Is Your Firm a Smartphone or Flip Phone?

Many firms today resemble the accounting profession equivalent of flip phones; basic, reliable, but not so advanced when it comes to technology and services offered. But, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Before smartphones came along, flip phones were very popular, providing the basic functionality we expected. But when smartphones hit the market, they introduced enhanced features previously unavailable in mass-market mobile phones. These versatile devices offered better service quality, a variety of communication means, seamless access to the Internet, a universe of apps, productivity tools, and robust integrated cameras.

 For many, it’s hard to imagine life without their smartphone. Those who have yet to experience a smartphone may feel that a flip phone provides all the basic functions they need but are unaware of how modern technology can benefit them.

 Is Your CPA Firm a Flip Phone?

For many years, the accounting profession was not dynamic and evolved very slowly. By and large, the same core compliance services comprised most of the revenue generated by firms despite wishful references to service diversification. This stagnation parallels how it took over two decades for mobile technology to make the leap from bulky cell phones to sleek flip phones to the game-changing smartphones.

Even in 2022, many accounting firms principally focus on accounting compliance and tax preparation, and still provide the same services in the same ways they always have. These firms are the accounting industry equivalent of flip phones. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

 Today’s accounting firms should be more than tax return preparers and financial statement providers. Accountants should rapidly evolve with new levels of functionality – like smartphones – offering customized and unique services while capitalizing on innovation to help clients attain their business objectives.

 The Transformative Power of the Smartphone Mentality

 In the accounting profession, “advisor” is a loosely used term. To truly be an advisor, experts need to be actively involved with clients by having conversations beyond debits, credits, and taxes.  Advisors should focus on adding value by tapping into networks and facilitating expanded services that adapt to the unique needs of their clients.

 Smartphones revolutionized the idea of what it means to own a cell phone. By the same token, progressive accounting firms are transforming the business model of accounting.  The services and networks we provide as accounting professionals are much like the apps on our smartphones.  Just as apps need to be regularly updated, advisors need to consistently reevaluate services to ensure they are improving and providing more value to clients.

 Of course, accounting firms can provide financial statements and tax returns that look the same as they did in the past.  However, with a smartphone mentality, standard financial reports will include analytics with specific explanations on how business owners can leverage that data to take action.  Moreover, rather than just handing clients completed tax returns, proactive advisors will use a client’s tax return to clearly and succinctly show the tax benefits and implications of certain actions rather than just deliver the final deliverable and payment vouchers.

 How to Put a Smartphone Mentality Into Action

 The following are four steps your CPA firm can take to put a smartphone mentality into action:

1. Do a needs assessment with your clients

Talking to your clients first is crucial. To effectively add value, the best approach is to interview clients to understand their needs and determine what services will be most beneficial in meeting those needs.

Rather than spending time reinventing the wheel with implementing or acquiring services that may not impact your clients’ bottom lines, interviewing them enables insight into their goals and what they need to fulfill those goals. With these insights, you are ready to apply smartphone strategies.

2. Provide visually appealing reports

Sending deliverables to clients in an updated, sophisticated way is critical to becoming a smartphone firm. Financial advisors typically present their materials in a visually appealing, user-friendly format. CPA firms should adopt this approach and consider hiring marketing and data analytics experts to improve their deliverables. External data, such as market and industry trends, should also be included in these reports.

3. Employ a “push notification” strategy

Push notifications allow smartphones to send valuable snippets of information to users quickly. CPA firms can also benefit from this approach. In addition to monthly newsletters, CPA firms can send brief, useful information to clients on a more frequent basis. We live in a fast-paced, limited character world, and incorporating this approach will modernize client communications.

4. Upgrade your services regularly

Smartphones are upgraded at least every one to two years, and apps are updated much more frequently. CPA firms also need to have intentional and periodic service enhancement discussions within their teams to prevent their service models from becoming stale. CPA firms need to evolve purposefully, otherwise you will miss the opportunity to upgrade your client’s service experience.

 A smartphone mentality can be transformative for accounting firms, empowering them to function beyond expectations.  Avoid being stuck in the past – seize the opportunity to leap into the future, become an invaluable partner to your clients, and upgrade your client service experience.

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