3 Outdated Areas of Your Accounting Firm (And How to Modernize Them)

When you modernize your accounting firm, not only will your firm become more efficient than ever, but your clients will love the improved experience.

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The thought of modernizing your accounting firm can be overwhelming. After all, there are a lot of steps involved. There’s implementing cloud-based accounting software, going paperless, finding new ways to manage your clients and team, and more. But the switch is worth it and can be done over a period of time that works for you. Not only will your practice become more efficient than ever, but your clients will love the improved experience.

The better experiences your clients have, the more likely they are to pay for your services again and recommend you to others. And that’s not the only way that modernizing can have a huge affect on your bottom line. Being efficient saves time, and we all know that time is money.

But beyond the business reasons to modernize, perhaps the most significant benefit is how your quality of life will improve. Being an accountant becomes a whole new experience and role when you can spend less time on repetitive, time-consuming tasks and more time on the work that requires your expertise.

Here are three areas of your accounting firm to consider modernizing. 

The way you communicate with clients

You know the back-and-forth of waiting on your client to send you documents for their case all too well. It’s a process of what seems like endless phone calls, emails, and time spent tracking down documents that have been filed away. Your client’s case comes to a halt every time you need additional information from them, especially if their schedule doesn’t coordinate with your office hours. This all-too-common process is frustrating and inefficient. 

The good news is, there’s another way to communicate that’s much less painful for both you and your client: a client portal. Accounting firms that have moved to the cloud and use client portals are enjoying the side of accounting work where the grass truly is greener. Here are three benefits that accountants using client portals enjoy:

  • Seamless client collaboration 
  • Increased client transparency
  • Timely payment from clients

 

Seamless Client Collaboration

Client collaboration is the most significant function of a client portal. By using a client portal, you and your client can securely send each other files, notes, requests, and questions at the click of a button. No more unanswered emails getting lost in your client’s inbox. No more faxing documents. And no more waiting for your client to visit your office and hand important papers to you directly. With a portal, your client can simply send you any necessary documents from anywhere they have access to a computer. They can help progress their case from the comfort of their own home or even on a break at work.

Canopy’s client portal further enhances client collaboration by offering a mobile app where your clients can enjoy the functionality of a client portal from the convenience of their phones. 

Increased Client Transparency 

A lack of transparency throughout a case can leave a client feeling uneasy or even  misled. Especially since you have access to their sensitive financial information. A key factor to gaining (and keeping) the trust of your client is to increase transparency, and a client portal can help. With a client portal, your client will be able to rest assured that their case is progressing even if they are not hearing from you. This is a much better option than disappearing for a while then showing back up with a bill for them.

Don’t want your client to be able to view everything for their case? In Canopy, you’ll have full control over what your client is able to see. At any time, you can check a real-time view of what your client’s portal looks like from their end and make visibility adjustments accordingly.

Timely Payment from Clients 

As you know, one of the biggest challenges of being an accounting professional is getting paid for the work you do. A client portal can help increase cash flow because your client will be more likely to pay you in a timely manner if they can pay you online through their portal.

If you do have to repeatedly ask a client for payment, Canopy will allow you to automate the reminders for payment as frequently as you choose. Want to remind your client to send payment twice a week until you get paid? Canopy will do that for you. Your clients will be happy with the improved transparency and convenience, and you’ll benefit from getting paid more quickly. 

Want to learn more about the benefits that come with using a client portal? Check out this blog post.

Note: Not only are client portals easy to use, but they’re also more secure than keeping data on your hard drive if they’re through a reliable cloud provider. This is because reliable cloud providers require strict regulatory standards, mitigate cyber-attacks, and use encryption and digest access authentication to make data less vulnerable to hackers. 

Your system for storing documents

Dozens of tabs and different programs are open across your computer. Drawers are chock-full of staples, paper clips, and binder clips. There are file cabinets in every corner of your office that contain duplicate files. Your colleagues are buried under stacks of sticky notes. And that’s just when you’re in the office. When you’re out of the office and need a document, it’s anything but convenient. You have to run back to the office just to track down the correct documents in one of the previously mentioned overflowing drawers or file cabinets.

Does this sound like your firm? It’s time for you to start storing your documents in one convenient, secure place—the cloud.

