Positive, productive client relationships are a selling point for any accounting firm. In fact, when clients look for accountants today, the top two skills they often seek out are technology literacy and relationship building.
Taken individually, tech literacy and relationship building are valuable in their own right. But when paired together, they play a central role in collaborative accounting. Collaborative accounting is one of the newest accounting models. It puts new tools to work to improve communication and productivity between clients and accountants—and create better working relationships.
Here’s what you need to know about the tools that support collaborative accounting.
The importance of collaborative accounting
Collaborative accounting is more than just using software to run your practice. The goal of collaborative accounting is to simplify things for both you and your clients. It implements the latest technology to collaborate with clients by communicating in real-time, expediting repetitive tasks and, ultimately, working more efficiently.
The benefits of collaborative accounting include rapid communication, centralized information, less infrastructure, and task automation. Let’s look at each one of these in turn.
Instead of waiting weeks for a document to be signed in the mail or meeting in person to hear your client’s opinion on a decision, you can now exchange documents and ideas in a matter of minutes.
Back-and-forth emails and phone calls to track down documents or answer questions about accounts is hardly a productive way to spend an afternoon. With tools that support collaborative accounting, clients can now check in the cloud-based software or client portal to gain access to all of the information they need.
Instead of paying high prices for on-premises software (especially if it requires physical hardware to implement the system), cloud-based collaborative accounting software offers less costly, subscription-based plans—all while increasing data security for firms and their clients.
Tedious tasks like invoice creation can eat up hours of time, but software automation takes care of it in the background while you work.
When you understand the importance of collaborative accounting, you can maximize efficiency by putting the right software tools to work for you. Stop wasting time with outdated models—instead, implement software upgrades to improve client collaboration.
Critical software tools for collaborative accounting
Any time you need to implement a change at your accounting firm, it can be daunting to get the team on board—but the value of collaborative accounting is too important to ignore.
With benefits like increased billable hours and better client satisfaction, look for the critical software tools described below to boost your tech stack for collaborative accounting.
Using a disconnected communication system to share information with your clients makes for unnecessary confusion. Instead, use a secure feature that allows you to keep all your communication with clients in one place.
Client portals solve common problems in the accounting pipeline. If you have ever tried to send a large document via email, for example, you know what a pain it can be. Client portals offer unlimited storage, allowing you to upload to the portal every document your client needs to review or sign. No more playing phone tag or sending emails back and forth.
Another time-consuming practice is collecting payments. When you send invoices by mail, it can take weeks to receive payment—an inconvenient reality for both accounting firms and their clients. But with your client portal, you can offer online payments. Clients can save their credit card or bank information in the portal, so all they have to do is review the invoice and pay. They can even pay from their phones from any location.
Secure file-sharing and e-signature
As great as client portals are, they don’t work for every client. Secure client portals require a password, which can be a barrier to entry for some clients—and if a client has to reset their password every time, they may get tired of it and want to go back to older, more familiar systems.
Even if you have clients who are reluctant to use a client portal, though, you can still offer secure file sharing and e-signature services. Instead of having to use items like password-protected PDFs, you can use link-based sharing to simplify the process for clients who are wary of having too many passwords.
Similar to a client portal, these services allow you to send files and accept signatures through email. Thanks to high-level security features like the SHA-256 encryption algorithm used by the NSA, your client’s information will remain secure.
On any given day, accountants complete several mundane tasks that interrupt more important workflows. With software that has client collaboration in mind, you can speed up these simple tasks and focus on the more important client work.
Project management software offers features that automate project planning. For example, use project templates to create customized workflows for each type of client that your accounting firm takes on. Whenever you have a new project for one of those clients, you can automatically populate a series of tasks to assign to your team with a project template.
Other helpful features include intuitive due date calendars to keep you abreast of important tax deadlines. The software notifies you well in advance of dates for extensions, filing, and more, so you never pay a late fee again.
Additionally, automated billing features like retainer invoicing allow the billing process to happen independently of you and your client. You can bill your client automatically for a set amount of work every month, and your client can schedule a payment to go through on a certain date with information saved on file. No more late or missing payments.
Flexible billing practices
Every accounting firm is unique, and so are its clients. That’s why it’s important to implement billing practices that are flexible and client-friendly (while still being profitable).
As you implement collaborative account practices, make sure your billing software offers:
- Batch invoicing to create, edit, and send similar invoices at the same time from one screen
- Manual invoicing to manage more difficult invoices on a granular level with customized line items and detailed formats
- Recurring invoicing to release your time records on a specific date every month for clients if desired
Mango Practice Management maximizes client collaboration in one robust software system
Mango Practice Management’s legal practice management software was made by accountants, for accountants, so you can trust that we know the exact tools you need to promote client collaboration. Our all-in-one accounting software stores all your critical client information in one place, so you don’t have to jump between different software platforms.
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To learn more about how our client-friendly suite of software tools helps you scale your firm, stay profitable, and get more done with less busy work, schedule a demo with us today.
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