From XU Magazine, 
Issue 24

How to instil good accounting habits with your clients

Encourage your clients to maintain more accurate receipts, invoices and statements, with a combination of automation and habit.

Accounts automation works best when accountants, clients and even their clients work together in tandem. Here’s how to make that happen...
This article originated from the Xero blog. The XU Hub is an independent news and media platform - for Xero users, by Xero users. Any content, imagery and associated links below are directly from Xero and not produced by the XU Hub.
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Accountants are - or should be - well aware of the wonder of automation. This is especially true for accountants who deal with numerous external clients. With the right automation tool, clients can email, photograph or upload invoices, receipts and bank statements, and the Software as a Service will do the data entry for them.

Naturally, this is a great benefit for all parties. It frees up time, slashes the need for paper documents and ensures greater accuracy.

On the surface, it’s software, but the important part is the process. It’s an ongoing habit, as opposed to a one-off purchase.

The greatest challenge is arguably obtaining buy-in from clients. Most sole traders, whether they’re butchers, record store owners, journalists or florists, did not get into their chosen field because they love accountancy and paperwork. And some will be are reticent when it comes to new technology, especially one they have to learn to use.

A tool is only as effective as the person using it

For an accountant and their client, a tool like AutoEntry is more effective the more buy-in there is.

It can be tricky and abstract to convey the benefits of a software like AutoEntry, so identifying a customer who is a ”super user” is a good starting point. Find an example of a customer who uses AutoEntry, and now enjoys more time operating their business and less time on manual data entry.

One of AutoEntry’s biggest champions, Sarah Gibb, grew her bookkeeping practice with the help of automation. In a recent case study, she said: “If you can take a selfie and post it on Facebook, then you can use AutoEntry. It’s probably one of the most empowering updates to accounting software in the last decade or so.”

For non-accountants, someone like The Fruit Seller has an even more compelling story. They talk of the immense time-saving opportunity afforded by AutoEntry.

If you have a client already using the software successfully, introduce them to other clients. They can become evangelists, not just of the product’s benefits, but of its ease of use.

Internal education and good habits

The most successful implementations of this kind of technology involve the establishment of good habits

So, it’s worthwhile having set dates for specific data (which is easier with AutoEntry). With every mention of the deadline, remind them how much easier automation is.

Insist on clean invoices. Download the app and get your client to do the same.

Tell your clients the deadline for filing, and how to carry out filing the new way. One of the accidental benefits of recent times is that people are getting more skilled at communicating and using tech to do so: even if your client is a luddite, they should be able to take a picture and send it; or add an attachment to an email.

Communicate the time saving benefits

The best incentive for automation is, for many, the gift of extra time. Ask your client how long they spend on gathering receipts, invoices and bank statements and manually entering that data. Then ask them what they’d rather be doing instead - whether it’s taking a long break or focussing on the more fulfilling aspects of their business.

To illustrate, you could tell them what you do with your new spare time, or what other clients do.

Mention the fact that they’ll be seeing you less frequently!

Five of the most popular words in the English language are “the meeting has been cancelled”. With automation, it’s not just paperwork that’s streamlined, it’s communication.

It means that in many cases, bookkeeping is done without having to meet one’s accountant (either online or in person). Even if the meeting is over Zoom, a cancelled meeting is another spare hour given back to someone’s working day.

Talk about the pain of paper offices

The paper-filled office was already in freefall before 2020. But recent events have accelerated its demise.

Even beyond the ease of transferring documents from storage spaces to the cloud there are the actual logistics of maintaining and documenting paper documents

Compare these two practices:

  1. Photographing a receipt, uploading it, forgetting about it
  2. Keeping a receipt, filing it, accumulating receipts, then either manually entering them or handing them to an accountant.

Show them how it can streamline their other processes

With any software as a service, the people who use it the most reap the most benefits. All the efficiencies are compromised if someone isn’t using it effectively.

Something like AutoEntry can create a whole ecosystem of automated data entry and bookkeeping.

To illustrate: a sole trader might use it to streamline their data entry, and their suppliers/wholesalers can use it too, meaning that payments (or at least information about payments) are dealt with faster. A veritable chain of automated data can be created between traders, their financial institutions, their suppliers (from utilities to supplies) and their accountants.

The more effectively people use it, the more people along the chain engage with it, the faster and smoother the automation machine moves

Be patient in training them

Not everyone will be immediately on board when you introduce automation. Change can be a challenge.

But demonstrate to them how it’s especially easy on their end to maintain data entry. You’ll be trying to convince them of the return on time investment at the beginning of this process: time spent learning now will save countless hours in the long run.

It’s also important to remember that for yourself; time spent educating and training (and maybe retraining) clients will be worth it.

A tool is only as effective as the person using it

Automation tools become exponentially more effective the more buy-in it has: frequency and breadth of use makes for a more efficient, accurate business for everyone involved. Training and being trained are time investments - paying hours of dividends after an initial, small time investment.

Why leave it there?

Find out more about AutoEntry

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