When you choose to go paperless and store your documents in the cloud, you won’t just be doing the environment a huge favor, you’ll be doing your business a favor, too. Some of the main benefits you’ll enjoy from joining the cloud and consolidating your document storage include:

  • Increased document accessibility 
  • Improved time management
  • Enhanced data security

Increased Document Accessibility

When you keep your documents in the cloud, anyone on your team can access the files they need, from anywhere with internet. You’ll no longer be running back to the office on your day off to find a document for a client or colleague. In Canopy, you can also add notes to your projects, so you won’t need a separate system for note-keeping. Anyone who has access to a specific project will be updated with the information they need to know just by logging in and reviewing the project.

Additionally, the cloud updates real-time, so you won’t have to worry about different versions of the same document floating around as different team members work on it. 

Note: You should find cloud storage that allows for assignment of permissions so you can control who has access to what.

Improved Time Management

Besides the time savings you’ll get from being able to work on your projects outside of the office, storing your documents in the cloud will also allow you to spend more time on meaningful work. You’ll spend less time finding, faxing, and copying documents and more time on completing casework for your clients. 

Canopy provides unlimited document storage in the same place where you manage your clients and projects. You won’t be switching between software.

Enhanced Data Security 

As we talked about earlier, data is more secure in the cloud than on your hard drive if you have a reliable cloud provider. Plus, documents in the cloud won’t be compromised if anything unexpected happens to your computer or office. 

Canopy takes many precautions to ensure that your client data is secure. We use 128-bit encryption to secure personal information and use a reliable cloud provider. An audited SOC2 report is available upon request. 

You can check out this link to learn more about the benefits of cloud storage.

How you gather and manage client information   

As an accounting professional, you gather, manage, and review a lot of client information. At times, it can be overwhelming. Especially if you have to call and email your client several times before they get you their information or if you store information in several different places. Part of modernizing your firm includes gathering and managing your clients’ information more efficiently. If you can become more efficient at this, you’ll be able to get projects started more quickly, as well as keep them progressing smoothly.

Managing client information doesn’t have to be a headache. Modern tools are available to help make every step of the process—from first gathering information to organizing that information—as efficient and painless as possible. Three of the benefits of using these modern tools include:

  • Confusion-free data collection
  • Quick IRS transcript retrieval 
  • An up-to-date contact list 

Confusion-free Data Collection

Using a digital client organizer or survey is one of the easiest ways to gather client information. 

These organizers and surveys gather relevant information from your client and then auto-populate related fields. Your client won’t be asked any redundant or irrelevant questions. Plus, in Canopy for example, all active organizers are shown in a dashboard view where you can see the status of every organizer so that no client falls through the cracks. 

Organizers and surveys are made to be confusion-free, so that your client is able to fill them out with a minimum amount of hand holding.

Quick IRS Transcript Retrieval 

IRS transcripts are notorious for being convoluted, but in the hands of a professional who knows how to read them, they can be incredibly insightful. After all, they reflect a record of actions that have taken place in an individual’s tax history according to the IRS. 

Two common ways of pulling client transcripts include e-Services and the Practitioner Priority Service line. Chances are if you’ve used either, you’ve been put on hold for a good chunk of your day before. Or you’ve waited for transcripts to be delivered for hours. Maybe longer if you’ve had several years worth of transcripts to pull. And waiting for delivery isn’t even the most inefficient part of the process. Instead of easy-to-digest information, transcripts are full of codes to be deciphered line by line. While using IRS transcripts more often is a step in the right direction of better serving your clients, neither of these methods is the most efficient option.

Modern tools offer a better way to pull transcripts. Some software will pull transcripts (using e-Services) without the inefficiencies that can come along with the IRS website. Wait time decreases drastically when transcripts are delivered right to your computer. 

For example, Canopy’s transcripts tool pulls multiple years of transcripts in as little as two minutes and provides easy-to-read reports that show the most important information.

An Up-to-Date Contact List

To efficiently manage client contact information, you should be keeping a master contact list in one location. Information can easily get misplaced if it’s stored in Excel and your email and a Word document. Not to mention, it’s unlikely that every contact is getting updated in every location.

Customer relationship management (CRM) software can offer a wide variety of ways to help organize your contact list. You won’t need back-up contact lists that are scattered in different places around your computer or office. 

Canopy’s contact list allows each team member in your practice to choose their own customized view of contacts, but the actual information is updated in real time, so everyone has access to current phone numbers, addresses, etc. In addition, if you have contact information stored in another software or app, you can import it into Canopy. 

Looking for more information about modernizing your firm? This blog post is an excerpt from the ebook 6 Outdated Areas of Your Accounting Firm. You can download and read the rest of the ebook here