How Can You Get Face 2 face with a Digital Customer?

In today’s digital age, there are more customers using apps and websites than there are physically walking into a high street branch, so how are executives, managers or any level of staff supposed to provide optimal customer experiences? Brendan Woods, founder and CEO of AutoEntry, below talks to CEO Today about this growing matter.

‘Millennials’ or ‘Generation Y’; they are the children of the dot com boom and the dawn of mobile. They have significantly different priorities on how, where and when they work compared to their predecessors. They’re likely to already be a significant portion of your customers – and if you’re still adapting to the change, you’ll need to work faster, as the next even more digitally absorbed generation is just around the corner. Born in the mid 90’s ‘Generation Z’, are set to turn 21 this year. As defined by Goldman Sachs, a ‘device in hand’ generation, these ‘Digital Natives’ will account for a fifth of the workforce in just a few years’ time.

The future is digital and your clients will be too. It’s critical to engage with customers on their terms in order to further business relationships. So how must your accounting practice evolve and tailor its services in order to keep up with these valuable customers?

Update your IT infrastructure

Digital Natives are the most web savvy and app friendly generation yet, and believe that technology enables them to be more productive and mobile. Digital natives value those businesses which offer them access to the right tools and services to allow them to work how and when they choose.

These clients will want to work with technologically-savvy, digital-first firms. So to win their business, it will be critical for accountancy firms to leverage automated, mobile, and cloud-based technologies. As a first step, accountancy firms will need to restrategise their core IT offering to demonstrate to the client that they have the technological agility to keep pace with their business and flex with their demands.

Engage via the small screen + social media

As you might expect, Digital Natives will be increasingly reliant on mobile devices and using several screens at one time. Ensure your website is mobile optimised and consider running a targeted mobile advertising, or video marketing campaign. Open new avenues of communication with clients – such as Skype or Google Hangouts, allowing them to contact you at their convenience.

Social media will continue to be a prime way to promote your business and market your services. Reviews matter, so tweet links to customer case studies, join business networks on LinkedIn and grow a community via a Facebook page.

Focus on customer experience

Growing up in the ‘on-demand’ economy, with 24-hour service and mobile apps to organise your day, from delivering lunch to cleaning your house, Digital Natives expect quick, easy and flawless customer experiences from their service providers.

Therefore it will be important to understand how you can deliver excellent service in your accounting practice. For instance, make sure emails and phone calls are responded to in the same day, and offer free WiFi in your waiting rooms. Be transparent about fees and offer flexible pricing plans if possible. Strive to overachieve – if you need to deliver a document, have it ready ahead of time. Personalise your service to each and every customer and advise on how they could take their business to the next level – from available tax reliefs, to managing new hires and office openings.

Offer automated accounting

Using automated cloud-based data management software will be key in order to enable clients to access their financial records remotely, and upload paper documents such as bills invoices and receipts at their convenience and via a mobile app.

This type of software also provides the accountant with valuable operational efficiencies. The right automated solution allows you to capture and analyse scanned and photographed purchase and sales invoices, receipts, bank and card statements, automating data entry to your bookkeeping solution. Those with in built intelligence will enable you to do more, faster. For instance, certain tools can capture tax summaries by default and if requested, full line item details including description, quantity and unit price. They can remember how you categorise your expenses such as the relevant supplier account, nominal account and tax code without ever creating duplicate supplier accounts or posting duplicate invoices in your chosen bookkeeping solution. They can even match invoices to purchase orders.

To remain competitive, it’s will be critical for accounting practices to consider how they can engage with and serve these digital generations. Updating their IT infrastructure and leaning on smart technology must be at the heart of this strategy. Now is the time to push out unnecessary practices, such as manual data entry, using automated solutions to take care of the grunt work, and allowing you to focus on diversifying services. This will increasingly be the priority of savvy accountancy practices, and in so doing, will enable them to catch the eye of these customers and win their business in the long-term.

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