How the Cloud Improves CPA Client Retention and Recruitment
Working in the cloud provides great opportunities to increase speed, productivity and workflow, but how does the cloud help you and your firm retain its clients for the long term, convert more prospects to clients and realize even more referrals?
Meet Elizabeth Mance, founder and manager of Accountability Services, LLC. Elizabeth has supported her QuickBooks® Online users for 6 years, and has been a Time Tracker for eBility user for 3 years. Recently, I sat down with Elizabeth to talk about what motivated her to work in the cloud, the ins and outs of helping clients solve their accounting needs in the cloud, and how the cloud positions her as an “expert” provider.
Mindy King: What made you decide it was time to move to the cloud?
Elizabeth Mance: Our small business clients – a lot of them are younger – don’t want to deal with the hassles and upgrades of desktop solutions. They don’t want the risk of losing their data if their computer crashes. They want to be able to work away from their offices and on their iPhones. With the cloud, they like that they can access their books anywhere. For them, it’s just normal and it fits how they work.
So, to serve them, the cloud is a no-brainer. It’s really ideal for smaller businesses.
Mindy: What about other clients?
Elizabeth: We perform a needs analysis for all our clients, so we can understand their requirements and what’s important to them. More and more, we’re finding that cloud solutions like QuickBooks Online meet our clients’ business needs.
Mindy: What specific tasks has moving to the cloud made easier or more efficient?
Elizabeth: What is awesome is that, if clients have questions, we can address them right away. Let’s say they have a problem with an invoice. We can log in immediately and see what they’re looking at, and advise them – or just fix it. There’s no lag in customer service.
Working on the desktop, if there’s an issue, you have to get the client to send you a backup copy of the file, which is cumbersome, wastes time and can cause version control issues.
Having the files hosted in the cloud is very efficient. It saves us time and money and saves our clients time and money.
Mindy: The cloud has helped you improve customer service?
Elizabeth: Customer service, troubleshooting and savings – yes.
In most cases, we’ve found that working in the cloud strengthens the client relationship. Clients can look at the activity log and see the work we do – it’s not hidden behind the scenes anymore. There’s much more transparency. They can see when we were working, what the tasks were. It affects their perception of our expertise, and the value we provide.
Mindy: So, the cloud has improved your client relationships?
Elizabeth: Yes, it gets them thinking about us in new ways. One thing we’re trying to do is become the first people our clients think of when they have a technology challenge related to their business.
For instance, we recently had client who was looking for a solution to connect their dispatch and point of sale. They didn’t come to us initially; they were trying to solve it themselves, but because we work with online products and services, and continue to educate ourselves about them, we were able to recommend a product we knew of that actually did exactly what they needed. That client looks at us differently now, not just as accountants, but as solution providers and trusted advisors.
So, as our expertise expands, we are discovering a lot of opportunities to build our customer relationships beyond the traditional role of the accountant.
Mindy: How was the process of transitioning to the cloud? Was it easier or harder than you thought?
Elizabeth: The transition goes really pretty smoothly for our clients. There’s a team at Intuit that helps you through that. You put your client in their queue and the transfer usually happens within a day. It’s easy, plus you have support.
Mindy: Have you had any surprises working in the cloud?
Elizabeth: With some banks, connecting a client’s accounting to their bank accounts has been less than elegant. I think it’s a matter of some of banks not yet catching up with new technology.
You have to know which banks your clients are dealing with, and guide your clients as to how to best interact with them. In my experience, our clients appreciate us knowing about these processes, and being able to advise them.
Mindy: What would you say to other accountants who are considering moving to the cloud?
Elizabeth: I would say that if you’re unsure, start out with a smaller client. There’s no need to make a big move right away. There is a small learning curve from the desktop – all the functionality is there, and more, but the layout is a bit different. By working with a smaller client, you’ll have an opportunity to learn. I’m certain you’ll get addicted!
Bottom line: business owners – small business owners especially – are looking to you as the expert for guidance. The cloud is definitely the most efficient way of working today.
Editor’s Note: If you’re also working in the cloud, how has the cloud helped you grow your practice? Write in a comment below and we’ll contact you to follow up for a future article.