I’m often intrigued to see people claiming to be in the cloud yet when you see their website it resembles nothing more than a glorified business card.
Often it seems people believe that by using a cloud-based accounting package such as Xero, a few add-ons such as Receipt Bank, Chaser, Spotlight Reporting or Futrli and maybe Xero Practice Manager, they are “in the cloud”.
The use of Xero and the addons are the first step towards automating your practice. But the these programs only help with some of the processes. Your business is more than just the accounting process and workflow. There are a multitude of other functions such as admin, marketing and general PR with your clients.
Your website should be a pivotal part of automating your practice. I’d almost go to the extent of saying it should be your main business focus, with the practice management suite integrated off to the side to look after the internal workflow processes.
The most important part of your practice is the client relationship. Why do so many practices focus on practice management (i.e. workflow tools) as opposed to client interaction?
Most firms use websites as a marketing tool. The website states what the company stands for and sometimes hosts a blog on relevant topics to attract clients (i.e. a bit more than a glorified business card).
But what happens from there?
In most cases there is a manual background admin system and then a standalone workflow system.
So why not integrate the three roles to generate savings and efficiencies? Use the time saved to perform or market more value adding services for your clients and business? Everyone says they want to perform those services but don’t have the time.
I recently gave a good friend, who is very cloud literate, an example of a recent new partner who wanted to know what we did. The new partner then scoped and prepared nine proposals for accounting clients of which eight were accepted. They then had to be set up as a new client with eight new jobs set up in Xero Practice Manager, complete with tasks and budgets allocated to staff.
To my surprise she said it would take her two to three weeks to complete these tasks. I had spent less than an hour due to the integration of our website, admin tasks and practice management systems.
Most people believe our competitive costs are generated due to our offshore bookkeeping team, they are actually generated from our technology and automation.
We believe this is so important that we employ two full-time developers to develop new ways to integrate and automate our own services. I’d hazard a guess we’re the only bookkeeping firm (or one of a very few) who do this.
So where do you start if you really want to automate your business?
Here are a couple of pointers.
- Adjust your focus so that your website becomes your major business tool. Use it to not only market to new clients but to interact with existing clients.
- Automate marketing activities such as setting up appointments and even GoToMeetings for clients are located outside your local area. Integrate with a proactive CRM helps marketing activities and to follow up potential clients.
- Set up a client portal. Show clients how to use it to update their details such as email, addresses and credit card details as well as communicate directly with their accountant and lodge jobs.
They are going to have to type it somewhere to send it to you anyway so they might as well enter it via the portal. This will update your practice management suite at the same time. You can use this to send out an annual update reminder and get them to enter any new information for you.
- Can clients get quotes online? Some firms set up their services online with fixed prices. Add-ons such as Practice Ignition are great off-the-shelf packages as well. But sometimes you want more flexibility for clients to tick boxes and get quotes for the exact services they want. The advantage of this is you get rid of tyre kickers who don’t want to pay your fees straight away without wasting time on them.
- If a proposal is accepted online or offline does the job get entered and set up automatically in your practice management system? Does the new client receive a link to upload their information, including their credit card? Or do you receive it via email / hard copy and re-enter it into the system?
Any function or process that is not part of the client relationship or trust function has the potential to be automated.
None of the processes above are part of the client relationship function. The clients don’t value any admin or setting up your practice management tools. So why spend time on these processes when you can automate them? You can then spend the time saved on processes or services that your clients do value.
Our industry is barrelling down the road to where technology will become a major factor in our businesses. Those that embrace the change, adopt new processes and technology are the ones who will become fitter and stronger. Those who don’t adopt change will fall behind.
Want to see what it’s like to interact with an automated website? Book a demo online at the Zerobooks website and we can help you automate your business processes.