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Accountants are the most trusted external advisers to business. This offers practitioners a competitive advantage in their fight to attract and retain clients – but maintaining this status is becoming more challenging.
Digital sharing of data means accountants can no longer rely on local business or client loyalty to fuel their client pipeline. In today’s 24/7 mobile world, the accountant’s position as the first point of contact to discuss financial issues, is being challenged. Numerous alternative sources of information are just a few taps away on a smartphone or tablet – and many people trust Google and the other search engines that aggregate this information more than they trust the originators of the information.
Relentless pressure to do more with fewer resources also nudges clients and prospects down the quickest and easiest route to information on accounts, finance and tax. By delivering this through a custom, branded App, you can neutralise threats such as ‘the Google effect’ and cement your firm’s position as its clients’ trusted and most authoritative anchor point in the mobile world. Embracing digital mobile will ensure you and your clients are connected when and where it matters.
Mobile Apps account for the lion’s share of time spent online; every demographic has embraced them. With an App immediately visible to clients on the home page of their smartphones and tablets, you can demonstrate that your firm understands and is responding to changing expectations around the accessibility and availability of services and support. In 2016, Edelman Trust Barometer found that in an average month people spent 73.8 hours in smartphone and tablet Apps. Usage time peaks at 93.5 hours for device owners aged between 18 and 24. However, the research found increases in online App use across all age groups: each month, 35 to 44 year-olds spend 78.8 hours in Apps and the over 45’s spend 62.7 hours.
It’s not hard to understand why. Mobile Apps are easily accessible and can be launched faster than the mobile web. They can also keep users more engaged and build brand loyalty, because they can support a more immersive experience than the mobile web, by providing users with greater functionality, integration, simplicity and utility.
With as many as 40 Apps being used between accountants and their clients, many workers yearn for a simpler, more personalised way to interact. Your firm can deliver this and demonstrate its client-focused approach, by bringing all the Apps and online systems your firm and its clients use together in one place.
For example, you can customise your App home page by adding icons that link to your current customer portal or secure document exchange login. Alternatively, you can add icons that link to cloud accounting systems and other third party sites, such as IRIS, Sage, CCH, Spotlight Reporting, Fathom, Twinfield and Dropbox.
Your App can allow your firm to integrate all systems on one platform, reducing complexity and confusion for clients. Rather than wading through numerous ‘best of breed’ Apps on their mobile devices, your clients can save time by accessing their accounts, finance and tax information and systems through a single App: yours.
For example, access to online accounts can be done through your App, whether the firm and its clients are using KashFlow, QuickBooks, Sage, Xero or another cloud accounting system. Integration between a custom App and other cloud Apps, such as Receipt Bank, facilitates automatic data transfer, which minimises data duplication and manual data entry.
Your own App can provide your clients with various practical tools. By taking advantage of the features built into mobile devices, such as the GPS receiver in the iPhone, an App can automatically track business miles, so your clients can record every trip at the touch of a button. Your custom App can demonstrate how well you understand your clients’ needs, by offering other helpful, time-saving tools such as tax dates and tables, a receipt manager and income tracker, which will help support digital record keeping as we approach MTDfB. An App can also enable you to provide your clients with immediate answers to questions around accounting and tax, with the help of numerous financial calculators.
Your App can provide clients with 24/7 insights into matters such as what their tax liability will be on their salary or what it is likely to be on any dividends they are planning to take. The more clients can do through your firm’s App, the more they will do, making you central to their mobile world: 7 in 10 smartphone users put their most-used App on their home screen. Your firm and its clients can benefit from integration with systems such as Skype and
Zoom for videoconferencing. Your firm can have the option of embedding videos into its App so that clients can access helpful guides and training videos, (for example, about bookkeeping and accounting software) and a good App provider will do all the set-up work for you.
Having everything integrated into your firm’s app can help you to ethically ‘lock in’ your existing clients and future prospects, minimising client attrition. Your firm’s control of the client relationship and the App ecosystem is secured, because your branded App will act as the consolidated link between you, your clients and all of your current and future systems.
Many of today’s business owners are millennials or members of Generation X, who have grown up with an innate knowledge of technology – and what it makes possible. They understand the technologies that drive today’s world and they expect their advisers to demonstrate that they also see technology as a vital enabler, not a burdensome threat.
Firms also need to attract and retain millennial employees. A company’s reputation for fostering innovation is an important factor driving millennials’ employment decisions. The latest generation of accountants expect to harness the power and benefit of technology to make their lives better and jobs easier, by saving time and enabling greater insight into clients’ businesses.
Millennials have no interest in a firm that still does the same tasks, the same way as it did 5 or 10 years ago. An App can position your firm as a forward-thinking and innovative user of technology. Some firms are actively recruiting with their App, by using its push notifications and by encouraging staff to share the App on social media platforms.