New research has found that over one in four accountants believe advancing technology is replacing the need for human interaction and that this is affecting client relationships; in fact, some 80 per cent have admitted their relationship with clients is not ‘strong’.
The survey of accountants by people management software company, BrightHR, also revealed that aside from technology replacing human communication, they see the biggest threats to them and their ability to build relationships as being a lack of communication skills (19 per cent), lack of leadership skills (40 per cent), social media blurring professional boundaries (35 per cent) and not having a large enough portfolio of services to offer new or existing clients (32 per cent).
According to the UK accountancy benchmark report, 61 per cent of accountancy firms have lost between one and 10 clients in the past 12 months. BrightHR’s survey asked accountants how threatened they felt by the increase in larger firms offering accountancy services for low costs. Worryingly enough, 30 per cent weren’t even aware of this existing threat to their business.
With that in mind, when BrightHR told accountants that advances in technology will free up 60 per cent of their time (Panalitix, 2016), 43 per cent responded suggesting that they would offer additional services, like software solutions, to clients in order to improve relationships and retention.
The survey also revealed how accountants believe daily communication with clients is the most successful factor in building a successful practice.
If that is truly the case, it does therefore beg the question of why 31 per cent of accountants believe their client relationships could be better, 34 per cent say they are average and 15 per cent admit to them being poor.
In response to the survey findings, BrightHR has worked with author and business effectiveness expert, Dr David Fraser, to launch a new report – Better Relationships | Better Business. It delves into the importance of positive client relationships, provides suggestions for how this can be achieved and examines what impact future technological advances will have on how good client relationships are maintained.
The report also includes chapters on how accountants specifically can improve their client relationships by utilising effective social media channels, strategies for accountants to follow to build good client relationships and how good working relationships can affect business output and productivity.
Commenting on BrightHR’s survey and report, accountant and business growth strategist, Shaz Nawaz said: “As accountants, we are in the business of creating and nurturing relationships. With the advancement in technology, especially cloud-accounting, it is vital we invest more time in physically meeting with clients so that we can serve them in the best way possible.
“If you take out human interaction, then unfortunately the profession will become a compliance only sector. This will mean the cost of the service will be the driving factor for clients and the profession will suffer as a direct result.”
Paul Tooth, co-founder and CEO of BrightHR said: “Strong client relationships are vital to a successful accountancy practice, so our survey throws up some interesting results and thought-provoking questions.
“In general, the accountants we spoke to felt client relationships could be better, despite being in constant communication with them and believing this was the most important ingredient in running a successful practice. They must ask themselves if there are other, more important things they should be doing in addition to daily communication.
“The good news is that we also found that the profession is open and willing to improving their relationships and retention strategy by extending their service offering, arranging more face-to-face meetings, entertaining clients and even interacting with them on social media.”
In addition to the report, BrightHR also offers a Partner Programme to help accountants build better relationships with their clients. The programme is free to join and provides them with access, via an online portal, to a range of learning resources, training materials and engaging content that they can share with clients.
Paul continues: “Our survey confirmed that over one in three believed not having a large enough portfolio of services to offer existing clients is a barrier to building relationships, so we hope that both our Partner Programme and our report will provide the tools to help them counter this.
“A further 31 per cent said they thought offering technology software solutions to clients could help improve relationships and attract new business and I’m delighted to suggest that our people management software could be the answer accountants are looking for. Through our Partner Programme, accountants can extend their service offering and solidify their position as the ‘trusted advisor’, while generating commission by recommending BrightHR.”
Download the full Better Relationships | Better Business report for accountants.