What will your accounting practice look like in the next five years? Remote working has brought several challenges as well as opportunities to accountants but can it be sustained in the long term?
We discuss the practicalities and prospects that remote working brings to the accounting industry, along with ways you can overcome them. Discover:
- Client expectations of online services
- Widening your customer base
- Information security
- Accountancy automation
- Improve your remote service with Countingup
Client expectations of online services
While the last 18 months have seen a huge uptake in online communication methods, the challenges of building a cohesive online organisation into the future is much different. Namely, as younger and younger generations of entrepreneurs start businesses, meeting their expectations as an online service is critical. Going forward as a business yourself, you’ll need to successfully cater to a larger variety of tech-capable clients to capture a sustainable customer base.
Although it’s difficult to generalise entire age cohorts with 100% accuracy, in general, people under 35 expect well-designed online services that make information easy (and more importantly) quick to find. As an accountancy firm, it’s understandable that the pressure to deliver customer support to such a high standard 24/7 is daunting. However, younger consumers typically are also more self-reliant and will often seek to find information themselves. As an accountancy firm, you should consider how you can provide online support to consolidate your value for younger clients.
In contrast, while older clients may not need as much support with the basics of business tax and finances (owing to their years of entrepreneurship), they typically hold an opposing worldview of online communication. With this preference for human customer service, your business may have a harder time when building relationships with older clients. Therefore, you shouldn’t disregard the power of providing in-person support, even if this is done remotely over video conferencing software.
In managing both ends of this spectrum, you should aim to make your remote services for customers as inclusive as possible: providing availability on all major video conferencing apps, a strong presence on social media and a well-designed and optimised website for client support.
Read more about client expectations for accountants in our article What do accounting clients really want?
Widening your customer base
With potentially no publicly accessible office space, how can your firm find customers?
As of the start of 2020, 96% of UK households had internet connectivity, and around 76% of adults used internet banking solutions. Therefore, your remote accountancy firm can capitalise on this near-total internet access and established behaviour for online financial management.
In particular, your remote accountancy firm can benefit from targeting regions of the UK with advertising where small business creation is more common. For example, 2019 figures show London and the South-East were the densest areas for new private businesses. Therefore, even if you’re based elsewhere in the UK, you can attract new entrepreneurial clients from these regions despite the physical distance.
However, this is a somewhat blunt tool for attracting clients. There are other ways you can grow your firm that are more informed by data, namely by specialising in specific industries’ tax needs or diversifying your value to provide more comprehensive business support.
Industries and sectors are spread differently across the UK. Therefore, if your firm or its staff is well-placed to offer more tailored services for specific industry clients, you can find success in growing your practice by advertising where these businesses are more common. Find out where the sectors are in the UK that your firm can target using the latest ONS data here, and read more about building your client base in our articles How to find clients for your accounting firm and 6 ways to grow your accountancy practice.
In the computer age, there is a certain standard of competency expected when it comes to handling customer data, and as a remote accountant firm, this problem is compounded as you host data on your clients and their clients.
Notably, remote accountancy firms have extra data vulnerabilities to consider, including the storage of client data and its transmission during client calls and file transfers. Therefore, as you’re setting up a remote firm, consider ways in which you can ensure your clients’ data is safe from hacks or leaks and how you can incorporate this into your advertising as a point of value when working with your firm.
One of the most consequential tools for the accountancy industry is where automation and software solutions are poised to take over, and remote accountant firms are no different.
Fortunately, automated tools and software should be able to help you and your clients save time and stress as it aims to improve your efficiency and accuracy from time-consuming tasks. From streamlining the data-entry process to spotting instances of fraud more easily, automated tools are set to transform the industry in the next few years – especially as these tools become more refined and polished.
Make sure your firm is at the forefront of technology solutions in being able to save your clients’ time and stress and find software solutions that work for you.
Improve your remote service with Countingup
You can save your practice time on manual admin and help your clients keep organised records with Countingup’s free accounting software. It’s built specifically to help you manage small business clients. Not only is it a cost-effective platform for them, but it’s simple for your firm to work from too.
The two in one business current account and accounting app automates time-consuming bookkeeping admin for your clients so they can focus on running their business—and securely sends you accurate, structured data to work with.
Countingup also has a broad range of support articles available covering key business and tax topics so your newer entrepreneurs can find the information they need easily and quickly. Countingup also comes with flexible tools to help a variety of industries with their tax needs, including instant invoicing, automatic expense categorisation and real-time cash flow insights.
Countingup’s accounting software is MTD-compatible and full of features for you to manage client accounts efficiently and provides direct access to their real-time organised data.
Future-proof your firm and build better relationships with your clients with Countingup. Find out more here.