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How to Automate the Client Onboarding Process at an Accounting Firm
Learn how to automate the client onboarding process at your accounting firm, the benefits of doing so, and different software you can use.
Across industries, 63% of potential clients say that onboarding experiences influence their decision to stay with a business, product, or service, and 90% of those are willing to spend more to avoid difficult processes.
In financial services and accounting, client onboarding requires an unusually high volume of documentation. If firms and institutions still use paper-based processes or have new clients submit documentation via various email attachments, wasted time accrues and client satisfaction goes down. The first step to clearing this bottleneck is automating and digitizing as much of the process as possible.
In this brief guide, you’ll learn how accounting firms can automate much of the client onboarding process.
What Is Client Onboarding Within Accounting and Bookkeeping?
Client onboarding in accounting refers to all the steps necessary to initiate a new business relationship. As a starting point in the working relationship, onboarding can set the tone for expectations and client trust. It’s also an opportunity for firms to ensure they understand their clients’ accounting needs and uncover new areas of required services that may not have come to light yet.
While the process primarily consists of clients submitting the necessary documentation and granting their new firm access to business financial information, the steps firms take to ease this process through automation and technology solutions, as well as their commitment to clear communication, can establish the foundation of a solid business relationship.
Necessary Steps for Onboarding Accounting Clients
Getting started with a new accounting firm can seem like a daunting challenge to clients as the successive demands for more information accumulate. At a minimum, these will include:
- Signed Contract: Initiates the working relationship officially and should define the scope of the business relationship
- Personal Information: Should include the client’s name, business and personal addresses, email, phone numbers, business name, and any other relevant industry information
- