How the Right CRM Can Improve Accounting Workflowby
Having the right practice management and workflow are things every firm strives for. For mine, it became a necessity to build our own, until we didn’t need to.
As a tax and accounting firm offering services to small Canadian IT businesses, we had an eager and early interest in automation and efficiency when it came to workflows, so much so that we built our own system.
We ended up using the practice management system we built back in 1999 for everything —bookkeeping, CRM, workflow management, you name it. As cloud accounting software and technologies improved, we retired our in-house system in favor of QuickBooks Online and other cloud accounting tools like HubDoc.
These covered most of our bookkeeping and document needs but left a sizable gap in the CRM department. In search of a solution, we initially tried Salesforce but found it was so finely tuned to sales and marketing that it was difficult to customize to our needs.
We then learned about the Infusionsoft CRM by way of a recommendation.
At first, we intended to use it strictly to help us manage our existing client base. But when we started to see how we could use it to create automations for our sales process and drip marketing campaigns, we began to wonder if we could use it for our year-end reminder process.
The answer is yes, we could. In fact, we found the Infusionsoft CRM enabled us to customize, organize and automate our workflows to a far greater degree than any practice management system, and this allowed us to work in better alignment with our priorities.
The Underliers of Successful Accounting
Our firm success is measured according to three metrics:
- Turnaround time
- Customer satisfaction
Of those three, customer satisfaction is vital because from our perspective, a happy client is one who is willing to pay their bills and refer other clients. In other words, if they’re not happy, our revenue suffers.
So does that mean that customer satisfaction is our top priority? Not necessarily. Why is that? Well, because we have to ask: what makes a client happy?
The answer is pretty obvious: a speedy turnaround.
So if we reorder our priorities based on this understanding, here’s what we have:
- Turnaround time
- Customer satisfaction
In our experience, the current available practice management software enables us to track revenue well but not to improve turnaround time or gain insights into customer satisfaction. We need the CRM system for the latter two tasks.
To understand how it does this, let’s take a look at some of the key differences between practice management software and CRM systems.
Billing vs. Client Focus
Practice management software is usually centered around a time-tracking and billing system, whereas CRMs are focused on the customer: their information, their experience, their potential.
So while practice management software will enable you to drill down into the time your staff is investing in certain clients or files and how that correlates with billing, it’s not going to tell you much about your firm’s customer service.
When you think about it, this is problematic, because at the end of the day, as accountants, we are providing our clients with an invaluable customer service, and they will react and respond to us no differently than they would to any other service provider. In other words, they’re judging our accounting services based on speed, accuracy, consistency, professionalism and customer rapport.
Standard vs. Customizable Workflow
Another crucial difference is the workflow itself.
Most practice management software has a built-in workflow that you have to conform your activities to. Now, while it’s true that accountants (and all workplaces in general) follow sets of workflows that are fairly similar at the higher level, when you get into the details, these are really all very different. Essentially, an accounting firm won’t operate quite the same way as a marketing company and vice versa.
One of the key attractions we found with Infusionsoft CRM is its customizable workflow. If you can create a process in your mind, you can create it in the software. This allows you to match your management tool to your internal processes, rather than having to adapt the latter to the former.
The more you can automate administrative tasks like follow-ups and reminders, the more time you and your account managers can spend focusing on actual accounting work. By freeing yourself from the menial tasks, you’ll be able to give clients more one-on-one attention when troubleshooting is needed and still have the time to take on additional files. This will improve your turnaround times, customer satisfaction levels and revenues.
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...