It’s 2019 – and we are well and truly into the digital age.
Technology is changing at an increasingly fast pace, and more and more tech is becoming available for accountants to use to improve both practice productivity AND client productivity.
Sounds perfect, right?!
It is, but nothing in life is without its challenges…
As firms start to make the transition to becoming truly ‘digital firms’, one of the challenges they face is getting clients to ‘buy in’ to and embrace the new technology and software they want to use.
For example, this could be getting clients to buy in to cloud bookkeeping software like Xero, QuickBooks or FreeAgent.
It could be getting them to start using data capture apps for receipts and invoices like Receipt Bank.
It could even be getting them to send their documents via secure portals e.g. Virtual Cabinet, instead of sending them in the post.
From speaking to many practice owners and from my own experiences in my practices, I’ve found that clients fit broadly into 3 camps. There are:
- The Technophiles – Those who are happy to change and adopt new technology
- The Techno-maybes – Those who will resist at first but, with time, will eventually change
- The Technophobes – Those who simply refuse to change and use the new technology
So, how do you deal with these three different groups of clients in terms of getting them to buy into and actually use new software?
1. Clearly communicate the benefits
You need to make this about them, not about you.
All new technology you introduce to your firm has to be to improve the client experience in some way, shape or form. So, let them know that you’re making these changes with them in mind.
From the outset you need to make clear what the benefits of moving to using new software are for clients. When people know WHY changes are being made (especially changes for the better!), they’re far more likely to be open to them.
Make sure you articulate these clearly. For example:
“If we move you to cloud accounting software, you’ll be able to get real-time information about your business that will help you make better decisions.”
“Just use this app to take pictures of your receipts. That way you don’t have to carry a wallet stuffed full of receipts around any longer and you don’t need to worry about saving them and bringing them into the office. It’ll save you loads of time”
“You don’t have to waste time printing, signing and scanning things or posting them back to us. All you do is click this button, type your name and it’s done in less than 30 seconds”
2. Provide training and education
Once you’ve explained the benefits of using new software and tech, the next thing to do is to provide training or education on how to use it.
One way to do this could be to hold workshops where you can get your clients into your offices (or another suitable space). You can position this event in a couple of ways…
- Training on some new technology that is going to save them loads of time and make them be able to run their businesses much better and easier
- An opportunity to network with other clients where they build relationships and possibly leave with some referrals
- Have some food and drinks with you and your team – which is also good for building relationships.
This won’t be possible for all clients and might be a little bit over the top for introducing certain bits of software.
If it’s not possible to meet with clients directly, you could also create online training videos (e.g. using software like Loom). This will allow clients to learn about the new tech at a time and place of their choosing. They can also then refer back to them if they need further information once they start utilising the software.
You can even house these training videos in a private members part of your website that’s exclusively for your clients.
3. Manage their expectations
Just like you, your clients are busy people and they might not get things right first time round.
You need to follow up with them regularly to double check they’re happy that they understand how the new tech works and they’re happy about the benefits it’s giving them.
A simple phone call should suffice – which is also a great opportunity for you to touch base with them and find out if there’s anything else you can help them with right now.
The three steps should, over time, work for your Technophile and Techno-maybe clients. For some it will be easy, and for others it will be a longer process that needs managing over time.
But what about the Technophobes?
What about the people who flat out refuse to change and have no interest in buying into your new software and technology?
Well, you need to make a decision…
As a practice, do you keep these clients or get rid of them?
Could you increase their fees to compensate for the extra work you’ll have to do as a result of them not adopting new technology?
For some, this will pressure them to leave, but for the ones who do stay, at least you’ll be getting paid more for it.
Ultimately, you need to draw a line in the sand and make a decision.
Are they the right clients for your practice moving forward?
Are they the type of clients you want to be working with?
Only you will really know the answer to this…