How professional firms will increasingly engage with their clients in 2017

Business world is changing because of the rate of mobile adoption of devices such as smartphones and tablets.

2016 is the year that the mobile became supreme. The tipping point came early with the publication of the 2016 Ofcom report into ‘Adults’ media use and attitudes’, which revealed that smartphones had replaced computers for internet use and two thirds (65 per cent) of all adults now use their smartphone to go online.    

In today’s mobile world, the smartphone is the ‘glue’ that binds people and information, businesses and their clients together. A new world is opening up. But where is this new mobile world set to take professional firms such as accountants, financial advisers and lawyers in 2017?   

There can be no doubt that the business world is changing because of the rate of mobile adoption of devices such as smartphones and tablets and their use will undoubtedly increase over the next 12 months. 

These devices are now used for all kinds of business activity: for talking to customers, for raising quotes, creating invoices, capturing receipts and for searching for information, guidance and help that is relevant to their business.  A smartphone or tablet holds all that’s important to that person, whether its choice of music app, sports app or financial app.

Capturing data digitally

The transformation of the tax system by HMRC to fit the digital age will result in major changes to the way accountants interact with their clients. The new system is still in the planning stage with a consultation period ending in November 2016. Following that, the time scales for the introduction of the new Making Tax Digital regime will be announced and Business UK will need to adapt to making quarterly returns online.   

This change represents a real opportunity for accountants to harness the power of mobile technology and change the way they communicate with their clients.    Because businesses will need to electronically record their income and expenses and submit a summary of that information electronically to HMRC, accountants can help make the process simpler by providing a collection point for this data. And the most obvious place to collect and share this data in the new mobile world is via an app.    

A custom app quickly becomes the first point of contact for the client and it can also provide on-the-go access to online accounts and to the client’s accounting software of choice including Xero, Kashflow, Sage or Quickbooks etc.   

The client submits all the core information required using the app in a way that will help them get used to the process in advance of the introduction of the new regime and smooth the transition.    

With an app, it is possible to provide a unique and high value way to provide clients with advice and help at their fingertips in a way that until now has not been possible. Every time the owner opens his or her smartphone, the firm’s icon is immediately visible and it provides an easy and effective way to reinforce the position as a key business adviser by bringing all the information, calculations and systems into one easily accessible place. An app also proactively promotes the firm and its’ services to staff, business partners and prospects.   

Effective messaging within an App

Every week it seems there are reports of law firms having their emails hacked and clients ending up transferring funds to fraudsters’ accounts. And this problem extends to all professional service firms that hold confidential client financial information and will not go away until an alternative to email is found.    The Ofcom report found that apps are seen as a trusted method for interaction and people use the same few all the time so this would appear to be the natural next step for firms looking for optimal security. 

All messages can take place within the app, which ensures that the client knows that any message has come from his or her accountant and not someone claiming to be so. These ‘push notifications’ are created easily and sent to the client’s smartphone instantly and research shows that they are always read, with a 93 per cent open rate. The other bonus is that these push notifications are shown to be six times more effective than email marketing.    

Mobile is the way forward and professional firms will need to be visible on their clients’ smartphones? Apps help cement relationships by becoming the go-to anchor point in the always-on, mobile world. Whenever the client needs information, the advisor is literally just a tap away – even when the office is closed. Only today, it goes much further than that. 

The app is not just a symbol of modern thinking; it’s a tool that has a key role to play in reducing the cost of advice and developing new ways to engage consumers. It’s this ease of accessibility that is helping professional firms to ‘lock-in’ their clients’ loyalty. Ask yourself, are you or your firm visible on your clients smartphone? Are you and the services you provide important enough to your clients to be permanently available and accessible on their device so that getting business support or communicating with you would be quicker and easier? Do you really want your clients turning to Google or another app instead?  

Mobile technology is a tool for business to leverage in a similar way to websites 10 years ago. Apps have now gone mainstream and will continue to grow in popularity in 2017 with smartphone users spending 90 per cent of their time within an app. With all the evidence pointing to a clear preference for business communication within an app, professional firms will need to rethink how they engage with their clients. As it is clients that are driving this change, we predict that 2017 will be the year there is a landslide change in their use. Apps are the way forward.

Joel Oliver, CEO, MyFirmsApp
Image Credit: Nito / Shutterstock

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joel Oliver is CEO of MyFirmsApp, app and mobile technology in the professional service sector company.