Top 10 Useful CRM Features for Accountants
We use the Infusionsoft CRM to create workflows that are easy to monitor, measure and automate. There are plenty of other amazing platforms out there, but the greatest advantage CPA4IT saw in Infusionsoft was its flexibility.
Specifically, it makes use of some key tools:
1. Email Campaigns and Drip Marketing
This email marketing tool can actually be used to automate a variety of internal and external accounting communications. Internally, you can set up email campaigns to remind accountants about upcoming deadlines or check on the progress of a file that hasn’t been marked complete yet. Externally, you can send deadline information to your clients, along with follow-ups (because one email is never enough!) and appointment requests.
2. Robocalling and Pre-Recorded Voicemails
Using the pre-recorded call feature, you can send phone reminders to your clients as well. Infusionsoft gives you the option of recording two voice messages: one for a live answer and one for a voicemail. If they answer live, we suggest you include “Sorry for the robocall” right up front in your message so they know they can’t respond to you. It’s also a good idea to give the client the option to opt out of robocalls.
3. Calendar Integration
Rather than go back and forth with a client about setting up a meeting directly, you can schedule this as you would any other campaign: by using the email and phone tools to automate the request. By typing your calendar (Calendly for example) into Infusionsoft, your clients can accept or reschedule directly. The appointment will be booked and your calendar updated without any administrative work on your part.
4. DIY Campaigns (AKA Workflows)
Most CRMs are intended for marketing and sales use, so you can think of the terms “campaigns” or “sequences” as begin interchangeable with your accounting workflows. Infusionsoft lets you build these from start to finish. You can build as many as you like and update or modify them as you go. For example, you can have one workflow that simply reminds clients to submit their year-end documents, and you can have another that tracks how those documents move through the internal work queue.
5. Workflow Breakdowns
You can set up workflows broken down by the type of work (T1s, T2s, etc.) and then break those down further by individual account managers. You can add additional parameters, such as work start/end dates, stage or status and so forth. This is particularly useful for managers, as it enables them to sort and review what work has been done, what is in progress and who is doing what at any given time.
6. Alerts and Automation
Within your workflows, you can set up alerts and automated actions. Alerts inform an accountant or a manager of something they need to act on. It could be a deadline that needs to be met or a client request that needs to be answered. Automated actions could include kicking off workflows on a particular date or following a particular action. For example, to manage customer expectations, you might set an automated email to be sent to the client to inform them once their file is moved from one stage to the next.
7. Time Delay and Automation Shutdown
When automating workflows, it’s important to establish triggers that turn the automation off once an action is taken. Otherwise, your clients and staff will get annoyed. The time delay feature is an important aspect of this because it gives your account managers and clients time to react. For example, you send one of your accountants a reminder that a file is due. You can set the second one to go out three days later but define a parameter by which the second reminder is only sent if the file hasn’t been marked as complete.
8. Customer Information and History
One of the biggest pain points for accountants is gathering customer information. Fortunately, Infusionsoft keeps it all in one place. Looking at a client file, you can see their basic information as well as all of the work that has been done for that client so far—all emails sent, tasks issued and metrics tracked. This is also where you can set custom levels of information, such as when the customer’s year-end is and when their subsequent tax filing is due. This information can be used as a parameter within your workflows.
9. Reporting and Analytics
CRMs provide some pretty impressive metrics that practice management systems don’t tend to offer. For instance, Infusionsoft tracks whether or not your clients are opening the emails you’re sending them and whether or not they’re taking action. You can see which of your workflows are most effective and which need work. You can set up customized reports based on particular data points and even tie your phone system into Infusionsoft to track inbound and outbound calls.
10. Ease of Use
All of Infusionsoft’s functions appear in an options menu from which you can drag and drop items into a sequence. You can order and repeat the actions however you like and customize the parameters (send on this date, don’t send if, etc.). Each time you run a process, you can add to or modify it. Being able to improve the customization each time you use a workflow enables you to continuously make your accounting processes easier and more effective.
We use Infusionsoft to manage both internal and external workflows. Internal reminders are a good way to keep on top of problems, drive efficiency and reduce turnaround time, while external ones are a good way to stay in contact with clients, remind them of upcoming deadlines and manage their expectations.
When creating a workflow, it’s easiest to think of these in the context of an “if/then/but” statement. So: If X then Y, but not if Z. The if/then relates to sequential events, while the but relates to what circumstances halt the sequence or kick off another. Let’s consider a simplified year-end reminder process.
Accountants spend an enormous (and inefficient) amount of time chasing clients for the year-end financial documents they need to complete tax filings. Rather than waste time on hundreds of emails and phone calls, you decide to use Infusionsoft to set up an automated workflow that will do it for you.
You design an email campaign and set this to trigger automatically when a client’s year-end arrives. Infusionsoft knows when this is because you’ve entered each client’s year-end date in their information.
Your email campaign includes an option for the client to reply and send you their documents or to schedule a call. Your workflow consists of three email reminders followed by two phone reminders over the course of the months leading up to the client’s filing date. Here’s where the “if/then/but” logic comes in.
IF the client doesn’t respond to your first email, THEN the next reminder is sent two weeks later. BUT, if they respond, the next reminder will not be sent.
IF they don’t respond to any of these reminders, THEN the sequence repeats. Or maybe a manager is notified or a new sequence (a “you’re overdue” campaign) is triggered. This all just depends on how you prefer to handle unresponsive clients.
Conversely, IF the client responds to one of the reminders, THEN one of two new workflows are initiated:
1) IF they reply and submit their files THEN an internal file processing workflow kicks off, or
2) IF they request a callback, THEN a scheduling workflow is initiated.
The automated workflow approach really works best for tasks that are looping or repetitive. Ask yourself: Is this a one-off sort of task? Or is this a task that comes up again and again, monthly, yearly or even just repetitively across clients? If it’s repetitive, create a workflow.
Yes, it will take a bit of time to think through the entire process and establish a sequence of events, triggers and actions, but, once that’s done, it will save you an enormous amount of time moving forward. In my experience, workflows are great for:
- Year-end file submission reminders
- File processing / work in progress tracking
- Internal deadline management
- Appointment bookings
- Client file review and approval
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Andrew Wall is a Chartered Professional Accountant and Certified Management Accountant with over 18 years in accounting and IT development. He is the founder of CPA4it.ca a cloud based accounting firm focused on helping small businesses. Andrew is a global thought leader and has been recognized...