Dext’s very own Practice Solutions Expert, Nana Guenther, CPA, CA, has led a number of finance teams through digitization projects, while increasing efficiency at corporate accounting levels. As a specialist in processes, Nana shares her thoughts on what you should do with yours come post-tax season.
It’s nearly the end of another busy tax season – but I’m not booking my vacation just yet! There’s one important piece of work that needs to be done first: the Post-Tax Season
A debrief is a vital tool for accounting and bookkeeping firms that want to keep clients happy, attract new ones, and drive their businesses forward. An effective review process considers every part of operations: nothing is off limits. It’s a chance to review all the adjustments, pivots and changes your team has had to make over the season, to understand what worked, what didn’t, and where the opportunities for improvement are.
Timing is everything; right after tax season, ideas and experiences are fresh in the minds of your team – and your clients. So it is the best possible time to get their perspectives.
So what makes a good post-tax season review?
1. Client feedback
Did you know that communication – or rather a lack of it – is the topmost reason that accounting firms lose clients? Very few businesses now want to meet with/speak to their accountant once a year. Clients want to feel supported, and valued, all year round, and the recent tax year-end is a great reason for reaching out to all your clients for their honest feedback on your service.
Be sure to update them on any changes you plan to implement to improve your service in response to their feedback, and your clients will see that you value their advice. This will really help to strengthen the relationship with your clients, which is not only important for retention, but also vital when it comes to referrals.
You never know, by going through the feedback process, you might discover something about your firm that would be a great aspect to highlight when prospecting new clients in the year ahead. New testimonials are always useful!
Requesting and analysing client feedback is easier than ever as well, with lots of tools available to you to automate a short, anonymous survey. Alternatively, you could set up a call with some clients, to do a deeper dive on their experiences of your service. Just remember to keep it as brief as possible, and focus on listening to what clients are saying. Your time is best invested in reshaping and refining your services in line with your findings.
2. Staff engagement
On the subject of feedback, the end of this really busy period is a great time to check in with your whole team – thank them for all their hard work – and identify process improvements you can make to help them be more productive and happier in their work.
This simple process of asking for their input is a sure-fire way to boost morale and improve engagement. Which in turn should result in more productivity, increased job satisfaction, and higher employee retention. These benefits could also translate into higher revenue for you.
Ask them directly: what would make their life easier at work? Stay open to critical and honest responses. This is especially important if, under the pressure of the tax season, you found the team to be abandoning processes, pulling in different directions, or morale to be low. Show your team now that you don’t want it to be like this in the future.
Even if your entire tax season was a breeze (huge congratulations and a massive round of applause to you and everyone in your team!) then there is still likely to be opportunity to improve somewhere, perhaps:
- Client onboarding, communications and relationships
- Processes, automation, and software
- Staff onboarding, training and ongoing professional development
- Work-life/balance, culture and community, etc.
Just remember, that the best time to ask for input is now – whilst everyone has fresh and detailed memories of the pressures of the recent tax season. Where possible, try and aid discussions with your team using the data you have available. That way, you can sense-check that any improvement opportunities you identify are going to impact your business in the way you want them to! This will also help you prioritise your efforts when you compile your action plan.
3. Tech stack review
Long gone are the days when this part of the review was asking the question ‘has everyone got a laptop that’s running the latest software upgrades?’. Your tech stack review needs to be deep, and two-fold.
In my firm, we tend to start by reviewing the automations we’ve implemented at each touch point of a client’s return, to identify if our processes are as efficient as they possibly can be. We ask ourselves, is there anything else we can automate? What hardware or software do we need to do this?
We then consider whether the technology we’re using is ingrained into our every day workflow? Is the whole team using the software to the best of its and their abilities? Are we fully utilising its features and functions? Could we get better analyses, and a better ROI by using more of what the software offers?
This is just half of the picture – a good tech stack review also needs to include what software you provide to your clients.
The technology shift in our sector has been game changing in the last 5 years. There’s an app for everything, and they’re cost effective and affordable. Cloud and SaaS products have completely changed the way that leading firms deliver their services, and this has fundamentally changed our clients’ expectations. Businesses of all shapes and sizes now expect to have access to up-to-the-minute financial data, via their chosen device. They also want your firm’s insights available via self-service tools, any time, day or night – not just at the end of the tax year.
So what could you add to your client software portfolio to make their lives easier and their businesses better? Would this also improve your business processes and efficiencies? Do you offer a client portal, secure document sharing, apps for capturing accurate data, on-demand access to their analyses, etc? Are all of these things integrated? Your end, and theirs?
With the right tech stack in place, you can transform the way your team interacts with clients whilst streamlining your automated workflows – and this benefits everyone.
4. Business development
Linked to the last point is the importance of considering the type of clients your firm has now, and would like to acquire in the future. The make-up of your portfolio is likely to change year on year as you add new clients and experience some attrition along the way. Key is to keep on top of this; review the split so you can identify the types of clients you want more of, then deploy the marketing tactics you need to use to attract them.
For example, a good question to ask is, are my clients tech-savvy? Increasingly, the answer is likely to be ‘yes’. This is ultimately good news for your business, as they will embrace the software that you recommend, and you’ll all reap the rewards!
It’s also worth understanding their business and tech-model, for example, whether they are or intend to be an e-commerce business could have an impact on what software your firm should:
- Adopt – to support your business efficiencies, and
- Advocate – to meet their expectations and facilitate their ways of working.
Adding ‘Business Development’ to your post-tax season review will ultimately help you stay in tune with the markets you service, and grow your competitive advantage in your space.
So what do you want to achieve in your business in the next 12 months? What needs to change to make that happen?
Now is the time to make an action plan
With all your thoughts and analyses gathered, you are now in a position to write a prioritised plan of action to bring about the changes you’ve identified. It then really is time to switch off, unplug and take a well-earned break, so you can return to your desk recharged and ready to implement.
Going through the post-tax season review process together will help you and your team focus on embedding improvements from the start of the new tax year, to make it your best season yet!
How did your firm perform this year? Download our Post-Tax Season Assessment here for a free, interactive checklist that gives you a report card of your firm’s success this past year.