Making security automatic and painless for clients: An Interview with Caleb Jenkins, EA
Practitioners are aware of the need to provide their clients with a secure solution for exchanging sensitive information with the firm, but many firms find the bulk of their clients “go rogue” and just use the most convenient method at hand instead. This results in thousands of sensitive transactions being sent to firms via insecure methods, including emailing attachments, and texting.
I sat down with Caleb Jenkins, EA, to learn more about how he balances security and convenience for his clients, and to get his top tips for rolling out a secure and easy solution.
Alison Ball: Caleb, as an enrolled agent, how do you think about security versus convenience?
Caleb Jenkins: Traditionally, people have thought of security as being a competitor to convenience. However, I believe it’s not an ”either/or;” instead, it’s a “both/and relationship” You have to think about it holistically. No one likes pain, so if you don’t make these things compatible, clients will choose the most convenient thing, which is usually not secure.
AB: Why are clients choosing convenience over security?
CJ: This is based on past experiences. If complying with security is difficult, then clients will choose convenience. If they have previously had a hard time logging into your portal or they can’t remember how to encrypt email, then they just use what is easy and at hand. They always have email available, and most have a mobile phone in their pocket, so they will use these tools instead of taking time out of their busy days to find a scanner and send you their documents via your secure portal.
AB: How did your team bridge the gap between security and convenience for clients?
CJ: We looked for a solution that was secure, seamless, easy for clients and mobile-enabled. Our clients are not at their desks all day, so having a solution that fits into their busy mobile lives is extremely important. We found that when we asked them for something through the app, they could quickly see our request on their phones, then scan and send the document we needed using only their phone. When this occurs, the response times significantly improved and only a few resorted to using email or texting. Again—you have to look for a “both/and” situation.”
AB: Did your clients embrace your new app?
CJ: As with any new technology, you have to take some time to explain to clients what the benefits are, and then help them use it. We explained that they might have a temporary inconvenience to set up a new password for a new app, but they can mitigate the password issue by using a password generator software. We use Dashlane, or you can use LastPass, 1Password, or others. Making it easy for clients to get up and running is the key.
AB: What are some of your top tips for anyone who is interested in making security easy and painless for clients?
CJ: Again, look for a both/and situation. We use Liscio for all client-facing communications, tasks, documents exchange, and e-signatures—and our clients love it. Start NOW, because the earlier you set it up and create those healthy habits with your clients, the more successful they will be in more quickly sending you what you need . This means that your team can get more of the tax work done earlier in the season, because clients will send in documents as they receive them.
Another tip is to use a password manager!! This keeps you using secure passwords, and you don’t reuse them or lose them. This is a tip for firms and clients!
AB: What about managing communications with clients? What are your top tips in this area?
CJ: Regardless of which system you are using to communicate with clients, review your message threads and clear them out of your inbox every day. Send a calendar link to someone if necessary, but don’t leave emails or messages in there.
Move conversations to your secure app if a client emails you. That reinforces the healthy habit. It also makes that conversation visible and available to teammates in the firm.
Keep messages clean, simple, and organized, and don’t write long messages. Instead, create a document, save it as a PDF, and attach it to the message. No one reads long messages and they don’t read all the way down. But they DO read attachments. Plus, the attachment is stored in Liscio as a File. This can be easily located later by clients and staff.
AB: What are best practices for rolling out new technology to clients?
CJ: First, you have to teach your clients. You can’t just talk about the benefits; you have to mention there may be a temporary inconvenience. However, the benefits outweigh those one-time inconveniences. You also need to teach them any new app and give them a heads-up first.
We chose Liscio for several key reasons, and we let our clients know these benefits when we rolled it out:
- Convenience. With the app, they literally have access to every team member in their pocket. We showed them how to open the app on their mobile phone, choose the person they want to message, use voice dictation to compose the message, and attach whatever document they want to send. Just take a picture and we get a perfect PDF; it’s a piece of cake to send us something really quickly and we can answer fast. Clients love that convenience.
- Signing documents became super simple. Clients can sign securely on their phone. Whether it’s a Form 8879 with knowledge-based authentication, a simple signature, or an e-form/e-doc, it’s all super simple to get completed in the app.
- Sharing abilities. We can invite a banker or attorney to share the account with their client so things can be sent to them securely. This is super useful when updating legal documents or securing a bank loan.
- Easy organization of documents and conversations/messages under different accounts. Anything can be shared with other relevant owners, such as a s spouse or partner. This eliminates silos and email churn. The use case for this is that one person might have several entities—personal, business, and partnership, for example—and would need to keep them separate and organized easily, and also sharable with different people as needed.
- Security. Clients can easily share whatever they need, including tax returns, bank statements, credit card statements, birth certificates, and Social Security statements and cards, securely through the app. Just use the mobile app scanner and you’ve sent it to your accountant securely.
AB: Any other tips, Caleb?
CJ: When you choose a solution, look for ease of use for clients, and ensure your staff can use it to serve clients as a team. Also look for military grade encryption, and the fact that it’s ONLY the clients and staff that are specifically invited in. This is in contrast to open source with email, text or Whatsapp, where ANYONE can send you something or request something, through those channels, and make it appear that it came from the accountant.
AB: Thanks Caleb!
About Caleb’s firm
Calebs’ firm, RLJ Financial Services, Inc., has been using Liscio since August 2018 and has 92.6% client adoption.
“At our firm, we exist to equip individuals and small businesses with vision and resources to proactively and effectively impact the world. We do this by helping individuals and small businesses meet their goals through cloud accounting services, retirement planning, estate planning, business profitability, tax planning, strategy, and preparation, payroll services, cash flow management, and business succession planning. These past few years have been challenging for individuals and small businesses due to COVID-19—and we have been here to help clients through those challenges with their stimulus payments, PPP loans, and other provisions of the CARES Act, American Rescue Plan Act, and now the Inflation Reduction Act.”