When I started my independent accounting practice ten years ago the operation was probably not as widely accepted as it is today. At that time my client base was evenly distributed down the middle - 50% in the area and 50% outside the area. Over the years I have been able to move my local clients into real clients by showing them how working remotely was no different than working locally and eliminating their fears.
Often the client will dispute your performance remotely because they do not understand or are not sure how the process will work. Their fears take over and believe me they can think of all sorts of problems that will keep you working in their area!
Remember, most people do not like change. So the first step to being successful away from your customers involves answering the four most important questions:
How will your clients get their accounting information from you?
How do you return the original documents to your customer?
Where will the accounting file (data) be located?
How will the accounting file be protected?
It is up to you to define the structure of how you and your company will work away from customers. Here are some things to think about as your answer to those questions from above and define your remote work environment.
Building, Building, Building - whether you work remotely or in a client location, building a consistent structure of when and how work should be completed is essential. For example:
- You work on a client account on the same day of the week, weekly
- Provides your client with a list of the required information and a list of missing items.
- Takes responsibility for tracking those missing items.
The more your client has to think a bit and the more you can offer the consistency that your client is likely to work with.
Having the Right Tools - if you want to work remotely you need to use tools that will make working remotely easier. This includes using a remote hosting service that allows you and your client to access their calculation file from where they are. Remote services also provide a daily backup that does not replace all data files. This feature is useful for your client with the current backup method may not be as good as it should be.
Another tool you will want to consider is a scanner. As I moved into a 100% visual office, I included the scanner costs in my client setup fee. This way my client can easily scan their documents and emails or fax them to my office without incurring delivery service costs.
Next year we are also looking at installing the Sourcelink program. Sourcelink is a QuickBooks extension program that integrates texts with a specific task. The advantage here is that if you need to look at something, it is in your hands.
Keeping Lines Open - When working remotely it is very important to keep in touch with your customers regularly. The worst thing you can do is disappear from your remote office and forget about the personal part of your client relationship.
In my office, we have put in place a process to ensure that we communicate with our customers at least once a week. Our communication process also includes organizing a few face-to-face meetings throughout the year.
Another tool you might want to consider is GotVmail. In my office, we use this service because it gives my company a single phone number for the client to call. They simply enter the extension of the person they are trying to find and transfer directly to their cell phone. If an employee is unable to respond, GotVmail will take the message and send it to you by email.
It takes temptation and error to fix all kinks and once your customers start working away from you, they will start to wonder who else they can work with remotely!How to Successfully Work Remotely With Your Clients
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