As read in Accounting Today – December 2014
Today more than ever, firms are trying to find a differentiator, an edge, a unique brand that elevates them over their competition. A new set of automated processes can be just the thing to set them apart, since simply offering tax return processing doesn’t present firms as being unique. Instead, tax firms wanting an edge are automating their office management with new technology that shows clients a unique brand experience.
Tech savvy tax offices are investigating automations for their management team to explore, and finding some interesting results. Some newly developed tax office software automations provided in practice management software include online scheduling, portal connections, lobby kiosk check-in systems and online invoicing. These new automated tax office management (ATOM) features are leading the way for the future thinking tax firms. These automations have been in dental and medical office for some time and are only now beginning to show up in tax firms. These new on-line systems are necessary to satisfy a generation of new clients’ who demand to use the latest technology. This generation demands to use mobile devices, interact through online portals, and enjoy their experience when dealing with their taxes. The tax office who embraces this generation and new automations will see an increase in efficiency, revenue, and the bottom line. In addition, firms will see a reduction in costs and errors, giving them the edge over all others.
Online Appointment Systems
Implementing online appointment requests and reminder systems can revolutionize your front office. Tax office management teams normally use manual means to manage a high volume of appointments during tax season. Things like phone call appointment management, reminder card mailings and letter confirmations are being replaced. So many efficiencies can be found by eliminating these manual systems with more client friendly technology. When this is done the firm is creating a unique brand. Practice management software with online scheduling features allows clients to request an appointment based upon a tax professional’s availability, which can be accepted or declined by an administrator. Simple and quick, the client’s needs are fulfilled effectively. This simply interaction creates an incredible experience that displays your elevated brand of service. Once accepted, the client will receive automated reminders via text, email or phone. Instead of manual calls or mailings. Clients will appreciate the ease of which they can interact with firms and this automation can become a powerful differentiator.
Using portals is a must for the modern automated tax office trying to make a digital connection with its clients. Whether your client is sending you additional source documents, reviewing their return, or being reminded of an estimate due, they will experience your firm’s efficient service. Ultimately they will determine that you provide thoughtful service. Thoughtful, because clients no longer want to commute back and forth for another visit to the tax office to pick up their tax return or drop off information. In addition, they know this information is too sensitive to just send it through the post office or in an email. They will determine that you are interested in their security and providing a high level of service. This is also attractive and a great time saver for both parties when dealing with clients who live far from the office or have moved out of state.
Portals can ultimately have a positive effect on your firm’s tax workflow too. Think of connecting tax processing to document management systems so no additional steps are needed when processing returns. The good news is that this portal interaction doesn’t replace the personal tax interview, but complements it with digital connections while providing a desired edge over other firms in the industry.
Kiosk Check-in Systems
Introducing a kiosk or iPad system in the tax office lobby instead of handing out clipboards or questionnaires during the tax interview is a unique branding opportunity. It will certainly get your clients attention. Image the expression on your clients face when the walk into your lobby or waiting room and experience a kiosk check-in system for the first time. This kind of automated tax office management will allow clients to easily check in, update their contact information and answer important tax questions all from the comfort of your lobby. What a stark contrast to filing out a paper survey with a pencil or going through a series of questionnaires. This will also affect your team and your client’s time. Your team will enjoy not having to key in updated information into your practice management software and your client will appreciate the streamlined process of getting their taxes done.
Check in systems can alert your team that a client has arrived and whether their contact information has changed since they were last seen. Even professional staff not near the lobby will know their appointment has arrived. These systems can also be used anytime during the year where a client can update their account info right online. If integrated well these changes can update other systems like Tax, GL and Email too, simplifying or admin team’s job.
Online Invoicing and Payments
Every forward thinking tax office should consider online invoicing and payments as a firm differentiator. Printing and mailing invoices is a thing of the past and can be costly to do. Not just printing and mailing costs, but admin time as well. With new automated tax office management (ATOM) billing becomes simplified and invoices can either be emailed or sent to an online client portal. In some cases PDF return files can be locked down not allowing a client to download or review them until the tax return invoice is paid. This kind of automation streamlines your workflow and reduces administration time in managing client billings and AR. Some automation includes integrated tax return invoicing directly into the practice management software, client portal and can provide automated AR reminders for collections. This is not difficult if firms will embrace technology and implement change. This change provides exceptional service and differentiates one firm against others.
Embracing New Technology
Taking advantage of these automations will provide many benefits to the firm, team, and clients—but most importantly brings firms a step closer to a new era of technology. Automated tax office management (ATOM) can accomplish this by streamlining processes, transforming firm image and improving the client experience. This can all be done at a substantial savings to the firm, because implementing new technology actually improves productivity and efficiencies creating the savings. So the real cost of new software and hardware is offset by savings. In some cases ROI is accomplished in the first 6 to 12 months. This is only possible by embracing new technology. For those embracing automation, they are perceived as taking care of business and providing exceptional service. This evidence of exceptional service contributes to the process of creating a unique firm brand. It’s truly a win, win for the tax office. So when automated tax office management (ATOM) is embraced it can become the catalyst for what firms are looking for. A differentiator, the edge, and a unique brand that makes a firm stand out from the competition.