Client Management Software for Accountants
What is Client Management Software?
Client management software is a way to centralize, manage and track all your client information. Simply put, it’s the “hub” of your critical client information, whether you are an accountant, CPA, bookkeeper, tax professional or any other professional service firm.
Now, client management sits on top of a core database (which is why it can also be referred to as “client database software”). If you’re really curious on how a database works, here’s a great article, but let’s move on, shall we?
As you explore client management tools, keep in mind that you are looking for a “source of record” application. This is the single point of truth about the client. It should be the critical cornerstone of your technology stack. In theory, you should be able to fit all software purchases into two categories, one is called a “Source of Record”, and another for “Source of Action”.
Since there are a few different types of client management platforms, let’s explore the differences between the two major ones, Client Relationship Management (CRM) vs Client Management Software.
Client Relationship Management vs Client Management Software
Client Relationship Management (CRM)
CRM’s are typically sales focused, and that is apparent in the common features in most CRM’s, such as sales forecasting reports, auto phone dialers to call prospects, and deep integrations with marketing and lead platforms. While you can store a lot of client data in these systems, they are less than ideal because the feature set is typically very limited for client driven firms (that do not care as much about sales functionality).
When you think of CRM, Salesforce is the market leader, followed by a number of major players such as Oracle and Microsoft.
Client Management Software (CMS)
Client management software is less about “sales pipeline” and more about the ongoing management of the client relationship. Client management software can go by many titles, such as client contact software or customer management software. However, they are referring to the same goal: one source of record and a single place to manage and track your client work.
Instead of sales pipeline management, you’ll see things like team collaboration, project management, and due date tracking software as core features.
Properly implementing client management software can have a huge impact on your bottom line.
“A survey conducted by Carnegie Mellon found that when organizations become better at project management, key performance metrics significantly increase. Scheduling adherence rises 50 percent. Productivity can improve by over 60 percent.”
In addition to the productivity boost, using proper client management systems will also increase the quality of the work:
“….Then there is the quality consideration, the number of defects can be reduced by 80%”
And it’s critically important that these investments protect one of your firm’s greatest assets, which is your actual relationship with your clients.
Your clients are the core of unlocking not only an amazing sense of work fulfillment, but profitability as well. One customer experience agency found loyal customers are 5x as likely to repurchase, 5x as likely to forgive, 4x as likely to refer, and 7x as likely to try a new offering.
Now that we have an understanding what client management software is and the major benefits you can receive from it, let’s dive into finding the best client management software for your firm or practice.
Finding the right fit
While there are 100 variables in finding the perfect tool for you firm, let’s explore 7 key pillars to determine the best platform for you. Even though businesses often start with price (do we go with free client management software or paid?), this is the wrong way to approach a major investment in your firm (even free has a price of time investment).
With that, here’s the criteria:
- Support and Service
- Ongoing investments
- Understanding your industry
Let’s break them down:
Simply put, what do you hope to achieve through a client management software system? Why are you looking at tooling now? If you were to fast forward 12 months after you setup the new platform, what would success look like?
It’s important to take a step back and be reflective on this investment. While you do not want to go into “analysis paralysis” and stall an important decision, understanding the basic success criteria will make the process significantly easier.
What do you actually need the client management system to solve? For example, are team collaboration, recurring due date management, manager reporting, or document upload important? What do you need inside a client profile? When in doubt, you can also start a free trial to explore the existing utility of an application, or ask the vendor for their top 10 features.
This comes down to understanding the software. Are you able to easily navigate through the tool. Does it “make sense” to how your think about your firm? If you’re unsure of which tools “make sense” to you, think to what tools you use daily (spreadsheets, calendar, email) as a starting point of layouts you enjoy or understand.
Support and Service:
This is perhaps the most overlooked “feature” of a tool, but it quickly becomes one of the most important aspects of being successful inside of a new client management project management software. While we never *expect* to reach out to support, it happens 99% of the time. It’s important to ask (or better yet, test) the support of the client
Of course, price is important. At some point, the price tag doesn’t yield an adequate ROI. There’s many different perspectives on “how to price”, but for most platforms, the price is based on number of clients or number of “users” (or logins).
The best client management software for your firm is one that requires an investment (let’s get on the same page and agree that “free” is often the most expensive option!), but gives your firm a ROI that is 3-10X greater than the investment (imagine that type of return on your 401K!).
This looks at how active the vendor is at building and evolving their client management system. Are they listening to your feedback? Have they updated the software in the last 90 days? It’s critical you align with a vendor that is still investing in the product, or else it will become obsolete in a few years (and you have to start the whole process over)
Last but not least, is the software setup or flexible enough to meet the needs of your firm and industry? How much customization or duct tape will you need to add to “bend” the software to your setup (it’s very rare that any tool will match your firm “perfectly”, but it also shouldn’t require extensive “duct taping” and wrangling to fit your firm).
Start with the end in mind
With all the ways in which you could assess the right client management software for your business, it’s important to start with your ultimate goal and work your way backwards from there. What problems are you currently having managing client data and touchpoints? How do you want your team to use it? How quickly can you get it integrated into your everyday workflow? Starting here, and keeping laser-focused on those priotities, will help you arrive at the right choice.
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