Game of Phones: why top accounting firms are ditching the apps and pitching the plastic
Apps are our best friends. They help us socialise; they help us catch-up on the latest TV; they even help us count how many steps we’ve taken today.
It’s no different when it comes to accounting and bookkeeping. Your average cloud-based practice will offer a suite of apps for different day-to-day money tasks: Receipt Bank or Albert for managing invoices, Karbon for workflow management, and Xero or Quickbooks for accounting – the right tool for a particular job.
But there are times when an app won’t cut it. Top accountants have an extra gadget in their kit for issues like these – smart cards. We caught up with leading UK accountants to hear why a trusty piece of plastic might have the edge on their app arsenal.
1️⃣ Good data starts at the point of purchase
By offering a strong tech package, accountants and bookkeepers help clients – and themselves – get more value from their time. But gaps in the workflow undo the good work.
“Being technology focused is about helping clients become more efficient,” says Chad from Chilli Accounting; “taking away as many of the manual processes as possible - there’s more work we can do together off the back of it.”
Clients need an end-to-end solution. For Alasdair, The Creative Accountant, “Part of an attractive proposition is making sure all the software talks and, as far as possible, works with each other.”
If your expense claim process starts when your client snaps a picture of their receipts, there’s already a gap in the workflow from the moment they pay to the moment they log an expense. With smart cards, the transaction is logged at the point of sale itself - bridging that gap.
2️⃣ Your clients already know how to use a card
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to better serve your clients - sometimes it’s a matter of making the tools they know and use today better.
For Shaun of Haines Watts, technology with a learning curve is getting in the way: ”We need to get to a point where we stop reinventing in different areas of the business, duplicating time and effort."
People get plastic and can immediately integrate into their lives, so there’s that behavioural efficiency built in to the product. “Cards are a technology that people already understand.” Shaun (HW) adds that “clients get it quickly - we spend 10 minutes and you see them nodding their heads."
Needless to say, clients also love the lack of friction that comes with a card, allowing them to focus on the things that matter to their business - no FAQ required.
3️⃣ Their business card is your calling card
The App Store of accountings tools and add-ons is bursting at the seams, meaning there’s nothing to set you apart as a firm. Plastic is a conversation starter.
"We’ve had some [Haines Watts] stamped Curve cards to share,” continues Shaun (HW). “As it’s a physical card, there is something concrete to show clients.”
Company cards courtesy of The Profitable Firm, the creative agency for accountants
Likewise, for Chad (Chilli), “Cards helps us as a firm differentiate - there's a cool factor. We can pitch it as part of our toolkit we offer to make business administration easier."
In the game of phones, pitching the plastic boosts your brand and adds the personal touch.
4️⃣ Flexibility over ‘one-size-fits-all’
Every client is unique - from their business to their spending habits. A corporate software suite will cause headaches for the sole trader’s expense process, and vice-versa - what works for one client won’t work for another.
Shaun (HW) agrees; ”we really shouldn’t be ‘one size fits all’. The odd smaller office may only use one accounts offering, but the options that are ‘recommended’ should be broad enough to help most clients."
"We offer a number of ways of streamlining receipts, e.g. with Receipt Bank,” says Chad (Chilli). “But it’s not appropriate for all clients. It can be a wrong fit. We use Curve to help with general expenses a business has to take care of. For small businesses this is the bulk of their transactions."
As a versatile addition to the technical toolbox, cards bring something different to any workflow. And the accountant brings the value-add of expertise on when to use which tool.
5️⃣ Smarter cards = smarter habits
Teaching clients smarter bookkeeping starts with good habits when the purchase is made, not months later.
“Cards are about capturing point-of-sale transaction,” explains Jonathan from Raedan. “Before we would miss the details of directors’ spend - always asking ‘did they get a receipt?’. They were a barrier, as sometimes very little was recorded.”
With Curve - and other card-based apps such as Pleo and Soldo - clients get instant alerts on their phone when they spend, reminding clients to attach a receipt where they’re stood. Alasdair (TCA) agrees that “for many people, it just becomes part of their life. It enables me to be more efficient and productive, and you start to think of [expensing] as a natural part of what you are doing."
If smart phone solutions don’t fit your clients’ workflow, a card could be the tool that ties your tech together. Top accountants and bookkeepers have turned to plastic as the powerful resolution of common problems that apps leave behind.
“Curve allows us to offer something different to others,” concludes Shaun (HW), “and this is an advantage. Let's just hope their accounts are a little more in order!"
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