How do you standardize processes end to end … and avoid the chaos that comes with having clients on disparate tools and operating within non-standardized processes?
In an earlier article, I mentioned that tax and accounting firms have about a 10% client adoption rate of new technologies and tools. It occurred to me that a key reason for low adoption is the assumption that your clients are familiar with the tools required to support collaboration and process efficiency.
Trust me when I say that most are not. Take Zoom as an example. At Rootworks, we’ve been using Zoom for years to support remote workers and ensure connectivity among the team. And all along we thought everyone else must be using it, too. We assumed wrong. The pandemic hit and we witnessed a mass scramble to implement something as standard to the workplace today as Zoom.
When everyone uses the same technologies, processes are streamlined and efficiency skyrockets. So, driving adoption of a standard technology and tool stack are critical to today’s firms. The big is question: How do you do it? The answer: Start with these three proven tips.
1. Begin with clarity
It’s so easy to be heads down with work that you gloss over the need to drive adoption of technologies and uniform processes among your clients. That’s why you need to be clear about your Who, What, and How. Adoption starts within your firm by getting clarity around:
- Who you want to serve.
- What you want to sell.
- How you want to deliver products.
Until you understand each of these things, you can’t begin to move forward with a clear adoption plan for clients.
Let’s talk about the Who first. Too often, I run across owners whose firms grew organically. A client walked in and asked for a service, and the owner said, “Sure, we can do that.” And then another client walked in, and another and another—each with their own unique needs and way of working with the firm. Chaos.
The days of taking anyone who walks through the door are over. It’s time to clearly understand who you want to serve. Who are your ideal clients?
Knowing who you want to serve doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to just one niche. Start with a broad category such as service-based small businesses (which make up 70% of the economy), and narrow it down to find your ideal clients.
Now let’s tackle the What—as in, what do you want to sell? Yes, that’s right. You get to choose what you sell, not the client.
This is where productization comes in: Creating a line of products that are repeatable, scalable, and, ultimately, highly profitable. Your product lineup might include, for example, payroll, client accounting services, business advisory services, or tax—whatever attracts the ideal clients you identified as part of your Who. Consider the services you are good at providing and enjoy supporting, then carefully plan each service from beginning to end, including what clients really need, pricing, onboarding, and deliverables.
One of the biggest benefits of productizing is that your entire team knows exactly Who they’re selling to, what they’re selling, and how it’s delivered. Friction is reduced for staff and clients because everyone knows what to expect.
Finally, what about the How? Once you identify Who you want to sell to and What you want to sell them, it’s time to standardize the technologies to best deliver your product offerings.
Your first order of business is to know what you want your clients to use and discover which technologies they’re already using, then figure out the gaps. This level of insight is key to the planning that will drive adoption.
2. Start every client at the beginning
Once you have the tools you need in place, and your entire team has been educated on your new and improved processes, you’ll want to onboard every client in a uniform manner—without exception. This sets expectations from the get-go, and will lower your risk for taking on or maintaining non-ideal clients that don’t fit your model.
After you have the clients’ signoff on your new technology stack and processes, you and your team will need to help them set up the process, the technology, and revisit expectations. Just know that you’ll want to devise a standardized process for each service onboarding. For example, if a client is moving from QuickBooks® Desktop to QuickBooks Online, or you’re transitioning a client to Bill.com, each service needs its own dedicated uniform process.
3. Ruthlessly pursue simplicity
The more options available to your clients, the more confusing it can be for them to work with you. The more ambiguity around your products, tools, and processes, the harder it will be to drive adoption for your clients and your team. So, work to lessen the diversity among your client base, product options, and technologies and tools within your tech stack.
Remember: Less is more. If you always keep that in mind as you think about the types of clients you want, the products you sell, and the technologies you use to deliver them, you’ll have an easier time getting your clients on the standardization train.
Summing it all up
These three things: Getting clear about your Who, What, and How; defining your client onboarding process; and constantly—and ruthlessly—pursuing simplicity is the way to create a business that you, your team, and your clients will love.
Follow the tips in this article to get going. It’s doable.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on the Firm of the Future.