The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the way the accounting industry does business. According to AccountingToday research, 89% of firms had employees working remotely in 2020. This resulted in decreased office and commuting expenses, better work-life balance, and increased tax preparation and bookkeeping speed due to technological automation. So naturally, most of these firms are not interested in returning to the in-office meetings and document drop-off model – despite decreases in productivity. Chances are that your firm is the same.
The challenge here is that keeping up with new technology requires plenty of effort from the company and client alike. Even if a client portal is the best and provides an excellent customer experience – some people are not too tech-savvy and are reluctant to change and learn how to use it.
How do you deal with non-tech-savvy customers? Read on to discover several surefire techniques based on TaxDome’s expertise.
Understanding the reasons behind the inability to adopt technology
The majority of such frustrating cases can be split into two groups:
- Older customers who are non-tech-savvy
- Stubborn clients resistant to change.
The former group can be handled quite easily by providing adequate training, encouragement, and explanations, so they can learn how to use your new client portal software. On the other hand, the latter group will require profound persuasion and compelling arguments – yet could even prefer to depart.
Tips for dealing with older clients
Here is how you can tackle this challenging scenario:
- Invest time in preparing step-by-step guides, explanatory videos on using the client portal (like this one), and educational emails on working with the software you use. The more effort you dedicate to this from the get-go, the fewer frustrated emails and phone calls you will have to deal with during busy times.
- Show them the value they get out of it. Using a client portal can save them time and money commuting to your office – and be as simple as viewing their family album on Facebook. For example, according to recent industry insights published in Accounting Today, 70% of customers would switch to tech-savvy accountants allowing them to take photos of their documents for easy sharing.
- Some older clients don’t trust new technology, but as they also don’t trust the mail system anymore, you can use this situation to your advantage by convincing them to use the portal.
Of course, suppose most of your customers have gotten used to using a client portal to submit documents and pay invoices. In that case, you can spend more time helping your more senior clients handle these tasks similarly. Sometimes, all they need is some help and encouragement.
By showing them the value they can get from the client portal and by assisting them in learning how to use it, you can help a significant portion of your non-tech-savvy customer base to cross that technology chasm.
But what about the stubborn ones?
Tips for persuading stubborn clients
At first glance, some of these tips look like no more than common sense – but ask yourself whether you honestly follow every one of them in your practice. If not – perhaps you shouldn’t put all the blame on clients.
- Have one predictable place for clients to interact with you. For example, a client portal. Don’t force clients to use multiple tools to upload documents, pay bills, message you, etc.
- Emphasize that the portal is for their security and you want to protect their information.
- If switching from a bricks-and-mortar model to a remote one, you should have a transitional year: half remote, half in the office. It helps implement the client management side of things, such as emailing instead of calling and sending engagement letters through the portal instead of snail mail.
- Suggest a range of options to submit documents: Upload via a secure link, drag and drop into the portal, use the mobile scanner, or upload via a digital organizer (needless to say, your accounting software should support this functionality).
- If some customers want to drop off the tax prep input and sign the final document in person – give them a choice to do only one or the other. Most will prefer to sign personally as part of the last check, so they will have to use your software to upload copies of their documents.
- Offer a discount for those who upload documents and pay online. Providing a discount can go a long way toward satisfying the customer. Try giving a discount of around $25-50 on your services if they upload the required documents through the portal before the tax season.
- Charge higher rates for offline submission or have a more expensive package if clients want to interact with you via phone or video calls.
- If you are inclined to become 100% remote, sometimes it’s better to get rid of resistant clients who don’t want to fit into your way of doing business. You’ll save masses of time, and your nervous system will also thank you.
Here is how one of TaxDome’s customers, Theresa Turner, minimized the number of clients who were only dealing with her in person, despite the inconvenience of in-office meetings during COVID-19.
“I phone clients who aren’t tech people and suggest they drop their documents through the mail slot in our door. Then, should they need to talk in person, we do it one at a time; the client stays in the lobby, and I stay in the hallway. It’s rather inconvenient for them, but there will absolutely be the need for a few to come in” – Theresa Turner.
As you can see, everything is doable if you approach this challenge with determination and the correct set of tools at your disposal.
Wrapping it all up, some customers might need you to walk them the extra mile, while others will benefit from being shown the value they will get. And some deserve their marching orders: because your nerves are worth more than their opinions, and the time wasted by arguing with them is better spent serving the clients that fit your business model.
Share your experiences of introducing non-tech-savvy clients to your business tools!