A recent column on industry website AccountingWeb has highlighted a few of the reasons why accountants need to move with the times. It’s certainly true that the accountancy profession has a habit of reacting to changes in the industry rather than thinking in advance of ways to improve the service they provide for customers.
The big problem for anyone searching high-and-low for an accountant, is knowing which accountancy services are stuck in their ways and which ones will constantly strive to improve the level of service they provide. I think there are a number of tell-tale signs that all freelancers, contractors and small businesses need to look for.
Check the website
The website is a good place to start, especially for people working in the online industry. Ask yourself: does the website look timely or is it the kind of website that would gather cobwebs as a physical entity. The key is to check whether or not they have a blog which is regularly updated. If they do, is it full of industry news? And does it reveal a firm grasp of the latest innovations in accounting processes and accountancy software?
Finally, can you actually make head or tails of what they say? There’s no excuse for an accountants website to barrage you with endless jargon – this suggests an inability to communicate information clearly. Exactly NOT what you want from your accountant, and suggests in its own way that they are unwilling to move into an age where accounting becomes more easily understandable to all.
Research the market
Of course, if you’re unfamiliar with the accounting industry then you will need to compare the online presence of different services. Any website worth its salt will fully showcase the service it provides for its customers.
If the accountancy service doesn’t have much of an online presence then they’re unlikely to innovate the service they provide for customers. And those which are reluctant to innovate are unlikely to be the most user-friendly. Online technology is a key tool in ensuring that customers receive the most user-friendly service.
Customer interaction and social media
You can find out how seriously an accountancy service takes their customer service by observing their online interactions with customers. Are they active in the world of social media? Do they have an up-to-date Twitter account?
In the internet age, these are crucial tools in keeping in touch with the customer-base. Many people find it easier to interact via the social media tools they use most frequently – to not engage through them is ignoring an important means of contact for the customer.
Ask the accountant straight
Whether you are an existing customer, or a potential client, don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. What are their plans for the future? Do they plan to bring in processes to further simplify the process of accounting? Or are they content on focusing on day-to-day performance? There’s no reason they can’t do both.
Also, check the processes they have in place for filing with HMRC and Companies House, and the tax expertise they provide – not all accountants are fully qualified, so make sure they are.
Crunch online accounting has already revolutionised the staid world of accounting by combining intuitive online technology with expert accountancy advice all under one roof. And we have more exciting developments just around the corner.