Client Experience and Perceived Value: It’s Looking Cloudy for Accountants Working with Small Business
Every day it seems there is another professional accounting or bookkeeping firm asking questions about how to get new clients for their new “online accounting” business. Most of these professionals are likely missing the point that their current clients are probably already looking at online accounting solutions and services. Just like in the days when QuickBooks was beginning to take the lead in the market; today’s increasingly popular online accounting solutions are gaining popularity with the direct users, and are bringing those solutions to the professional community (not the other way around). Professionals who wish to build their businesses on what the market demands would do well to recognize that the push to the cloud coming from their clients is a reflection of past activities, and firms riding the wave are much more likely to see success than those fighting it.
In reflection, remember that QuickBooks, unlike the other business accounting and financial products at the time, was a retail product marketed to and sold via retail and direct-to-customer outlets rather than via a channel or reseller approach. At that time, State of the Art Software (which became Peachtree and then Sage 50) was the solution preferred by most accounting professionals, yet more and more small business owners would come to the professionals with the QuickBooks product already in hand, so accountants threw up their hands and adopted (if not embraced) the software. Over the years, QuickBooks became the “go to” software for small business accounting, and many professional firms didn’t just gear up to work with it, but went as far as developing standards and practices based on the product.
With the introduction of high-speed broadband access, business Internet connectivity and affordable remote/mobile service, businesses are now finding that their options for shopping for, purchasing and implementing various solutions to business problems is possible at any time and from anywhere. Even more, social computing and the blurring of the lines between personal and business use has made it all but assured that new business owners will seek online solutions where they can access business information and perform business-related activities regardless of location or mode of access. This is what they have come to expect as consumers of information and services, and the expectation extends no less into their small businesses.
Professional firms must recognize that these evolving paradigms represent opportunity, taking advantage of cloud-based, real-time collaboration models to provide more timely value to their clients. Where the more traditional on-premises and paper-based models have flourished, the online working models representing lean process and sustainability become the focus.
The movement to the cloud for small business accounting started with the consumer, who ultimately became the small business, and who may eventually become the big business. The professionals who recognize the value of and wisely adopt cloud technologies and online application services in their businesses – specifically in terms of how they work with clients and deliver value – are the firms which recognize that the client experience and perception of value delivered are the most important elements of all.