After the last tax season ended, it was disheartening to see so many practitioners express on social media that they were at their wits end with client response times. On #TaxTwitter, one poll indicated that many wanted to fire all their clients because of the stress of getting their documents on time. Another post focused on the number of creative ways that clients were sending their documents and the accountant ended the tweet with “What’s next, the Pony Express?”
No one ever tells you when you become an accountant, bookkeeper or tax practitioner that you will end up with two completely different but related jobs.
The first job is the one you signed up for - it's doing the actual work for your clients, creating beautiful financial reports, tax returns, accurate books, and advising them so they can make better decisions and be more successful. It's the joyful part of the job, and it pays the bills. All the software you use in your practice supports helping you get more done for these job functions.
But what is the other job - the one that no one tells you about? It’s all the things you find yourself doing just to gather the information and documents you need in order to actually do the joyful work. Let’s call it the “admin job” and it’s this part of the job that drives practitioners crazy.
Think: chasing clients for documents, searching for documents in multiple places, asking other staff if they have the document you need - these are all things you dislike doing, are a waste of time and take you away from the joyful and productive work you love to do.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
We’ve put together three things you can do in your firm to “fix the admin” side of your job and free up more time to do the joyful, productive work you love to do.
Step 1 - Understand your client’s busy, mobile life.
In order to fix anything, you have to first understand the problem. Since clients are not sending their documents in on time, and when they do, they send them in so many creative ways that you can’t find anything easily, the problem has got to be with them, right?
Well, sort of.
It turns out that clients are busy running their own businesses and often all they have in their hand is their mobile phone. So if they can’t answer your request for documents quickly and on their mobile phone, your request will have to wait. Then their busy life takes over and it's out of sight, out of mind. You wait for a few days, then you have to chase.
Approaching your client with empathy and understanding the constraints of their busy mobile life will help you understand WHY they don’t respond quickly. Assume clients are literally servicing their own clients all day, and your request is something they have to do after close of business. Then assume their inbox is FULL of other demands, and yours doesn’t stand out in any way. Then add to those two points that you’ve asked them to log in to a portal and upload documents and that some of them are paper-based and require a scanner. Many clients do not own a scanner.
This all starts to paint a picture, doesn’t it?
Step 2 - Understand what your clients can actually DO.
Once you understand their day, you can turn your attention to what your clients can actually DO. Many firms are still using email plus some form of secure portal to request documents from clients. In theory this is good because the portal is secure, but an email is only as good as the response it gets, and a portal is only as good as the number of clients who use it.
To gauge how much of a problem this is in your firm ask yourself:
- How many times do you have to nag your clients to send their documents?
- How many tech support calls do you get from clients who can’t log in to the portal?
If you are like most firms, the answer to the two questions above is “a lot”. If you are having challenges with your clients ignoring your requests for documents, or having to be reminded over and over, and then they send them in using various creative methods (i.e., anything but your portal) this indicates that they are finding your method of asking very difficult to respond to quickly. And if clients are texting you, they are sending you a very strong message that they want to work with you using just their mobile phone.
Clients need a way to send documents to you that matches their busy mobile lives. Top firms have changed the way they ask their clients for documents and sensitive information, by recognizing that clients can’t easily deal with an email + portal request for documents. And they are now outperforming their peers by up to 40%.
Step 3 - Change the way you ask and get very different results!
Go mobile. Clients will love being able to respond “in the moment” using just their mobile phone, instead of having a lengthy email that they have to try and remember to take care of. Look for a highly-secure client-facing app with a built-in scanner and client-facing tasks to keep them on track, instead of continuing to request documents via email and a portal.
If you make it as easy for clients to scan and securely send a document to you as banks have made it to deposit a check using a mobile banking app, you will get documents quickly and clients will never need to be “chased” again.
This technology exists, clients LOVE it, and the best part is that no changes to your accounting, tax, or practice management systems are needed.
To learn more about this ground-breaking technology, schedule a demo of Liscio. We have helped thousands of accounting and tax professionals to tame the joyless admin side of their jobs, and to free up time to do even more valuable and magical work for your clients. Because at heart you really do love your clients, don’t you? And you want to keep them. You just need a different way for them to send documents to you so you get them quickly and on the first request.
You’ve got this!