Is there something we can learn from the banking sector? Yes! is the short answer and it’s all about digital engagement. Face-to-face banking relationship are a thing of the past for the majority of small businesses (SMBs). Banks really don’t think about SMBs all that much; that’s why most banks are driving digitisation with programmes that are designed to shift products online and allow customers to self-serve. The potential cost savings are significant. But so is the risk of losing valuable small business relationships. Because, as banking services become more digitised, they also become more commoditised and SMBs have less and less reason to stay loyal to the organisation. Sound familiar?

Bookkeeping services are being commoditised thanks to the rapid advancement of cloud-based accounting software and the add-ons. SMBs, like bank customers are encouraged to look for cloud solutions for their bookkeeping needs. Accountants are not be shy to talk to SMBs about offshoring a d seeking out and ‘cost-effective bookkeeping solutions’. A threat or an opportunity?

The silver lining

We think digital presents an opportunity to – in bank industry parlance – actually improve customer engagement. Short of turning up at every client’s workplace and beating the drum, how would this improvement in engagement actually work?

For your clients: this is not a simple case of subscribing to a premium plan with your preferred accounting software supplier (although that may well be a part of your platform). It means you need to be offering services on top of the data entry services. The digitisation era does not eliminate the business owner’s problems. The opportunity lies in getting to know the client’s business beyond the books; the challenges they face, and their goals for the future.

For your own business or practice: you need to be completely clear about what you might aim to deliver beyond the compliance and data entry stuff. It means having a basic understanding of business basics in order to putting together an array of solutions for example understanding the cash cycle of the business, assessing finance alternatives, a basic knowledge of credit (credit worthiness, debt recovery etc.).

Old –fashioned conversation matters in a digitised world. When talking to a prospective client – listen and take notes (customers love this – they know you’re interested). Tell them you enjoy working with their kind of business and that you have considerable experience in helping customers just like them.
It’s a highly competitive business world and the bookkeeper of 2015-16 has to grasp any opportunity to win a customer and to add value to existing ones.
Together, technology tools (for example, iPads, smartphones, Skype), an understanding of business and a willingness to have investigative conversations with the customer, will inform the creation of a digital engagement platform that makes a deeper client relationship a realistic goal.
Rather than commoditisation potentially eroding your income, turn digitisation into a new revenue stream.
See our guide