Being a connected accountant is an essential part of today’s always on world
A term first coined by US consultancy Bay Street Group, the ‘Connected Accountant’ is defined as an individual who can deliver an increased level of responsiveness, client service and efficiency to meet the demands of this increasingly connected, always on, faster moving and more competitive marketplace.
We have never been more connected than we are today. In a world that’s always online, it’s possible to communicate with family, friends and colleagues at any time of the day and from anywhere in the world.
Digitisation is driving this enormous change and opening the doors to new opportunities. Now, a data connection means that it is possible to work alongside clients using cloud accounting applications wherever they happen to be in the world, to hold virtual meetings without either the client or accountant having to leave their office and to use social networking platforms to attract new clients.
Location no longer holds any boundaries.
Accessibility and responsiveness are key requirements for operating in this highly competitive climate and new software is able to facilitate ongoing communication with high value clients that increasingly expect their accountant to meet them where they spend most of their time: on their smartphones and tablets.
Making conscious decisions about how best to connect, serve and influence via this medium is vital as accountants need to be at the heart of the action.
Connecting in the digital world
The latest study by Ofcom shows how the increasing take-up of faster fixed and mobile data services is extending people’s choice over how, where and when they communicate with others, watch or listen to content services, seek information, shop and participate in the digital world.
There has been a steady increase in the penetration of connected devices and mobile is now firmly at the heart of the digital economy with over 50 per cent of the world’s population — 3.9 billion people — estimated to be online in 2018, and 96 per cent of the world’s population living within range of a mobile network.
In 2018, there were over 4 billion mobile devices — inclusive of tablets and phones — with many people in mature markets having multiple devices.
Integrated multi-channel communications
For accountants, it is a particularly exciting time as emerging digital channels offer more choice in how they connect with their clients.
These range from a dedicated digital platform developed specifically for the accountant in practice that allows them to engage on their clients’ smartphones and Tablets to the use of social media platforms for regular topical interactions.
Social networking predominantly used to be a local activity that was carried out face-to-face but in the new digital era, these new methods that utilise social media platforms can help to reinforce the firm’s branding and to increase connectivity with prospects.
They help accountancy firms to make their voice heard so they are less likely to get lost in the noise of an always on world.
The power of digital networking
Social media is sometimes dismissed as something to do when there is room in the budget.
However, the findings from a new report entitled State of Social 2019 suggest that it can represent a cost-effective way of brand building, of finding new opportunities and increasing visibility as part of an overall marketing strategy.
- Facebook and Twitter are the most widely used social media platforms for business
- Facebook is the most popular platform to post business content on
- More and more brands are turning to video content
For group targeting, the most widely used platforms include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and WhatsApp but the findings suggest that there is potential for a move towards more private messaging on the popular platforms of Messenger and WhatsApp.
This is an area still largely untapped by the business community with only a quarter of respondents saying that they have incorporated them into their social media campaigns and could prove a useful strategy for accountants that want to improve engagement with clients and prospects.
Do clients want more digital interaction?
Some interesting findings from a recent study in the legal sector can be applied to the accounting profession.
The Olive Communications study, which drew on the views of 1000 consumers and 500 UK law firms, found that clients want more digital interaction.
The report finds that new ways of communicating are being welcomed as clients demand more immediacy; they don’t want to wait days for paper documents to arrive in the post or for an email to come through with the answer to a question that could be easily resolved with an instant message or automated response.
This study carries an important message that clients expect their advisers to digitally engage with them in the way that they want, need and expect. And one way of enabling digital engagement and capturing client data in this new online world is with a digital platform developed specifically for the accountant in practice for powerful one-to-one conversations.
The power of personal digital conversations
These online conversations can be topical such as budget updates or they can provide an opportunity to up-sell, informing clients about other services.
The beauty of this approach is that the messages can be automated, in which case the accountant does not have to do anything at all.
Those practices already using ‘automated client communications’ report that they are able to increase the number of touch points substantially and keep clients updated with crucial information without having to burden the team.
One of the key benefits is that the accountant sending the update ‘appears’ to the client to be available 24/7, even when the office is closed.
Another highly effective way of using mobile on a one-to-one basis is to incorporate ‘push notification’ messages into the firm’s communication strategy.
These simple text messages are already used extensively in our personal lives but now they can be used to help communicate with clients and contacts quickly and easily.
Delivery can be automated to individuals and groups, which almost immediately ‘ping’ onto the home screen of client’s mobile devices.
They have a 93 per cent open rate means that these messages are almost always read – typically, within minutes of delivery – and research indicates that push notifications are particularly effective in the financial services sector.
This functionality is an opportunity for firms to automate the distribution of content, ranging from reminders about tax deadlines, to news on services and invites to webinars.
There is no doubting that one of the greatest challenges facing the profession is how best to re-engineer accountancy practices for the digital age.
Crucially, grasping the digital lead provides immediate and ongoing benefits to firms and clients alike and will future-proof communication strategies without absorbing valuable time or requiring significant up-front investment.
David Oliver, Global Thought Leader and a member of the Senior Executive Team, MyFirmsApp