By Judie McCarthy.
Working remotely is forever changed thanks to the lessons learned through COVID. But still, many firms have an aversion to change because clients are creatures of habit. Even if new technology can streamline operations and make it easier for clients to work with your firm,, there’s often hesitation before adoption. After running my own accounting practice and working with many accounting firms, I have seen how firms struggle to guide their clients through technological changes.
If you’ve struggled with this yourself, you’re not alone, but also know there is hope – it doesn’t have to be difficult!
The truth is that when you go to any professional, you should trust their opinion. For example, would you tell your doctor not to write a prescription for the best medication possible to solve your health problem? Of course, you wouldn’t. And in the world of accounting, it’s the professional who knows what’s best for the business.
In this article, I’m going to explore:
● Understanding the purpose and benefits of changes
● How to systematically guide clients through technology changes
● Steps to take to nurture clients through these changes
Understand the Purpose and Benefits of the Changes
If you’re not 100% positive of the purpose and benefits of these changes, you can’t expect your client to be on board with them. Before you recommend changes, do the following:
● Define the purpose of the change
● Outline the benefits of the change
● Jot down how these changes benefit the business
Once you’re clear on the purpose and benefits of the changes, you’ll need to create a plan on how to properly guide your clients through these changes. Every firm’s plan will likely look a little different; however, between running my own firm and working with many accounting firms, I’ve come to find there are a few key elements essential to all plans when guiding clients through technology changes. Let’s dive into those now.
How to Guide Clients Through Technology Changes
Step 1: Start with the Right Clients
First, don’t start changes with problem clients because they’ll likely discourage your team and slow the process down. Instead, begin with non-problem clients and write down some of the characteristics that make them good clients so that these are the type of clients you can focus on in the future.
Step 2: Frame it as a Win-Win
When approaching clients, you need to frame the change as a win-win. You can do this by:
● Explaining the when, the why, and the how well in advance to clients.
● Give clients time to prepare for the change.
● When framing the “why,” be sure it relates to not just you but also them. For example, the solution may be faster, more cost-effective, and more secure.
● Frame the how in advance, too. Lay out each step the client needs to take to adopt the change, timelines, impacts, and processes.
At Client Hub, we have firms go through an onboarding process to ensure that when they and their clients use our platform, both the firm and their clients are confident and fully understand the benefits.
Step 3: Onboard and Monitor
Onboarding and monitoring are crucial to successful changes. You should have processes in place that:
● Track the onboarding process
● Send reminders if invites weren’t accepted
● Offer help when clients seem to get stuck
● Verify that the client knows how to use the platform
Through monitoring and onboarding, it’s possible to help clients overcome any adoption issues they may have.
Step 4: Provide Training
Depending on the technology that’s being used, it may be worthwhile to:
● Offer training
● Provide global resources
In some cases, you may even want to consider training clients personally or creating a course on how to transition to the new technology.
Step 5: Establish a Transition Period before Permanent Adoption
Permanent adoption takes time. It’s a transition process. If you push permanent adoption too quickly, you’ll have a lot of resistance from clients. Instead, listen to the experts here and understand that forming habits takes time, typically at least 18 days.
You want to be flexible with transition periods to be as accommodating as possible for your clients. That being said, consider avoiding setting a period of adoption beyond 30 days because you do need to create a sense of urgency.
Tips for Implementing Changes
Implementing changes can be tricky – I get it. Many firms are scared to make changes to legacy clients because they’re afraid that these changes may:
● Not be welcomed by the client
● Lead to clients leaving
However, it’s also unfair to treat new clients differently from existing clients. You want both to have the opportunity to use cutting-edge technology.
Also, if the entire firm uses the same solution, it’s better for your business. You can create operating procedures across engagements that empower your team when working with clients.
Implementing changes goes back to knowing what’s best for your client. When you introduce a change, you’re not asking too much of your clients to try them out and switch. It’s a lot harder to change accountants than it is to adapt to new changes that are better in the long term.
A few tips I recommend for implementing changes are:
● If clients are resistant to change, adjust your communication. Ask the client about their concerns, answer their questions and help them overcome the objection.
● Sometimes, clients need “tough love.” Don’t be afraid to stand your ground in what you know is best for your clients (and your firm).
● Work through adoption with your team and clients to find common objections to change and the answer to them.
Finally, you’ll find that some clients are bullheaded. Change is not possible for these clients, so it’s time to consider the cost of them:
● Is it worth dealing with a time-consuming client who doesn’t respect your recommendations or changes?
● Bad clients can hinder firm growth and stop you from implementing key changes to your operation.
● Your time and sanity are more valuable than dealing with a client that refuses to adopt key changes that can help their business grow.
You need to do what’s best for your business and clients. Unfortunately, you may need to let some clients that won’t adopt changes go because they’re holding your firm back.
Change can be difficult, but with the right processes in place, it doesn’t have to be. The tips above are from firsthand experience running my accounting firm and helping many accountants successfully implement cutting-edge technology like Client Hub into their practice. Over time, I’m confident that you’ll find your own steps and processes to help nurture technology changes with your clients.
If you would like to learn more about managing nurturing clients through technological changes or Client Hub, click here.
Judie McCarthy is a QuickBooks ProAdvisor (Advanced Certified), speaker, author, experienced accounting professional, and co-founder of Client Hub. Client Hub is a one-of-a-kind, all-in-one web-based, frictionless workflow and client collaboration tool built for accounting professionals. Client Hub takes communication out of cluttered, unsecure email inboxes and into a secure, firm branded workspace. To get in touch with Judie or schedule a demo of Client Hub, click here.
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