With tax season fresh on our minds – how much time and stress could you have saved this year? Whether you’re managing a high volume of clients, strict tax deadlines, navigating complex tax laws, or outdated systems – there are many factors that make this period overwhelming.
To make tax season smoother and less stressful, we’ve seen success with firms that streamline their accounting operations and automate their internal systems. Gathering feedback, documenting workflow processes, and leveraging online systems can help make your accounting firm more efficient and profitable.
This creates capacity for you to take on more clients without hiring additional staff. In this blog post, we’ll explore some tips and strategies for doing just that.
1. Gather Feedback
The first step in streamlining your accounting operations is to gather feedback from both your team and your clients. It’s important to regularly gather data through surveys or feedback sessions, rather than make assumptions.
Talk to your team
Talking to your team and gathering feedback about their experience can help you adjust your internal systems to better suit their needs. Staff members have first-hand insights into the day-to-day processes of your accounting firm. They are familiar with what works and what doesn’t.
By helping your staff members work more efficiently, they can handle more workload and are more satisfied in their roles. Encouraging open communication about challenges and inefficiencies is crucial in identifying areas for improvement.
Start by asking your team 3 to 5 simple questions about their roles and responsibilities. It’s best to mainly use a 1 to 10 scale to standardize their responses and compare future trends. For example: “How stressful was the last month/quarter/tax season?” We also prefer to end each survey with an open ended question (the magic wand question). “If you had a magic wand and could change anything about your job, what would you change?”
Talk to your clients
Similarly, talking to your clients and gathering feedback about their experience can help you identify pain points and areas for improvement. Offering a feedback form at the end of each project can help provide insight into opportunities for growth.
Asking your clients about their experience gives your firm a chance to rectify any errors, and shows your clients that you’re committed to their success. Again, we’ve seen success with accounting firms who use simple questions and a 1 to 10 scale to standardize responses. Typeform is a great online software for building simple branded surveys and collecting results.
Once you’ve gathered feedback and identified your staff and customer pain points, the next step is to analyze and document your processes. It’s important to create as many standardized processes as possible. We like to start by setting up an automated new client onboarding process and a clear, efficient process for handling tax returns.
New Client Onboarding
This refers to all the steps taken when initiating a new client relationship. Onboarding sets the tone for what’s expected by the client and helps develop trust. By developing an automated client onboarding experience, you can eliminate the risk of error and ensure all documentation is provided.
When a new client is onboarded, they get to know your accounting firm very quickly. You want to make sure that the process is as smooth and easy as possible, to help build a solid relationship with the new client.
If there is any friction or stress in the onboarding process, the client may get frustrated and look to hire another firm. It’s also time-consuming if your staff have to repeatedly follow up new clients for information. This is where online software and automated systems can help.
Here’s an example of an automated client onboarding process:
Welcome package – automatically send out information via email once the client has signed their contract.
Collect client information – an automated software like Soraban SurePrep allows your clients to upload documents to a secure online portal, including:
Personal and business details
Cloud accounting system logins
Bank account, credit card, or loan statements
Prior year tax returns and financials
Automated emails – detailing the next steps in the accounting process.
When documenting your tax preparation process, we recommend analyzing the path that at least 70% of your clients go through. Using templates like Miro can help in creating standardized processes that are clear, easy to understand, and effective.
To get started, refer to the Genwise Swimlane Template (in Miro) for developing a tax preparation process for your accounting firm. You’ll need to open a free Miro account.
Having a documented tax preparation process makes your staff more efficient, reduces errors, and ensures consistency across all clients. It also highlights areas where staff spend too much time, which could be utilized for other activities and continuous process improvements. This is especially important during tax season when staff work long hours, late nights, and manage strict deadlines.
There are two key areas to consider when it comes to streamlining accounting systems: communication and tax organizers.
Communication during tax season is crucial to ensure that clients are informed and engaged throughout the entire process.
Diagrams: Using Miro to create diagrams to illustrate processes and systems easily can help streamline your client and staff workflow processes. Diagrams detail to staff and clients when things need to happen in a simple and clear way.
Email sequence: implementing a targeted email sequence (a series of emails) can be a powerful tool to keep clients engaged. You can set up autoresponder sequences for welcome emails and onboarding, and also send regular tax updates each month.
Tax Organizers are online tools that collect client tax data and streamline accounting operations. Each of these tools have various features so it's important to choose the one that best suits your firm.
Canopy is an all-in-one solution that has both an individual tax organizer and a business tax organizer. These are pre-built and cannot be modified. Canopy integrates with other software like Quickbooks and has partnered with the IRS to make your tax processing as easy as possible.
Soraban is an online client data collection tool for accounting firms. It allows your clients to upload all tax documents under categorized sections like Engagement Letters, Personal Information, and Income. Soraban is a secure, cloud-based, paperless solution.
SurePrep is an online 1040 tax preparation software. It provides a completely digital tax workflow, which allows you to collect and organize client tax data. SurePrep has a variety of software solutions depending on your individual needs.
Typeform is an online software that allows you to create forms and surveys to collect client tax information. It’s simple, clear and keeps your clients engaged. Typeform allows your clients to answer tax questions and provide information online.
Tax season can be stressful as an accounting firm owner, but it doesn’t have to be. You can make your firm more efficient and profitable by gathering feedback, documenting processes, using online software, and streamlining your accounting operations.
Being open to new ideas and embracing change will push you ahead of your competitors and position you as an industry leader. Our goal at Genwise is to help make tax season smoother and easier for you, your clients, and your staff by automating your accounting processes.