7 Steps To Improve Client Retention

When you are working with small and medium enterprises, it’s always a challenge to retain good clients while at the same time limiting C Class clients. While many clients are driven by a partners personification, there are several risks for the practice which include clients going away after partner has left/retired, taking up too much time of the partner, etc

Some important steps to consider in retaining clients are as follows:

  1. Understanding the client- Make sure when a new client comes on board, you spend time to understand their business, understand his expectations of you, his business plans for the next 2-3 years, his source of funds, etc.
  2. Under promise and Over Deliver- You should also ensure that you tell the client what he should expect from you as deliverables. Never over promise a client while on boarding. You should tell him what you will be able to reasonably deliver. When you over deliver on your commitments, you will command greater respect and get more referrals
  3. Updates- Send quarterly/six monthly updates to your A list clients. You can customise them for each client to send them more relevant information. The client will appreciate that you care.
  4. Follow Up- Ensure you follow up with your clients. Chase them for records rather than the client chasing you. You can deploy simple CRM tools to follow up your clients. Allow time for your clients to prepare their records and still send them to you in good time. Ensure you have clearly articulated your requirements.
  5. Deliverables: Make sure you book an appointment with your clients ahead of discussing accounts with them. It’s always preferable to go to visit your clients and have a discussion. Make sure while you have taken care of tax and other accounting aspects and how to reduce them, you have also taken care of how costs can be reduced. Some simple tips would be to look at their financing arrangements and see that the cost of borrowing is not too high. Also, if there are excess funds available, you can recommend how to utilise them tax efficiently.
  6. Get together- Arrange for a get together of your A Clients at least twice in a year. Introduce a client case study demonstrating how their business has grown and how you have helped them. Do not over sell but present facts. It will be a good networking event for your clients.
  7. Expose your next line- Introduce your managers/seniors to clients when you are meeting them. This will increase the depth of involvement with the practice and significantly reduce your time spent resolving day to day queries. Your client will see your practice as more of an institution rather than one man army ensuring they remain with you for years.

About the Author

Barry Pendleton is a Lead Consultant at Corient Business Solutions and has experience of more than 25 years in managing accounting practices. He works with Accounting Firms to improve practice performance and reduce costs. He can be reached out at barry@corientbs.com or you can visit www.corientbs.com for further information

5 Steps to Real Time Accounting

A lot is being heard about the introduction of ‘Real Time Information’ for PAYE, but it doesn’t end there. ‘Real Time Accounting’ is here too and growing fast. The advent of Smartphones and tablets means we are getting used to having instant access to data wherever we are with an internet connection and accounting information is no exception.

Your clients will be excited by hearing of ‘Real Time Accounting’ and will want it without really understanding what it means. There are lots of ‘Cloud based’ solutions and if you are looking to provide this service for your clients you may even be getting bogged down with all the different options.

There is not a simple ‘one fix solution for all’ so here are some quick tips on how you can provide real time accounting and also help your clients comply with the real time issues of real time accounting.

1. Choose the right software.

There are several online tools which are available in the market including Amoeba, Xero, Kashflow. Each of these tools have their own benefits and shortcomings.

Before you choose, please check which software provides the right modules for each clients specific needs.

Some of the important modules you should look for are whether they have a Document Management System, Workflow, customised Analytics, etc.

2. Set Up Processes

Once you have chosen the right software, you need to lay down a simple and sleek standard operating process. This will specify how you capture your payables, travel and expense, sales invoices, etc

3. Decide Frequency

Decide on the frequency in which you need to provide reports. Decide on whether these should be daily, weekly, monthly, etc

4. Design Reports

Sit down with your client and understand from them what really drives their business. It’s important to capture business relevant KPIs and publish them regularly. It’s also important to benchmark some of the costs and other KPIs with industry benchmarks

5. Follow Month End Process

While you may keep getting information from the client, it’s important to follow the hard close for the month end. You should complete all the reconciliations, provide for accruals, etc. This will help you to compare monthly performances, etc

There are several benefits from real time accounting. In this world of email and internet, businesses are changing rapidly and it’s essential to be aware of how the business is performing. Embracing technology at times can make a business as vulnerable as those who avoid it.  It’s very important to be on top and keep tracking the performance of your business to drive both yours and your clients business to the next level.

Accountancy – A Silent Revolution.

Self Assessment introduced in April 1996 was the largest revision of the UK tax system for decades and was ‘the industrial revolution’ for many accountancy practices.

Prior to the introduction of Self Assessment it was not uncommon for tax returns to be two or three years behind. In those days a late tax return resulted in the issue of an ‘Estimated Assessment’ of tax. An ‘Appeal’ on the grounds it was ‘estimated’ prevented collection of the liability and nothing happened until eventually the appeal got listed for a Commissioners Hearing. In some practices this was the signal to start preparing the accounts.

The introduction of Self Assessment, heralded by the Inland Revenue with a massive advertising campaign in the press, on radio and TV together with the threat of Automatic Penalties for late submission meant that a client’s affairs had to be brought up to date.

For many practices this was a major challenge and many resorted to introducing technology. The use of PC’s and accounts preparation software improved performance and efficiency and they prided themselves on bringing their clients affairs up to date and managing to file their clients returns before the 31st January deadline thereby avoiding the threatened Penalties.

With the introduction of Electronic filing the writing was on the wall but many failed to see it. Electronic filing was not the end, but the beginning of a new revolution.

Sixteen years later many accountants are still working late nights and weekends in December and January to prepare accounts that are needed for the next tax return deadline. They are ‘Chasing History’, the accounts they prepare are so far out of date they are of no use to the client other than to satisfy the statutory obligation to file accounts. Blinded by compliance dates and just surviving to get clients VAT Returns and Accounts filed by HMRC deadlines, these accountants do not realise that their clients need more.

In the last five years the next ‘silent’ revolution has crept upon the accountancy profession. Advances in technology have given consumers, instant messaging, online banking, instant answers to ‘Google’ searches. The ipad, tablet and smartphone have created a new generation that have come to expect instant access to everything. Access on the go to their social life but it doesn’t stop there.

The advent of cloud computing and new software means the modern entrepreneur can have access to their business records 24/7 from wherever they are in the world that has an internet connection.

Accountants that have embraced this have changed their role. They no longer chase history, they are helping their clients to have ‘real time’ accounting information and have become advisors and taken on a Finance Director role with their clients business. They have realised that their clients can have instant access to all their business data but need it interpreting so not only can they see where they are today, but where their business is going tomorrow.

To survive in business today entrepreneurs need quick and current information, accounting history is not as important as it once was, “Ask any bank manager”.

If you are still chasing history for your clients and need help in giving them real time information, maybe Corient could help, with our low tech solutions to hi tech problems.

About the Author

Barry Pendleton is a Lead Consultant at Corient Business Solutions and has experience of more than 25 years in managing accounting practices. He works with Accounting Firms to improve practice performance and reduce costs. He can be reached out at barry@corientbs.com or you can visit www.corientbs.com for further information