What will your clients want from your accounting firm in 2022? Even as the country continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, most indications point to a new year filled with change and opportunity. Firms willing to adopt new technologies and prioritize employee and client experiences will be in an ideal position to attract new clients and keep current clients happy. Here are three trends to know for the coming year.
Trend 1: The Great Resignation
By the end of October 2021, there were approximately 11 million job openings in the U.S., according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Dubbed “The Great Resignation,” firm owners and managers found themselves lacking staff just as businesses started reopening to the public. It’s understandable why so many employees saw a need for change after a tumultuous few pandemic-infused years, and the trend will likely persist into 2022.
How does The Great Resignation affect your client experience? If you don’t have a stable workforce, clients may experience longer wait times for services and have to work with unfamiliar faces. CPA firms must project an image of trust and stability, so when a company has consistent turnover, it signals your customers something may be wrong in the organization.
It will still be challenging for CPA firms to find and retain talent, but understanding the employee mindset helps. Your employees want:
- Flexible work schedules. Working from home is hard to give up after months of spending more time with family and not having to commute. Offering a hybrid work environment (working in the office for part of the week and working remotely for the rest) or permanently letting employees work from home may help keep talent from seeking greener pastures.
- Skills training. Many surveys of employees show they often felt stuck in place. One way to help is by offering them skills training to improve their work experience and knowledge. Called “upskilling” in a PwC Global report, a survey shows 77% of respondents want their employers to offer ongoing programs that develop their skills and abilities.
- Engagement. A recent Gallup poll found 74% of disengaged workers were either actively looking or keeping their options open for new work. The message is clear: Keep employees engaged or lose them to another firm. Because what engages employees varies by the individual, the solution is to ask and understand each staff member’s motivation. Regular one-on-one conversations about what employees expect and want from their positions show them you value their worth and are willing to make changes to keep them around.
Trend 2: Digital Solutions
The last couple of years has necessitated consumers and business alike to embrace, or at least accept, digital solutions for more transactions, including accounting services. From cloud-based accounting programs to e-signatures, customers expect their accounting firm to provide user-friendly, time-saving, and convenient technology for communications and transactions.
- Use technology to improve services. With more and more consumers and businesses using accounting software programs, CPA firms will need to use sophisticated technology in different ways to help their clients. For example, predictive software solutions that use data analytics to provide clients with valuable insights are necessary to help them make smarter financial decisions in their personal and business dealings.
- Security remains a concern. Increased technological communication and the transfer of data over cyberspace naturally create additional security fears within and outside the organization. CPA Practice Advisor predicts in 2022, we’ll see increased outsourcing of tech security to experts, such as managed security services (MSS) and cloud providers with advanced security resources and tools.
- Increase accounting automation. According to a 2020 World Economic Forum report, the need for bookkeeping and data entry tasks will decrease as accounting automation usage increases. However, on the positive side, firms that adopt automation solutions have more time to devote to offering other services to their clients, such as personal financial advice and creative solutions for business customers. In addition, automation saves CPA firms on internal costs, making the firm more competitive.
Trend 3: Customer Experience
As expected, the endeavor to improve customer experience is here to stay and even more critical in an uncertain economic environment ready for something different. Consumers forced to change old habits found new resources and new companies to patronize, so the atmosphere is ripe for customer acquisition. Especially in the accounting sector, an outstanding customer experience must be reliable, intuitive, cohesive, and tailored to each client.
- Expand niches. The days of general financial advice are long gone. Referral-based marketing works well, especially when targeting clients in similar industries or with like financial circumstances. Your firm benefits by serving new niche markets, and customers benefit from the firm’s expert advice and experience.
- Add new services. Creating new offers grows your firm by diversifying services when the need arises. Clients appreciate knowing their accounting firm is up on the latest trends, so be sure to be proactive in adding services instead of reactive. For example, offering customers checklists or helping them determine which business permits and licenses they require are simple additions that show your firm has their specific needs in mind.
- Stay human. Finally, too much technological adoption can put your firm at risk of dehumanizing the customer experience. When customers reach out via social media, website chatbots, or email, you can still place a human touch in the interaction by using employee names and encouraging customers to call in person if needed. In addition, use a company-wide customer relationship management (CRM) program to give individual client data to relevant employees, so employees are informed about client history and can better serve their needs.
Nellie Akalp is a passionate entrepreneur, business expert, and mother of four. She is the CEO of CorpNet.com, a trusted resource and service provider for business incorporation, LLC filings, and corporate compliance services in all 50 states. Nellie and her team recently launched a partner program for accountants, lawyers, and business professionals to help them streamline the business incorporation and compliance process for their clients.
See inside December 2021
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