How to win small-business customer loyalty

As we’ve just celebrated Halloween, here’s a story to strike horror into the heart of any accountant or bookkeeper.

John (named changed to protect privacy), a chartered accountant, was recently contracted by a small business to “sort out” their accounts. The job was only planned to last a few weeks. On his arrival, however, John discovered boxes and carrier bags stuffed full of unsorted documents; from contracts and purchase orders, to invoices and bills. As he later found out, the in-house bookkeeper had left the previous December, and for the last nine months not a single document had been processed.

No one used (or knew how to use) the two different legacy software systems, and passwords and activation keys had long since expired or been lost.

This may seem like an extreme example, but the reality is, many small businesses are still drowning in paperwork. In fact, Intuit’s recent global survey* of 2000 small businesses found that Aussie business owners spend 25 per cent of their time on admin work, and only 22 per cent of their time actually growing their business. Admin was listed as the “biggest barrier to business goals.”

So, you may ask, how can trusted advisors help?

Throw their clients a life raft

Small businesses need trusted advisors. They don’t have the time or resources for manual bookkeeping, nor the in-house expertise to find a digital solution to their problems. This is trsuted advisors come in.

Research shows that four out of 10 business owners don’t know who to turn to for advice on how to improve their business, particularly for financial measures and strategic planning.** Experienced accountants or bookkeepers, with the know-how to bridge these gaps in knowledge for small businesses, are in a position to offer strategic advice and alleviate pain points for them. And, of course, this is made so much easier by using a cloud accounting software solution.

Be involved

  1. Technology advisors: Help their clients go digital by identifying software and solutions. According to research by Intuit, one in five small businesses are yet to adopt cloud technology.*** Of those that are using cloud, 80 per cent say it has saved them money.**** Cloud technology has introduced the idea of a “single ledger” for universal access and real-time collaboration for small businesses. By helping their clients embrace mobile and cloud technologies, these advisors are providing value where small business clients need it the most.
  2. Business consultants: Business accounting software has the potential to transform a business’ entire operations. Accountant or bookkeepers can help educate their clients on how to automate their processes, from data entry to invoicing and billing. Research shows that small businesses that use mobile devices are saving as much as nine weeks per year, in time, and increasing their revenue by 8 per cent on average. By automating processes and embracing mobile, businesses will be improving their operations exponentially and enabling their advisors to provide business intelligence on where to concentrate business and sales efforts.
  3. Strategic partners: Growing their business is the top priority for many small businesses. This gives accountants and bookkeepers the opportunity to expand their offering by providing more strategic, high-level business insights to their clients. Only six in 10 business owners have an identified and trusted advisor. Businesses also indicated that they were prepared to go to an advisor who could value and benchmark their business. This data point highlights the opportunity that accountants and bookkeepers have to become that strategic partner.

Identify pain points

Small businesses are in need of skilled and forward-thinking accountants and bookkeepers, who are able to identify their pain points and provide a reactive business strategy, moving forward. The ultimate goal for strategic advisors is to gain customer loyalty and be proactive about finding areas where they can assist their clients:

  • Do they have cashflow problems due to invoicing issues?
  • Are they struggling with account reconciliation?
  • Have they mastered payroll?

Not all small businesses are aware of the value their accountant of bookkeeper can provide them as a forward-thinking and highly skilled financial expert. It’s up to trusted advisors to educate the business world about the new roles they can play for your clients.

Finding unsolved customer problems and addressing their unmet needs will help build trust with small-business clients – this will lead to long-term business relationships and, ultimately, guaranteed customer loyalty.

Sources:

* July 2016 QuickBooks Apps Survey (internal document Global and AU perspective small business survey 250816)

** 2016 Accountants Research Report (by Bstar)

*** See source #1 (Calculations for this figure: 32% small businesses from Intuit survey not using any apps to run their business. Of these, 57 per cent not using Cloud yet. 57 per cent of 32 per cent = 18 per cent – effectively “one in five”)

**** Intuit Guide to Cloud Accounting (pg. 3 & 5)

Nicolette Maury, Vice President and Country Manager, Intuit Australia

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