From XU Magazine, 
Issue 21

Hitting deadlines without the headaches

Top tips from the Senta support team

With the end of the calendar year looming, and the busiest period in UK accounting fast approaching, many practitioners are keen to do things differently this time around to avoid an ugly bottleneck of last-minute tax returns…

Senta has worked with hundreds of practices in 20 countries, and our support team has helped solve many of the biggest problems faced by accountants when it comes to managing deadlines. Here each member of the team reveals their top tips for practices who want a smoother journey towards their most-dreaded deadlines.

Even though tax returns and other compliance are ultimately the client’s responsibility, they may blame the practice if things don’t get done on time – fairly or unfairly. So, what can you do differently right now to make sure you hit every client deadline?

Workflows make for an easier time

Firstly, if you’re on top of your internal processes you will have identified all of the tasks that need to be done for your clients. You can offer a repeatable, consistent level of service by building these standard tasks into your Senta workflows. This makes your work much more efficient and manageable. Obviously there will be times when you need to set up special tasks on a per-client basis, and Senta caters for this.  But, wherever possible, try to standardise your service… you and your clients will reap the rewards of greater ease, efficiency and consistency.

Chase clients early and often

Accountants are pretty unanimous in their dislike of having to chase clients for information. Start this process as early as possible – now, if you haven’t already – by sending out automatic emails via Senta to remind your clients of the deadline, outlining exactly what you need them to do. For greater impact you could enable auto-chase or send a followup text message, too.

But with these fundamentals sorted, what does the Senta support team recommend for achieving greater success in hitting deadlines?

Louise Sellars

Head of support

Louise points to automation as a key tool for supporting timely tax returns.

“Some practices have achieved great things using APIs and integrations to automate as much of their work as possible,” explains Louise. “Zapier,  Microsoft Flow and Integromat are just a handful of the many tools out there that work well with Senta.  We’ll be rolling out some extra support, as well as richer integrations, in the coming months, to help our clients harness the power of automation.”

Laurence Chater

Implementation specialist

Laurence has noticed that some practices are making full use of production dates to help encourage their clients to return information in good time.

“Practices can set a production date in Senta and automatically communicate this to a client so that they know when their deadlines are,” says Laurence. “It’s also easy to reschedule work when you need to by changing the production date for a job – which makes for a nicely organised task list.”

Laurence’s tip is going to work especially well with Senta’s new Kanban features, which should help to highlight work bottlenecks, and scheduling features which will intelligently balance workload.

Production dates and scheduling features

“We’re about to roll out a couple of handy features around production dates, including a new Kanban-style job board that shows jobs in an intuitive way and lets practices drag them around to reschedule,” explains Phil Murphy, Senta’s CTO. “We’re also introducing automatic strategies that will distribute work sensibly so that production deadlines are achievable. This should make the overall workload much more manageable. In the future, Senta will learn which clients need more attention earlier in order to hit their deadlines.”

Kaya Sampson

Client support adviser

Kaya is interested in looking at how practices can support their clients in successfully meeting deadlines.

“I think it’s really important for practices to use their onboarding process as an opportunity to explain to new clients how they work – and give them all the help they need to get into the swing of things,” says Kaya. “Clients need to be aware of the deadlines you need to meet, and how they can work with you to achieve them. You could send them a user-friendly compliance guide, or maybe send them a series of emails – just to walk them through the things they need to do. This gets the relationship off to a good start.”

“You can also use the new Deadlines section in Senta’s client portal to show clients when things need to be done by. They can check this any time!”

Stergios Varelogiannis

Client support adviser

Stergios encourages practices to streamline the way they handle queries during compliance work.

“Practices often have queries for clients, and getting answers to these can cause huge slowdowns in the amount of work that gets done,” says Stergios. “Rather than having questions and answers firing back and forth by email and phone, practices can use the new Q&A feature. You can ask and answer questions without leaving the job… and clients love the confidentiality of the secure client portal.”

Get your clients invested in compliance

Although getting your clients to provide information in good time is critical, it’s also important to cut clients a bit of slack. Clients outsource their compliance work because they aren’t equipped to do it themselves – whether it’s down to lack of time or know-how. Often clients don’t take action when you need them to simply because they’re not engaged with compliance.  But as the experts, you can change that.  A quick bit of advice can highlight the benefits of compliance and get clients more invested in it. By having a discussion about how to present their accounts more effectively, or how they might be able to save tax, they’re likely to become a lot more committed to the cause!  Better yet, this type of conversation might open the door to future advisory work.

Once you’re taking advantage of all the tools and features in Senta that support your practice’s processes, you should find that you have fewer job bottlenecks and that you and your clients meet deadlines more easily. There will always be a few clients who prove tricky to coax in the right direction, but if the majority are on track you will save yourself a lot of stress at the eleventh hour.

Why leave it there?

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