Back on 2nd March Rob Derry posted a question on AccountingWEB's Any Answers, trying to track down a survey he remembered seeing that asked business owners what they wanted from their accountants. I only saw the item on the 6th, and was surprised on 2 counts: that he hadn't been able to find any reference to it on AW (I can't find any either), and that nobody else had answered or made any suggestions in 4 days. AA get's a good readership who are usually very active with suggestions. Actually, the survey in question was the Sage ABC (Accountants Business Collaboration) Survey conducted by YouGov and Launchpad Research which analysed the responses from 486 accountants and 2301 businesses into the relationship between businesses and their accountant. At the time, I was surprised more wasn't made of such a great set of data. If you are an accountant in practice, or a supplier working with them, this has some important data on the client/accountant relationship. For those that missed it, here are the highlights:
- 31 per cent of businesses dont think that their accountant saves them money
- Of those businesses that think their accountant does save them money, 40 per cent do not believe the savings cover the cost of the fees
- 76 per cent of businesses dont believe their accountant helps them increase their revenue
- The most frustrating element of dealing with their accountant according to businesses was surprise fees (32 per cent); no free advice (26 per cent); not talking my language (19 per cent)
- The most frustrating elements of accountants dealing with their clients was missed deadlines (77 per cent); expecting free advice (58 per cent); hard to contact (33 per cent)
- 87 per cent accountants think they inform clients sufficiently well of services offered but 26 per cent of businesses disagree
- 40% businesses and start-ups want more contact (phone/email/face-to-face)
- The biggest frustration among accountants is clients missing deadlines (77%) followed by them being hard to contact (33%)
- Businesses (32%) are most frustrated with surprise fees followed by a lack of free advice (26%)
- 36 per cent of businesses would consider have their financial data on a secure web site if it meant improved data sharing with their accountant
- 29 per cent of businesses believe their accountant could improve the efficiency and effectiveness of services by making better use of technology
- 30 per cent of businesses believe their accountant could make better use of technology to reduce the cost of services
Choosing An Accountant
- 49 per cent of businesses stated that understanding business needs was the most important criteria; competitive price was second (42 per cent); local firm was third (41 per cent).
- Accountants believe the most important criteria for a business when choosing an accountant is quality of service (83 per cent); followed by reputation (77 per cent) and competitive price (72 per cent).
"business consultants need intimate knowledge of their clients and tools that allow them to actively manage their client base."
I've sat through too many corporate presentations on "customer intimacy" related to failed CRM projects to like use of the "intimate" word. I've seen too many CRM implementations fail because they were started by one part of the company to achieve a particular objective, like better sales forecasting, or improved help desk handling, but didn't address the key question for the users who have to key in data to keep the system up to date - "what's in it for me?" Whether it is a relationship manager, somebody on reception, or an accounts senior somewhere in the organisation, CRM only works if they get something out in return for what they have to put in.
When I told Dennis (and some others) that we were launching an open source CRM product alongside our online accounting solution he was underwhelmed. That is in large part because of the bad reputation the application has for the reasons above, and because the emphasis is always on sales for the organisation, rather than anything for the client, as Dennis is so rightly raising.
Whether it is my own accountant, Alison, sending out a newsletter to all of her clients and 100 prospects (as she is currently doing), or a larger practice doing a lead generation campaign, you have to hold and track the data somewhere. To do a better job than an Access or Excel file of address details, you need a decent CRM approach to control it, which you can also use to track all of the other interactions, conversations and documents between you and your client. Better CRM products will allow some sort of "self service" aspect for the clients to ask questions and get answers, but even then the CRM package should only be a component in your overall relationship strategy. That's where collaboration possibilities of online accounting solutions, and blogs, and wikis and other interactive applications need to be incorporated in to your relationship strategy. That's why I'm meeting Sig Runde on Friday to see how Thingamy can be deployed to bring some of these pieces of the jigsaw together. That's also why the messages in the Sage ABC survey are much more important than CRM, which is just one of the building blocks you'll need to build a bridge to your client and answer the question "what's in it for them?" Technorati Tags : practice+management, CRM, wkis, SaaS, collaboration, Web+2.0