The golden age when accountants could service their clients sufficiently solely through compliance work has been over for a while now.
Instead, you need to add value.
This truism has been repeated many times: in these pages, at Xero’s events and in a seemingly infinite number of industry reports. But ‘adding value’ is a hazy term. Delivering real, measurable improvements to a business – the kind that convinces clients to increase billable hours and dissuades them from going DIY – remains a real challenge.
The ongoing productivity crisis in the UK hasn't yielded much positivity. Recent figures show that productivity rose just 0.5% in the last 12 months, and there isn’t much sign of anything improving in the near (or even distant) future.
But amid the doom and gloom, accountants and businesses have found innovative solutions to tired old problems. And while the UK’s productivity problems are unique, the answers identified there will benefit any company.
‘Less sweat, not more’
Before we take a look at specific tech solutions, it’s worth recapping the two ways in which a modern business can improve productivity:
- Grow revenue without an equivalent rise in resource cost
- Maintain revenue while reducing resource cost
Before the rise of cloud technology, small and medium businesses were mostly limited to choosing one of these approaches. But that’s no longer the case. With online tools, accountants can help businesses improve productivity by simultaneously increasing output and reducing input.
It’s a compelling sales pitch for your app advisory service. You can enable businesses to scale their operations without increasing their workforce, or even while reducing staff costs.
Accountants in the UK need to help clients find these improvements so they can beat the productivity trap. Anywhere else, it’s the best way to demonstrate how you can add real, measurable value.
So how can cloud apps supercharge productivity? There are countless different ways. For instance, an app might eliminate inefficiencies in the manufacturing process, increasing output overnight. Another could remove the need to hire a logistics expert to set up complex operations.
I’m going to detail one example here: using a B2B store as part of a multichannel wholesale strategy.
The merits of online multichannel as a method of growing sales are well known. But all too often, that increase in revenue comes with a corresponding increase in labour as staff have to work overtime to process all the extra orders.
Because using traditional B2B sales methods, processing a single order can be a slog.
Reducing labour with multichannel
I talked to one of our customers recently a distributor of medical garments – who dealt with over 20,000 different product variations, across dozens of different options.
Processing such complex orders over email was a nightmare. 90% would come in wrong, which meant their admin team would have to get in touch with the customer to try and get everything corrected. Often, this process would take several days, lots of calls and even more emails.
Using a B2B store resolved the issue overnight. Instead of filling in order details over email, wholesale customers get a link to a personalised online storefront. From there, they can pick their attributes by following a simple process, eliminating the errors.
A sale that used to take the team hours to process now takes seconds, maintaining output but with less resource required.
It was an amazing result, but only provides half of our B2B equation. To truly supercharge productivity, multichannel needs to simultaneously reduce labour and grow sales. Happily, it can do that in lots of different ways.
Without the need for direct human interaction, for example, selling into new markets becomes a much less daunting proposition.
Let’s look at another one of our customers – a UK-based coffee roaster – as an example. They implemented a B2B platform because rapid sales order growth exposed inefficiencies in their processes, making it clear that they needed a new system to deal with orders quickly.
But once they resolved that issue, the company realised that they could also now sell overseas in Europe and beyond without language barriers getting in the way.
Processing wholesale orders over the phone doesn’t work when English isn’t your customer’s first language – unless you bring in new personnel to cover every country. Using a B2B store, the company was able to go global without hiring any new staff.
New technology enabled them to process more sales orders than ever before while spending less time on sales overall.
Given the sheer number of apps out there that can help your clients improve productivity, perhaps the biggest challenge your advisory service needs to overcome is picking which ones to partner up with.
Much will depend on your clients: what business they’re in, and what specific productivity problems they are facing. It’s worth taking some time to research your customer base. Once that’s done, it’s time to identify which apps can help.
If that all seems daunting, then the app providers themselves will be able to provide support. At Unleashed, for example, we have a range of resources and tools to help you get started, including a step-by-step guide to setting up your practice for app advisory.