Accountants, how can you improve your service offer?
The advent of technology has deeply changed the way we work. Even our ideas about certain professions have changed. Take for example, accounting. When mentioned, most people imagine someone sitting behind a desk piled with paperwork, calculating numbers and drawing tables. That is an image of the past. Today’s profession paints a much different picture, one in which accountants occupy the role of expert advisers. To meet the specific daily needs of your clients and to set yourself apart from the increasingly fierce competition, you may need to enhance your services. Continue reading to discover how you can add more value to your business through modernization.
A profession in transition
Experts agree that accountants today are less and less limited to simple accounting tasks. Therefore, it is reasonable to ask what it means to be one in 2021. Essentially, today’s accountants assume the role of advisers, providing clients with the daily support and coaching that they need to realize their projects.
Nowadays, we require them to be vastly knowledgeable and to act as experts. Among the required competencies, financial management is one of the most important because accountants use numbers to plan viable strategies for SME owners.
In addition to the modernization of thinking, operational and delivery parameters, the ongoing digital transformation is also affecting the accounting profession. So how can you effectively help clients grow and go even further? In short, modern tools have to be put in place to serve clients adequately and meet their numerous needs.
Based on a fall 2019 study in regard to the CPA profession, 73% of participants agreed that new technologies would significantly affect their profession.
Setting new professional parameters with technology
With an evolving profession, it is a good idea to rethink the way we work. In the end, you have everything to gain by defining new parameters in terms of how you execute your duties, thus improving your business offer. Offering more to your clients allows you to align yourself with the very specific needs of today’s businesses and to come out ahead.
A fall 2019 study, conducted by Ad Hoc Research, surveyed 1,566 CPA members and concluded that a quarter of them were not familiar with any of today’s technological concepts such as cloud-based services, cybersecurity, automation software, megadata and artificial intelligence. Indeed, if you are looking to bolster your services, technology is the first step in solving this equation.
What can you accomplish with technology? To start, the acquisition of certain tech tools can open the door to digitization, a process that will allow you to digitize your documents and eliminate paper. Accounting is an ideal profession to undergo such a transformation and it would be a shame to miss out on such an opportunity. Through digitization, confidential information is no longer shared via paper documents that can get lost or fall into the wrong hands. Hence, it allows those who work with data, like yourself, to gain more security.
Among other things, digitization helps to secure and protect sensitive data of the same nature as the data you work with. However, this process does not only affect paper documents. Its impact extends to your interactions with colleagues and clients.
The pandemic was a perfect example of this, as it forced many employees to integrate digitalized processes into their work, such as teleworking. Finally, building relationships under the prism of digitization opens the door to provide faster services that are accessible from anywhere for your employees and customers, thanks to a virtual space.
“Collaborative platforms and cloud-based technology erase the limitations of time and space, as multiple stakeholders can work together on the same data,” explains Pierre Garant, partner for Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton and President of Opério, a cloud- accounting-consulting service.
Clearly, technology can be very beneficial. In addition to allow you to provide modern and efficient services, it positions you better in relation to the competition and allows you to keep up or even stay ahead of it.
Harnessing the power of artificial intelligence
As we dive deeper into the conversation reflection on technology, artificial intelligence (AI) is pertinent to the discussion. Perhaps you are wondering what role AI might play in accounting services. Actually, it is often used for mundane, repetitive tasks, giving you more time to concentrate on more significant activities.
AI should be considered as an ally rather than a replacement for a real person. It takes over tasks that you can easily delegate, giving you the opportunity to focus on the tasks you deem more important.
Many of the tasks that can be automated are useful to your profession. Have you ever stopped to think about the time you spend analyzing client data? AI can aggregate and analyze huge amounts of data faster than the human brain, ultimately taking charge where our capabilities are limited.
This technology also has the added advantage of being able to analyze data based on previous results. By ensuring data consistency, AI detects anomalies more easily, bringing you closer to zero risk. Essentially, it contributes to the confidence that your clients can legitimately have in you.
According to Garant, data recognition is an example of a solid smart tool that is used daily throughout the profession.
“Every day we take pictures using data recognition, which for example allows you to identify vendors.”
– Pierre Garant, President of Opério
Payroll management. Why not?
Has the idea of offering payroll management services crossed your mind? Indeed, for someone who works with numbers such as yourself, it is a logical addition since payroll is an extension of your services and can therefore be a real asset.
Your clients are aware of the complexities of payroll and want to avoid potentially costly errors. This is why many business owners are turning to accountants to shoulder the weight of this responsibility.
There are several ways to add payroll management to your services. For example, you can have a referral agreement with a payroll service provider to whom you refer your clients. This usually allows you to benefit from advantageous discounts.
Another option is to collaborate with a payroll service provider and offer this service to your clients yourself. This choice allows you to continue being the point of reference and expertise while automating your calculations, thus saving a considerable amount of time. There is nothing better than peace of mind for you and your clients!
This option offers many advantages. Not only is the stress of payroll management entrusted to experts in the field, this option also includes practical functionalities and ensures that you can rest at ease.
A payroll service provider usually offers a range of convenient solutions that can complement your work and that you will not want to do without. Examples of these are direct deposits and automatic remittance transfers, comprehensive and detailed reports, simulations that can be done in a few clicks, bookkeeping management and much more. These solutions are typically integrated with third-party systems, adding to the range of tools you already have.
Think about it, constantly accurate payroll ensures that your work is as complete as it is secure. Undoubtedly, your clients will be more than satisfied. Furthermore, you will have access to the most recent legislative and regulatory updates, allowing you to stay ahead of the curve. After all, being up to date on your work means peace of mind for you and your clients.
In addition to payroll management, there are other related solutions, like Human Resources management (HR), that may be useful for you. Tools such as these centralize your HR activities and simplify the processing and approval of employee requests, as well as the management of your employee files and training courses.
An expert’s opinion on technology and accounting
Is technology at the heart of the profession? According to Pierre Garant, President of Opério, the answer is yes and his business solution is a good example. Opério utilizes new technologies to provide entrepreneurs with day-to-day support so that they can make informed decisions regarding their financial management with the help of easily accessible experts.
Although the use of technology is not new, the pandemic has certainly accelerated this conversion. Garant even claims that it has accelerated the digital transformation of the accounting profession tenfold. “Today, it is impossible not to use cloud technology in accounting”.
According to him, the migration to a digital experience will continue and there will be no turning back. Technology elevates your work by allowing you to work on your data anywhere, anytime and in a completely secure environment.
The pandemic has created new needs that you must consider. In this complex socio-economic context, technology has allowed SMEs to adapt and establish a new way to work and serve clients. While the decision to innovate can be a difficult one, it might just propel your business forward.
“Assume that your competitors are already doing it. If you don’t, you may find yourself at a disadvantage.”
—Pierre Garant, President of Opério
Accountants, how can you improve your service offer? The profession has evolved a lot, as companies now require your services very early on in their life cycle. Here are three potential ways that you can improve your services by appropriately identifying and answering entrepreneurs’ future questions:
- New technologies;
- Artificial intelligence;
- Payroll management services.
It is no longer possible to do without technology. In any case, the pandemic has accelerated this transition. However, it can be taken a step further by using powerful tools, such as cloud-based accounting technology and collaborative platforms. Also, consider using artificial intelligence. It is an ally that takes on repetitive tasks so that you can concentrate on growing your business.
Finally, offer your clients a payroll management service. It is after all a natural extension of your duties. Working with a payroll service provider will improve the accuracy of your work and increase your clients’ satisfaction.