How to start offering real-time accounting service to your clients

Written by

Parth Shah

Managing Partner

In today’s competitive business environment (and a pandemic-ridden world), it is more important than ever to know how a business is positioned at every point in time.

Up-to-date financial information enables smarter and more relevant decision-making, and clients increasingly expect their accountants to keep them apprised on a day-to-day basis.

Real-time accounting, in this regard, has become a critical practice. It leverages the best of modern techniques, such as timely data collection and cut-off dates, to keep the books of accounts updated down to the smallest transactions.

This enables businesses to be proactive rather than reactive in making data-driven decisions. Here is how your accounting practice can leverage real-time accounting to deliver top-notch services to your clients:

1. Create a foundation for real-time data collection

Implementing real-time accounting requires a business plan of its own. First, do your research and map out your clients to identify which ones will be likeliest to benefit from real-time accounting. Client segmentation is the first step. Typically, clients who are tech-savvy and who provide you with necessary information on time are the likeliest to benefit, as they are committed to staying up-to-date.

2. Implement the right tools

Technology is key to successful real-time accounting. While most practices are already using cloud accounting software like Xero or QuickBooks, real-time accounting calls for more. 

Ideally, every touchpoint with your client needs to be cloud-based, right from the onboarding process to daily communications, so that even the smallest of changes in tax information or books of accounts can instantly reflect everywhere.

Moreover, automation of manual accounting processes will save you valuable time and drive timely data collection, as with receipt management tools like Autoentry, Hubdoc or Dext

You can also explore integration software like A2X Accounting, which is particularly useful for dealing with eCommerce clients.

Given that most of your team will now be working remotely, it makes sense to invest in tech that simplifies collaboration and helps your team be more productive from home.

Of course, it is vital to do your homework on the features that different tools offer and their ease of use before purchasing anything for your practice.

3. Educate and train clients to use tech

One of the critical challenges that accounting firms face is getting the right information on time from their clients. Accounting tools can help with this by automating the data entry process.

However, many clients are reluctant to adopt new tools, often because of unfamiliarity or the lack of time to learn new things or simply because they don’t want to change.

To overcome this, help your clients make the transition from traditional bookkeeping methods to cloud-based accounting in a step-by-step manner that demonstrates the advantage of the cloud at every step.

Invest the time you need to understand their business and how it works. This way, you can show the client how they can benefit from the upgrade while also displaying empathy and understanding for their perspective.

4. Have a strong, committed and focused team

Real-time accounting is not just about tech. You need to have a motivated, high-performing team behind the scenes who will leverage the tech to generate top-notch results.

Therefore, streamline the workflow as much as possible by having designated roles, automating repetitive processes and deploying smart collaboration mechanisms in place so that everyone can pitch in productively regardless of where they are logging in from.

In addition, consider outsourcing certain functions to third-party service providers so that your team can focus on critical strategic initiatives, boutique services and client relations.

5. Streamline and automate your client follow-ups

Much of the time, clients forget to share the requisite information by the specified date, which means that accountants have to waste time chasing that information close to the deadline.

Cloud accounting can take away the manual effort expended on follow-ups by automating reminder emails to be sent out at intervals. You can also implement a reward/penalty system to nudge clients towards timely responses.

Those who submit everything on time can benefit from some free advice, such as a management account report with basic tax recommendations, while those who are late can be charged higher fees.

In addition, keep communicating with your client about the importance of timely bookkeeping, particularly in the light of MTD requirements whereby businesses need to upload their full financial summaries every month and quarter.

The more diligent you are about communications and incentivising timely responses, the more likely your clients will stop delaying over time.

6. Have a futuristic approach

In today’s digital world, technologies are becoming outdated at a faster rate than ever before. Accounting firms that wish to succeed thus need to constantly look out for evolving trends, shifts in sentiment, and the emergence of new tools that can help them do their job better.

The best way to maintain a futuristic approach is by encouraging your entire practice staff to keep looking out and looking forward. Invite them to share suggestions about the new tech you can invest in or workplace practices that will improve daily operations.

In particular, be sure to have the same open mindset towards new technology as you would expect from your clients. The sooner your team embraces a new tool or process, the sooner you can enjoy results from it.

OVER TO YOU

The industry is moving at an unprecedented rate and businesses that hope to survive need to embrace prompt and efficient change management.

Real-time accounting is fast becoming a coveted service, and accounting practices that deliver it will distinguish themselves from their competitors. So read up on tech offerings, draft an implementation plan and invest in real-time accounting today. You will find it is worth it.

Alternatively, if your accounting firm is not equipped to manage real-time accounting for your clients, you can always outsource! Stellaripe can handle the function for you, freeing up your time to focus on building client relationships. 

Contact us to find out more about our real-time accounting services today!

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