Collaborating with Your Clients in the Cloud

By Alexandra DeFelice

While the days of driving to your clients' offices may not be numbered, many accountants are taking advantage of technological advances to more efficiently collaborate with their clients from afar.
 
During a panel session entitled "Helping Your Clients Move to the Cloud," facilitated by Jim Buffington of Intuit  at AccountingWEB Live! in Dallas last month, a group of accountants and QuickBooks specialists discussed steps they've taken and the successes they've experienced as a result of more Cloud-based client work.
 
Fixing problems on the fly was mentioned as one of the benefits of Cloud computing by panelists Michelle Long, of Long for Success; Ruth Perryman, president of The QB Specialists; and Darrell Layman, a CPA in Cuba, Missouri.
 
Layman, who has been in practice thirty-four years, said he has always tried to embrace new technology as it occurs. Most recently, he has embraced scanning, client portals, and remote-access technologies. 
 
"It's great to collaborate with clients electronically and fix problems throughout the year as they occur vs. having to do everything at year-end," Layman said. "It's worth early adoption."
 
Perryman agreed. While e-mail remains her primary "tool," she also relies on LogMeIn and CrossLoop for training and cleaning up her clients' files.
 
When Perryman moved back to Sacramento from the Bay Area in June 2008, she and her son, Brandon, decided to embrace social media to find a new local market of clientele. The result was surprising: social media propelled her business to a national level, and now more than 95 percent of the company's work is outside the Sacramento area. 
 
While Perryman doesn't get to spend as much face time with her clients, she's able to provide double the service because of all the unbillable time spent driving. 
 
Getting Clients On Board
 
One of the biggest hurdles the panelists discussed was their clients' resistance to change.
 
Long tries to identify which clients are open to change and which aren't. Then she accommodates them to the best of her ability.
 

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"One client wanted me to come on site just to print W-2s," Long recalled. "I brought my computer, we sat there together, and I showed her with join.me how to . . . get a remote session going in a matter of minutes. She said, 'Oh, this is easy.' Now she calls me up and we can do remote sessions a lot more often."

 
The initial time spent walking resistant clients through the process and allaying their fears pays off in the long run, once they buy in to the process, she said.
 
Layman and his son, Darin, are using social media to attract new clients who want to work with the technologies that the Laymans prefer using and have available. However, they won't give existing clients an ultimatum to change or find another CPA. "Try to educate them and push them along the way to get there," Layman suggested.
 
About the author:
Alexandra DeFelice is senior manager of communication and program development for Moore Stephens North America, and a regional member of Moore Stephens International Limited, a network of more than 360 accounting and consulting firms with nearly 650 offices in 100 countries. Alexandra can be reached at adefelice@msnainc.org.

 

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