Is your firm ready to convert your clients ready for Making Tax Digital? In part one of this series by cloud conversion expert, Matt Flanagan, we talked about how to talk about MTD with your clients. Today, we’re talking about how to design a scalable on-boarding process that will see you through April 2019 and after.
It takes between 8-11 hours to ‘convert’ your client. That includes talking to your clients about the new legislation and what it means for them, then on-boarding them onto a compliant process - potentially with new softwares and systems.
With just 5 months to go, there’s limited time to test these thoroughly before the April 2019 deadline comes around. You are not alone in this, but moving forwards requires careful, strategic planning. Segmentation is critical to help you project manage the move. It helps you know where you’re at, and is key to plan your strategy moving forwards.
Once you have segmented your clients, create a personalised plan for each. You can then roll-out efficiently for your client-base, without risking your firm or clients.
The Three Types of Client
First of all, make a list of your clients above the 75k VAT threshold, then segment them. At a high level, break-down your client base into those that are on desktop systems, manual records and cloud-based systems. Can you guide clients from manual or desktop systems into a more meaningful cloud-based world?
Below, we’ve suggested three further segments that can help you with your on-boarding plan.
1. The Technophobe
We all know them. The technophobe client may be the business-owner that brings in a bag of crumpled receipts once a year, rarely uses a smartphone and is fairly resistant to change. If you have more of these clients, the move to compliance may take longer. That is not to say it’s impossible. It just takes a slightly different approach.
Likewise, you may have some small businesses coming to you for help with the new legislation, with no previous experience of digital or paper records.
Assess them on two things. First, their mindset. Ask them if they are open to trying a new way of working? Then second, what systems are they using? Will it be simple enough to change?
If you think you will be able to ‘convert’ them to a compliant cloud-based system, run a nurturing programme. One accounting firm brought in an IT trainer, then invited clients in groups of 10 to guide them through the new technology. By doing this now, you will be helping your businesses digitise and make the most of the new technology available. The trick is emphasising gentle support, and not overhauling their systems all at once without guidance.
2. The Tech-Ambivalent Client
These are the clients that use some technology in their firm, and may have some software they love to use. If your client has demonstrated a willingness to use technology in other areas of their business, then you can use a stronger approach. Rather than being led by your client, as their accountant you can instruct what technology to use.
This is your firm, and your choice. When you introduce your clients to a new way of working, emphasise the benefits. It will make their life easier and ensure they will be compliant. You need digital transactions, and they will receive a better service as a result.
Some businesses may begin the new process and find it difficult to start with. Prepare for client objections. Check out the 4 of the most common objections here, and solutions to each.
If you are really struggling to get your client onboard or say they have heard other options, send them a formalised email offering with the recommended tools. And make sure you set clear deadlines.
If you write, “Please let me know your thoughts”, they may come back closer to the deadline asking why they are not compliant. Instead, clearly lay-out how many days there are left to MTD, and a date to email you by. For instance, write, “Please confirm before December 16th 2018, otherwise we cannot guarantee a compliant process before 1st April 2019. The cost of moving clients at the year end or quarter end nearer April may also increase.”
This approach requires honesty and transparency. It’s a difficult conversation to have, but critical to better serve your clients. Some clients will value your transparency, while others won’t. If some of your clients are not valuing your advice, this may indicate the ease of working with them moving forwards.
3. The Cloud Clients
These are the clients that are committed to cloud. They have embraced cloud technology and likely use it across in their practice. If you have lots of these clients, you will be ready for MTD and require minimal changes to your existing workflows. You may even expect an influx of clients who trust in your ability to help them become compliant.
Are you already MTD-ready? If so, get advisory-ready. Ask yourself these questions:
- How many of your clients can run a profit and loss that’s up-to-date within a week?
- How many of your clients know how much they are owed?
Look into using the cloud as much as you can for real-time data, enhancing its quality and regularity, plus reducing admin. Receipt Bank enables that process and helps reduce the number of days between getting paperwork to submitting it to you.
GET SUPPORT FROM THE ECOSYSTEM
Also, don't forget that if you need support hosting sessions, you can ask your vendors. There are people in and around the ecosystem who will help out. Ultimately though, you’ll need to identify people within your firm who can communicate the new way of working with clients. If you don’t have that, hiring someone who can should be a top priority.
So, kick off conversations with your clients with year-end by anticipating their needs and potential challenges. Then divide and conquer. Make sure each team member is accountable, and split your workload between them. Preparing MTD is a firm-wide change, which means you must involve your team to meet the compliance deadline.
Matt Flanagan will be hosting a webinar on helping you create an internal strategy to make sure your firm is prepared to convert your clients to being MTD ready, including the importance of segmentation and insights into pricing strategies.