WHY IS A CLIENT PORTAL IMPORTANT TO THE FIRM OF THE FUTURE?
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What an exciting time to be a business owner. New technologies are being introduced almost faster than we can digest. I remember a day when upgrading was an option. Now we can no longer buy software and hardware for more than a few years without considering major upgrades. As these days pass, we need to embrace things that can make a difference just to remain competitive. The one technology ready to take front stage areclient portalsand we better not ignore them.
Client portals can become part of the digital face of your firm. They become one of the connection points between you and your client. In these fast paced times of instant access to data and high demands on immediate service a portal can offer your firm a high tech solution for one more contact point with your client. This additional connection with our client’s costs us very little time and money. This fast paced world has taken away some of the personal service we prided our business on, thus the portal returns one way to express personal service. TheCPA Practice Advisor reported in 2011 that less than 30% of firms have embraced client portals. However, that number was nearly double from the year before. Use of portals is on the rise and this digital connection point is an opportunity we need to take advantage of.
Portals not only connect you and your clients, but provide a means of data transfer. The times of transferring information on USB drives or CDs is past. Just like floppy drives, other media devices are no longer needed. They have been replaced with digital connection through the web. Imagine sending a Form 8879 to your client through a secure portal and receiving the signed copy directly into your document management system, integrating it as a part of your workflow software. Portals allow the secure sending of final tax returns to a portal for your client to retrieve whenever they need to. Make sure your Practice Management software integrates due date and workflow. An integrated document storage system with a portal is even more powerful to the forward looking firm.
New ideas about client interaction and service are developing quickly. Taking advantage of these ideas make client portals extremely important to firms of all sizes. One of those ideas is driving your clients to your site, which is where they log into your branded portal. This provides one more opportunity for connection. More developed client portals create an environment to sell more services to existing clients. From your site you offer services like payroll and accounting services. A good portal allows other messaging as well. Messages about tax information, deadlines, firm announcements and even messaging about return status and estimate tax information can be displayed on your portal. The right portal does this all while being branded as part of your website with your colors and logo.
Some portals have added invoice delivery and payment and still others offer mass emailing and marketing campaign features. Technology is empowering owners to take control of their firms if they are willing to implement new firm practices and policies and let go of “old” technologies. New technology is causing us to look at processes and evaluate what changes could do for our practices. Embracing these new changes can also create a better life work balance. We will realize the benefits that drove us to business ownership when we first decided to venture out on our own. Benefits like greater freedom of schedule, less work and greater profitability. If technologies are implemented well, we will make these self-employment goals a reality.
The way we serve clients is changing. Portals by the very name connect us client to firm, creating long lasting relationships which help us retain our clients. Portals also help us cultivate more profitable relationships with our existing clients, while spending less time than traditional methods. Clients also spend less time and experience improved services. When our client can engage us when they decide and as frequently as they need, we provide a whole new value. Research conducted by 2020 Group USA with over 6000 accountants responding, show that the biggest complaints about Accounting firms is that they don’t return phone calls. We are all very busy, but clients need to connect with us. Using a Portal can provide a place for the information the client seeks when calling us. This needed digital connection is a reflection of our services and firm, so don’t ignore this opportunity to connect with your clients with a portal. Firms of the future are recognizing how important this is to a firm’s success.