Accounting is about so much more than crunching numbers. From keeping your clients out of financial hot water, to guidance on cost reductions, to forecasting trends, accountants keep businesses in business. Beyond this, you help your clients better understand their businesses and their respective industries.
And with all the tasks you need to do every day to make this happen, having the right software to automate some of your work and keep you on track is key.
What software do accounting firms use?
As an accountant, you’re used to working with accounting software on a daily basis. But with so many clients and so many tasks, you’re also probably using several other solutions.
- A calendar for scheduling tasks and meetings.
- A time tracker for billable hours.
- File sharing tools.
- Invoicing software.
- Spreadsheets for financial analysis and forecasting.
- Project management tools.
Of course, with the speed of innovation, new tools are developed every day. In fact, QuickBooks found that accountants spend 86% of their time on tasks that could be automated.
“86% of accountants spend time on tasks that could be automated.”— QuickBooks, 2017.
While the word “automation” may be scary to some, it doesn’t mean that eventually accounting will become obsolete. Far from it.
Automation helps free you from manual tasks like data entry and allows you to spend your time on more lucrative endeavors like analysis, consultation, and sales.
How cloud accounting software can help your accounting firm
Cloud solutions have reshaped the accounting industry. Now what is cloud computing you might ask… Well, it’s the storing and accessing of data over the internet instead of on your physical hard drive.
And while this technology has been around for a while, cloud computing has empowered accountants with hundreds of cloud-based apps, including accounting software like QuickBooks Online.
The benefits of using cloud accounting software are that:
- You can access your accounting data from multiple locations and devices.
- Your financial information updates in real-time so your team always has accurate data.
- Your overhead is lower as you can scale up the number of licenses you need seamlessly.
Is cloud software safe for accountants?
A concern accountants may have with cloud accounting services is privacy. With an obligation to keep client information secure, especially their finances, accountants have to ask themselves, “Is cloud accounting software safe?”
And this question is more than valid. Especially when you consider that the FBI reported close to 4,000 cyberattacks a day on businesses, government sites, and medical organizations during the pandemic.
The good news is that cloud-based accounting software provides a few security advantages over desktop-based accounting. The first is that data is encrypted between your device and the cloud server, so it’s difficult for a third party to intercept it.
Second, keeping your data offsite reduces the risk of it being compromised if your devices are stolen or physically damaged — since they’re not in the same location. Finally, a cloud service acts as a backup for your data in case your devices are lost, stolen, breached, or broken.
Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of cloud accounting software, let’s look at how your accounting firm can improve your client relationships and your sales with a cloud CRM for accountants.
What is CRM in accounting?
In a nutshell, a CRM uses technology to augment traditional customer service. You can store and access client data in one centralized location, which improves the way you interact with your clients. Better client interactions and communication ultimately lead to stronger relationships and improved loyalty.
What can a CRM do for your accounting firm?
What’s great is that the benefits of CRM solutions for accounting firms are widespread. Here are a few examples of how using a CRM can fuel your firm’s prosperity.
With an accounting CRM, you:
- Can better serve your clients with the immediate self-service online portals enable.
- Gain insights on your sales and marketing performance in just a few clicks.
- Can easily capture lead details from your website visitors.
- Get a 360-degree view of every customer from lead to repeat purchase.
- Can maximize your productivity by automating tedious tasks.
With a powerful CRM, you can simplify many aspects of your accounting practice and grow your list of clients.
How this is possible will become clear as you learn the top CRM features accountants should look for in this next section.
What accountants need to look for in a CRM
Of course, not all CRM programs are created specifically for accountants. To help you navigate the process of selecting a CRM for your firm, check out these key features that any accounting CRM should have. Feel free to scroll to the bottom for the TL:DR version of these seven essential features of a CRM for accountants.
1. The most important feature — Integrating accounting and CRM software
This is a big one.
As an accountant, you understand the value of a self-serve portal to get a clear view of your client’s transaction history. Having all of this data on hand allows you to provide consistent, professional accounting services.
The logical step is to choose CRM software that integrates with your existing accounting software, such as QuickBooks. This allows you to enter new client or transaction information in either program and have it automatically sync to the other.
With everything from transaction history to past interactions compiled in one place, you’ll have a single system that covers every aspect of your relationship with each client. No more trying to backtrack and double-check figures or dates, which is time-consuming and tedious. Taking advantage of this integration makes your entire workflow more efficient.
