By Tanya Hilts, CPB

When The Bookkeeper Connection Network asked me to write about keeping the technology “human” and not letting automation get in the way of that connection with your clients, I felt this topic was made for me. My background of over 30 years of customer service I feel makes me uniquely qualified for this topic in the accounting industry.

As many of you know, this is my third career, which overlapped somewhat with my first and second, both of which were customer service in differing industries. My first career, right out of high school was insurance, which I stayed with for 17 years. This overlapped with taxes and compliance in 1997. Once I had my daughter in 2001, I decided to leave the insurance industry altogether and focus on my tax business that I had been growing on the side. I found that by the time she started school in 2005, I found the need to work part time, and the job that allowed this was in telecommunications working for Telus in their local call centre in the client care department. I did this for four years until we moved to our current location, where I launched my bookkeeping business to compliment my tax business. As my background was highly client focused, this is how I obviously began the bookkeeping business, as client service is as natural to me as breathing. I just assumed everyone thought and worked the same way that I did – which I am now finding out is not the case due to the differing in backgrounds.

If you look at the industries – insurance, mobile phones, income taxes and bookkeeping you wouldn’t think they have much in common. They in fact, are quite similar in nature. They are all intangible services that people have to have because they are told so. You can’t drive without car insurance, cell phones these days are no longer considered a luxury, and you have to have a phone to be able to communicate, you have to pay personal income tax, and if you want to own a business, you need good books to be able to calculate compliance amounts payable at a minimum. People resent having to have all of these services, so what can you do to make yourself stand out. The answer is to provide exceptional customer service. You can easily do this using automation, but you should not forget the human factor, as people are not loyal to technology, they are loyal to people.

I completely embrace technology and help accounting professionals successfully move into the cloud and use automation that they have at their fingertips to reduce time costs and free up time. At the same time, you need to be sure that you are not automating everything and you keep that human connection. For example, we utilise a lot of email communication, but we ensure that we are touching base with our clients once a month at a minimum with a phone call. We personally review every clients books monthly and call them to review our findings, or just see if they have any questions or concerns. We don’t want to assume everything is fine – especially if we aren’t creating a sense of loyalty. Another way we ensure is that we set the clients expectations accordingly in every interaction with them. Think to your dealings with services that you “have to have”. Which companies are you loyal to and what have they done differently?

In the past, when the information you received was out dated, bookkeeping was data entry. In these days with all the automation we have at our fingertips to work with real time data, we need to be so much more. Our clients know that we have access to this information easier and quicker than before. They are now expecting more from us. The human connection part does not have to be much more than conversations. Sometimes the conversations will be business conversations, and sometimes they might be brief check ins. Maybe you even send your clients gift baskets on anniversaries or just because. If you don’t create the sense of loyalty with your clients, someone else will.

We can control our own futures, and we have the ability to control our own destinies and not let technology make our positions replaceable by automation. But to do this, you need to ensure you have inserted the human element with your clients.