Despite the effects of COVID-19, Client Accounting Service (CAS) practices grew a median 16% last year, a strong growth trajectory that is expected to continue through 2023. The 2023 CAS Benchmarking Survey from the AICPA Private Companies Practice Section lists key findings for any firm seeking to grow their CAS practice. While the survey notes that optimal performance was usually achieved after the two-year mark, even newer practices can capitalize on this upward trend through the following best practices.
1. Secure referrals inside the firm
Inter-departmental relationships are key to successful practices. For example, data showed that the vast majority of CAS referrals come from tax clients. Encourage your staff to market themselves internally, letting other partners know of their role, as well as the types of services they offer.
2. Have the right metrics
The best CAS practices were found to track their pipelines tightly, focusing on identifying and upscaling the highest-performing staff. This is because a single professional can now handle larger amounts of revenue than in the past. They can augment their performance to a greater degree by way of specialization, standardization, and technological assistance.
Specifically, high-performing practices tracked net client fees, lifetime client value, transaction volume, and a number of services that can help guide specialization and improve client retention.
3. Retain a dedicated staff
CAS practices operate on a month-to-month basis, opposed to the yearly rhythms of other departments. Staff being split between several roles makes capacity planning untenable and negatively affects the client experience. This is why the top two-thirds of CAS performers had staff dedicated to CAS; they are not pulled away several times a year and can establish a regular cadence.
Dedicated staff become more efficient over time, because a single-minded focus on CAS fosters a greater sense of ownership and a deeper familiarity with particular client needs. Practices are standardized, tasks are automated, and processes are optimized at a greater rate than with a set of rotating staff split between several roles.
4. Ensure your tech stack is strategic
The best CAS practices understand the need to adapt to current technological advances. While it does take an investment, pivoting to innovative technology is a key strategy for growth in 2023. Not all technologies such as Excel scale. Focus on reducing desktop-based systems that require manual input by staff and clients. Let go of the others in favor of outsourced bookkeeping, perhaps by way of artificial intelligence, and other automation tools.
This approach plans for where a firm is going to find and retain larger, more profitable clients. Specialize by combining scalable accounting systems with industry-specific software. A limitation to this, of course, is that staff can only reach their expertise in so many systems; focused specialization in certain industries is key.
5. Accept the remote work environment
Due to the pandemic, remote work has become an inevitable, if not controversial, option in the workforce. However, according to the data, working remotely benefits CAS practices, because top performers allowed more remote staff. In addition, more than half of survey respondents said that 80% or more of their work could be completed outside of the office. It's no wonder that remote work is a growing trend in CAS: 1 in 5 respondents said they allow remote work.
Properly setting up your CAS workflow can drastically improve your client retention and satisfaction. While most firms view growth as the goal, it is important to invest in the right people and technology so that you will be able to scale and grow strategically.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on the Intuit Tax Pro Center.