2. Streamlined client onboarding
Whenever your accounting firm brings on a new client, they should go through an onboarding process. This ensures your client is aware of the tasks and timelines they are responsible for while you’re providing accounting services. Everyone is on the same page, saving you time and your client money.
Look for a CRM platform that allows you to set up and organize your client onboarding strategy. Features such as document storage, email templates, and scheduled reminders help ensure that every new client receives the same information on the same timeline. The more you can automate the process, the better the experience will be for you and your clients.
3. Improved client management
When you set up a CRM system, it goes without saying that it will store all of your client information.
However, it’s important to make sure that everyone on your team is able to access and update this information easily. Here are some questions to guide you through the selection process:
- Is the CRM cloud-based?
- Does this CRM, allow for anywhere, anytime access?
- Is this CRM mobile-friendly enough to support teams that are on the go a lot?
- Is your team comfortable with the user interface?
By choosing a program that your team is comfortable with, you’ll reduce data entry and communication errors that would cost you valuable clients.
As time passes, one of the biggest benefits of better client management is gaining more clients organically.
Managing client information in a CRM helps you improve relationships through more personalized service. As a result, your satisfied clients are willing to provide you with free marketing through word-of-mouth and referrals. This also increases the ROI of investing in a CRM.
4. Easier client communications
In general, accountants have a bevy of ways to communicate securely with clients, such as email and video chat. But do you have a way to keep track of all of these emails and messages over time? If not, implementing CRM software gives you this valuable tool for customer service.
By maintaining a detailed history of communications in your CRM, you can refer back to this information at any time. Whoever speaks with the client next time will also be able to use this history to serve them more effectively and efficiently.
This way, your team can seamlessly take care of clients without having to backtrack for information. Your clients will appreciate this attention to detail, which will put them at ease. As a result, your clients will end each exchange with your accounting firm satisfied.
5. Client self-sufficiency
Are you looking for ways to get more hours out of your workday as an accountant? If yes, then look for CRM software that includes tools for building self-sufficiency among your clients. A great example of this is a CRM that offers built-in self-serve portals, which give your clients greater access to their dealings with your firm.
For those of you new to portals, this video gives a quick overview.
Your clients can view their transaction history and their invoices, which results in fewer calls and emails to you. Some CRMs also enable clients to make payments directly through these portals, which reduces the administrative burden on your team.
6. Brand-building tools
Whether you’re a freelancer or you work at a larger firm, your branding matters.
As an accountant, your personal and professional brand follows you throughout your career. Think of it as a walking calling card for your accounting services.
When searching for a CRM, consider whether it has tools to help you build your accounting brand.
One way to do so is by sharing resources with your clients. Let’s say you have a digital article about the latest tax code that you want to pass along. If your CRM makes it easy to share content with clients (for example, through email campaigns), you can position yourself as a thought leader. This helps to increase client confidence in your abilities and services.
7. Customization of automated workflows
As an accountant, you handle a huge number of repetitive entries and tasks every day. So, wouldn’t it be wonderful if certain tasks could be automatically completed?
This is the concept behind using a CRM with flexible workflow automation.
Equipped with a CRM that works the way you do, you can modify and update the workflows as desired to meet the changing needs of your accounting firm. Other processes such as document storage and equations can also be implemented with custom CRM software.
Recap: The importance of a CRM for accountants
You may spend your days crunching numbers, but your focus is ultimately on customer service. Being able to provide your clients with the best services to meet their financial needs is essential.
Using a CRM for accountants can help you save your firm time and money that can be better spent elsewhere.
CRM software also gives you the tools required to better maintain your client relationships. So instead of getting sidetracked by missing data, you’ll always have a clear picture of every client.
To review, these are the key features you should look for in a CRM:
- The ability to integrate with your accounting software.
- Functionality that streamlines your client onboarding process.
- A simplified approach to client management.
- The ability to easily communicate and track interactions with your clients.
- Portals for greater client self-sufficiency.
- Brand building capabilities.
- Flexible workflow automation for your repetitive entries and tasks.
As you consider whether to invest in a CRM for your accounting firm, take a moment to consider the cost of inefficient, ineffective customer service. Chances are, the benefits of a great CRM platform will outweigh the investment.
Ready to take your accounting firm to the next level? Start your free 30-day trial of Method:CRM — the #1 QuickBooks CRM.