommodating their preferences, however, you’re at risk of losing their business. The autopilot tech clients will ultimately commoditize your services.
What happens is they send you work, you complete it, your prices increase, the pattern repeats a couple of times, and they scratch their heads saying: “Can’t any firm do this? Why does it cost so much?” Eventually, a competitor steps in, lobs a pitch and the client leaves your firm.
Also, autopilot tech clients see few improvements. While your newer clients use cloud-based apps, these clients rely on older, inefficient systems that lengthen the time it takes to complete projects and leave work vulnerable to inaccuracies because of double data entry and other manual tasks.
From the client’s point of view, the process of accumulating, formatting and sending the data to you with old technology is most likely inconvenient and time-consuming. They tolerate it because it’s the way “it’s always been” or they claim they don’t have time for change.
They also don’t usually hear from your firm – or hear enough from your firm – on process improvements. Instead, another firm says they’ll do the same thing and it’s much easier. Eventually, it’s bye-bye, business.
Technology Consultation and Systems Upgrades
By moving clients from outdated technology to new systems, you build more appreciation for your services. New technologies streamline processes, enhance collaboration and security and yield real-time data.
For the short-term inconvenience of switching, implementing and learning new apps, your clients save time, add transparency and get greater insight on their finances from you as their advisor. You successfully negate the perception that your firm is easily replaceable.
Going Off Autopilot with In-House Implementations
Handling client technology transitions in-house requires time and effort – but is worth it in the long term. It can become a profitable business addition.
You’ll need to be an expert in the technologies you recommend. It reinforces trust and competence – especially with clients who hesitate. Take technology training courses, earn credentials, talk to peers and learn, learn, learn. Approach technology education as you would CPE courses. It’s mandatory and continual.
You should also consider hiring dedicated resources with the sole responsibility for implementations. They will ensure consistency and smooth transitions. Others in the firm can then focus on the more urgent day-to-day tasks of serving the client.
When speaking with the client on technology upgrades, illustrate the value of the technology and implementation work that you are providing – such as your depth of experience, saving time and/or money, gaining mobility and more. If you have done a good job of laying out the potential future outcomes, then you can demonstrate value in moving forward with the project.
Should You Outsource?
The other option to move clients from old tech is to refer them to technology consultants. The consultants can implement the solutions your firm recommends. Follow a careful vetting process with consultants, as your firm’s reputation will be tied to their efforts:
- Do they have a reputation as leaders in the accounting technology community?
- Can they connect you with satisfied clients?
- Do they deliver error-free work completed on time and on budget?
Generally, all business owners want more money in the bank, a smaller annual tax bill and more time with friends and family. Your firm can support these goals by moving clients from legacy technologies to newer apps that offer efficiency, real-time data, automation and mobility.
At the same time, your firm can cement itself as an invaluable partner invested in the success of its clients.
About the Author
Pete Potsos, CPA, is a strategic account manager and client accounting services strategic advisor at Bill.com. He has more than two decades of experience in the accounting profession and has spent a majority of that time helping nearly a thousand firms with the evaluation, selection and onboarding of tax and accounting software to aid in the improvement of the firm’s workflow and profitability.