Microsoft 19 Oct 2017 05:20pm

Great client relationships the key to success in the digital age

With every industry facing technology-driven transformation, accountants must harness new technology to develop better services and nurture client relationships

Caption: Accountants will have to use technology to attract and retain the most valuable clients
Nothing is constant but change, according to the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus. But what distinguishes the changes that digital technology is causing in the business world today, with ever faster, internet-based communications, more powerful data crunching tools, and automation technologies that could completely change the nature of work itself in some industries, is the sheer speed at which those changes are occurring.

One important consequence of these changes in many sectors, including accountancy, will be an increase in the intensity of competition. Automation will allow more accountancy functions to be completed by machines rather than people, so accountants will need to focus more on the other side of their role: as trusted business advisers, helping clients grapple with challenges including the impact of technology-led change on their own organisations. Client relationships have always been hugely important for all accountants, but in future adding the maximum possible value to every individual customer relationship will be crucial.

Accountants will have to use technology to attract and retain the most valuable clients: by improving the services they provide, analysing business intelligence gathered from clients’ accounts and using it to help clients understand what is happening inside their own businesses. They will also need to
use technologies that allow them to improve the way they manage and nurture client relationships.

Using intelligence to offer the best service Discovery, interpretation and delivery to the client of business intelligence will depend on the use of IT solutions that can draw together data generated during key business functions. Microsoft Dynamics 365, Financials can help accountants analyse client data to deliver valuable insights about what is happening inside their businesses.

“The technology can bring together information from different parts of the business, to provide an end-to-end view of business performance,” says Richard Ellis, UK lead for small, medium and corporate customers, at Microsoft UK. “It can help clients see what’s happening: things like seasonality that they might not have been aware of before, or trading patterns and other trends that might otherwise have been difficult to detect. The client can then use those insights to fine-tune and optimise their business, and to exploit opportunities for growth that maybe haven’t surfaced before.”
Being able to deliver this intelligence in interactive digital formats that the client can access securely via mobile technologies will also become an important selling point for accountants, Ellis suggests.

“Some businesses now are almost mobile-only,” he points out. “They want a digital experience. Accountants need to think about how they are going to provide that experience.”

Dynamics can also provide secure integration between customer relationship management (CRM) and communications capabilities, helping accountants to enhance the service they give each client. A unified, cloud-based communications platform gives clients greater flexibility to choose how and when to engage with the accountant; and gives staff within the accountancy firm access to client information to help them offer a more personalised service.

The platform also allows accountants to tailor their services to suit the specific requirements of each client; and can be used to examine the requirements of the client base in order to inform the accountant’s own business and marketing strategies. The Microsoft Social Engagement tool can collect data from social media that will help to identify any problems related to your services of which you might not yet be aware, so you can address these as quickly as possible. It can also reveal trends that could lead to opportunities to attract new clients or to offer new services to existing clients.
Accountants can also scale up their solution and/or add other applications developed specifically for use alongside Dynamics 365, Financials, including additional CRM, administrative and efficiency-enhancing tools, as their business grows.

Prepare to meet future challenges

Finally, it is important to remember that the consequences of any breaches in data protection regulation become more significant after the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force on 25 May 2018. Although using Dynamics can effectively make your company more open and responsive in terms of client communications, the platform is also designed to ensure data is managed and accessed only in ways that are fully compliant with GDPR and other relevant regulations and legislation.

Ultimately, using better technology will simply mean that accountants can deliver a better service to every client. “Having an integrated approach frees up time and energy to look for the insights that can really make a difference to a client,” says Ellis.

By contrast, accountants who fail to enhance their services will surely find it more difficult to attract and retain clients. It is more important than ever to be thinking today about investments in technology that will enable your company to continue to prosper and grow tomorrow.

For further information visit: www.microsoft.com/en-gb/dynamics365/financials