The accounting industry has become highly competitive owing to the rising customer demands for enhanced service quality. Customers have become more knowledgeable than before, and this is the reason they have become more demanding. This makes the work of accountants and accounting firms even more challenging.
Now, adding to this complexity is a challenge that is not only faced by the accounting industry but the entire world i.e., coronavirus. COVID-19 has not only impacted the health of the individuals but the global economy as well to a great extent. So, let’s get started and know what all new challenges coronavirus has created for the accountants.
Top 6 COVID-19 Challenges for Accounting Firms
- Adapting To New Technology:- Accounting firms who relied on manual processes and support for carrying out its accounting chores are more likely to get affected by coronavirus. The reason being physical offices have been shut down due to the lockdown, making remote working the need of the hour. This demands technical expertise and equipment set-up at the ‘work from home’ platform, including buying the latest software for sharing documents and files, doing virtual meetings, and more. Firms who have a lack of technical knowledge or were unfamiliar with technology usage in the past are finding it hard to cope with the same. Such firms should opt for outsourcing accounting services to leverage technology amidst this outbreak to maintain work continuity.
- Finding Substitutes for Face to face Meetings:- A good percentage of clients of every accounting firm are elderly who relied on face to face meetings for discussing their tax preparation and other accounting issues. Now, with technology becoming a necessity for everyone, elderly clients are finding it hard to switch to virtual meetings from physical meetings. Firms need to find substitutes for the same by either making clients learn and set up technology at their homes or have an intermediator who can visit them and discuss things with them in person. However, with lockdown in play, the latter substitute appears to be extremely challenging.
- Ensuring Corporate Professionalism:- With limited to zero face to face meeting with clients and employees, accounting firms have a huge challenge to deal with i.e., ensuring professionalism. Firms invest a lot of effort and time in making employees disciplined in the corporate style so that they can handle clients professionally and efficiently. However, with remote working coming into the picture due to coronavirus, firms have a new challenge to train employees virtually to not only work with the same discipline at home but to handle clients via video conferences and calls in a proficient manner. For this, firms should focus on using applications such as Firm360 that can provide them with a single platform for meeting project management, document, and client needs.
- Ensuring Uninterrupted Services:- There is no denying that coronavirus has slowed down the operations of every accounting firm, and they are finding it difficult to provide uninterrupted services to the clients. Just as we discussed above, the solution to this problem lies in incorporating the use of technology since it is the only way to keep moving forward during this time in terms of working and providing uninterrupted clients services. Also, firms need to work on a disaster management plan, which clearly defines the solutions/alternatives to ensure smooth workflow amidst any crisis, making them prepared for the future in a better way.
- Data Protection and Regulatory Changes:- Financial and accounting data is of utmost importance, and this is the only reason accounting firms face a lot of data breach attempts. This concern has grown with coronavirus as employees work from home and access data from their home systems, increasing the chances of data theft. The reason being the same type of data security measures cannot be put in place for remote working as in the office. However, firms can have a single data-sharing platform like cloud, which is not only secured but offers great convenience to clients, management, and employees. Apart from this, regulatory changes on deadlines for state and federal tax filing are making communication a must between clients and firms, with clients demanding immediate alerts in the form of website updates, emails, and more. Firms need to have a dedicated team for the same so that clients do not learn about such changes from the news channels or web but from their trusted accountants only. This, in turn, will help in ensuring the trust of clients in them.
- Closing Sales on Services apart from Tax Preparation:- Due to coronavirus, people have lost jobs, offices have shut down, and the economy has been affected severely. People do not want to spend money on unnecessary things amidst the COCID-19 outbreak.
This has made closing sales for accounting firms difficult, especially on services that are not related to tax preparation. People have a lot of doubts in mind when it comes to dos and don’ts regarding coronavirus safety, taking care of their businesses, and more.
Although firms cannot force their clients to continue using their other accounting services, but they can acquire new clients for the same by addressing their coronavirus concerns and winning their trust through the following practices:
i) Connecting with prospects by finding new revenue streams for them and forming relationships based on pandemic empathy.
ii) Establishing itself as an industry leader in the eyes of prospects by imparting knowledge regarding the coronavirus safety and providing solutions to maintain the state and the national economy.
Undoubtedly, the accounting industry is going through hard times owing to facing multiple challenges simultaneously due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Accounting firms need to incorporate the use of technology to not only help their employees work remotely from their homes but also for communicating with their clients to discuss things and exchange documents on a single platform.
However, not every accounting firm prefers remote working for its employees due to high costs associated with equipment and technical set-up at their homes, data security, and more. So, should accounting firms halt their operations?
No, instead, they should outsource finance and accounting services to renowned firms. Why? It is since they have an already established technical set-up that is equipped with the latest accounting software and a tech-savvy accounting team, providing you with cost-cutting and expertise at the same time. Also, they have years of experience in providing quality outsourcing accounting back-office services to CPAs and firms worldwide.