Seven years ago, we adopted cloud technology back when it was still super basic.
We were one of the first accounting firms to adopt it and were lucky in that we could adopt in baby steps; now, it is all too easy to get caught up in app overload.
After two years, we moved all of our clients onto the cloud. While some clients were reluctant at first, we would walk them through the benefits. They would no longer need to drive to drop their paperwork off; instead, they’d be able to get their information on the go and access it from anywhere.
We also explained that the technology was just like their online banking, social media and gmail account. It was the same level of security, if not higher.
With high crime rates in the local area, cloud tech has actually offered much higher security. Recently, someone broke into our office overnight and stole our laptops. If we were still using desktop software, our clients’ information would have been lost alongside our computers. With cloud technology, it was safely backed up.
The impact of cloud technology on customer loyalty
On the one hand, cloud accounting puts the power into our clients’ hands. With log-ins to their accounts, they can easily up and leave whenever they want – taking their information with them. That’s when the personal touch becomes so important.
Because we’re small, we know our clients on a very personal level. In fact, we see them as part of the family. No client is just a number. We help them with everything that we can help them with, such as offering personalised software packages and giving them as much support as possible through these difficult times. That’s where the loyalty comes in.
Enabling effective communication – inside and out
Throughout this lockdown, we’ve been able to connect with others even while far apart, and help our clients keep their businesses going. If we didn’t have this technology, this would be impossible.
Recently, we introduced Zoom to connect with clients. It’s so easy to work. It’s as simple as sending a link and you’re in. We use it every day to touch base as a team, to remind ourselves that we are not alone and that we’re in this together.
For our in-house communication, we use a combination of Slack to keep track of work and allocate tasks, email as usual and message on the Whatsapp web app. In the last few weeks, our clients have been spending more time on their phones and communicating through Whatsapp has become much more efficient.
Our five app tech stack
Microsoft To Do – internal planning
DraftWorks Cloud – financial statements
QuickBooks Online – accounting software and practice management, Work (send client requests with due dates and request documents through the platform)
Receipt Bank – to process expense paperwork and extract bank statements. Our clients use Receipt Bank every day. If it wasn’t for the technology, it would be almost impossible to get slips. Not every client has a scanner at home and of course under lockdown, it’s impossible to drive to drop off or pick up paperwork. Some clients prefer not to connect their bank feeds; if the bank does not integrate with QuickBooks Online, they’ll send us manual bank statements that we’ll then send to Receipt Bank for processing. For our tax clients, we’ll also ask them to use Receipt Bank throughout the year. That means we can finish their taxes in less than a day.
Intercode or SimplePay – we’ll decide which one to use based on a conversation with our client. For the client, intercode is more cost-effective. If the payroll is more complex, we’d choose SimplePay.
We keep our tech stack simple so that our clients don’t have to focus on too many different softwares. We’d rather them focus on their business. Everything works as one seamless entity. Each app talks to each other.
Our pricing packages
Based on conversations with the client, they will fall into one of three pricing packages that we’ll then personalise based on their size and needs.
We will often put a new client onto a lower cost package, with the aim to review in the next few months depending on how they grow. This approach involves a lot of trust – both on our side and theirs.
One of our clients recently started with us as a manufacturer and seller of gin. As they were just starting out, we put them on the lowest possible price tier and have grown with them since.
The impact of lockdown on technology
We’ve always been a tech-first firm. Before the COVID-19 lockdown, we were working from home two out of five days if we had no client meetings. The hardest thing for us has been helping our clients get their home offices set up and adjusting to the change.
I really do think that we’ll find a way to work through this and that remote working is possible – particularly for accounting firms. Going completely virtual has shown us that many companies may now choose more flexible working hours – solid internet connection depending! We are considering changing our hours to better accommodate our clients. Many leave their finances to the end of the working day, so we are considering making an evening hotline for emergency help and support.
With apps such as Clockify, we can keep track of hours and make flexible working a real possibility. One of our team is a part-time student and currently studying online. She studies during the day then works four to five hours in the evening. It fits in well with her schedule and suits our clients.
Yet, working from home is better for the environment and perhaps in other circumstances, can positively impact our mental health – alleviating the pressure of a daily commute. In the future, employers may choose to invest more in their staff’s home working environment than a huge office plan.
Our roles as accountants have also changed. We are now helping businesses get funding, which would be impossible without the technology; information would not be backdated or accurate. Ultimately, a tech stack can bring people together.
Even if you feel forced into technology right now, I think this will save so many businesses. We are going into an age where our clients expect to see their information online, and new employees will see cloud technology as a requirement not an option.
In order to grow and stay relevant, this is the future.