The excitement of acquiring a new client can sometimes make accountants miss out on one of the most important phases in the accountant-client relationship: onboarding.
This is according to Nadine Chetty, Cloud Accounting Specialist at E-Comm Accounting Solutions and Intuit Trainer/ Writer Network Member who explains that the onboarding process should incorporate training, technologies and orientation. “We need to train our clients on how we want them to work with us and show them that cooperation will not only make our relationship thrive, but their business too.”
Chetty shares that breaking down the client onboarding process into simple steps can help prevent overwhelming clients and ultimately lead to a stronger relationship in the future. She elaborates on these below:
1. Acquiring information
At the start of the onboarding process, accountants need to gather crucial information from their client. To ensure that they are not overloaded with requests for information, it is suggested that a list be created which can be broken down into sections such as Payroll, Value-Added-Tax, Income Tax, Personal Tax and Daily Operations.
2. Compiling an onboarding questionnaire
A major part of the onboarding process is asking the right questions. A questionnaire is best answered when sitting with the client instead of via an email as more valid information can be extracted this way. Asking the questions in person also makes the whole onboarding process that much friendlier. Make sure all answers have been jotted down and saved to a cloud storage platform like Microsoft One Drive so that the information is secure.
3. Creating an engagement letter
An engagement letter should contain what the client’s needs are and what services and solutions the accountant will be providing, along with their fee structure. Once the client has gone through this and agreed to all stipulated details, the accountant will be less likely to experience any scope creep and, going forward, there will be no surprises for either party. An app that can assist with this is Practice Ignition which turns proposal, terms of service and payment collection into a single, smart contract.
4. Training the client on cloud accounting software
Cloud accounting is revolutionising the way accountants and their clients work together. This is because accountants can access their clients’ information from anywhere, at any time and in real time, enabling them to immediately advise their clients who, in turn, can make better business decisions. Training needs to be provided to the client to show them exactly how the software will benefit them. The client also needs to become confident in creating an invoice on their own or snapping an expense. Patience is key when it comes to training because this might need to be repeated more than once.
5. Sending a welcome package
This should consist of a cheat sheet with all of the accountant’s business information and some key dates that the client would need to remember, as well as answers to some common questions – anything that would be beneficial to the client in the beginning of this journey. A small gift, such as a branded pen or t-shirt, can also be included. Essentially, the welcome package should make the client feel special and not like just another number in the practice.
6. Getting the project going
This is where the accountant takes all the information gathered and performs the duties as per the engagement letter. Once the work is rolling out, inform the client about the turnaround times that they can expect so that they are always in the picture.
Whether this is done face- to face, telephonically or over a virtual call, it is vital to check in with the client. Ask them how their business is going, how they are finding the accounting software, if there have been any hiccups along the way etc. This makes the client feel that their accounting professional is there to help their business grow. Remember that if issues are caught early, the client will be happier.
“A good client onboarding process should not only retain the client, but also encourage them to buy new services from their accountant in the future. While it is important to do onboarding with new clients, it is also crucial to redo it with existing ones to renew the relationship,” concludes Chetty.
For more information, visit https://www.quickbooks.co.za.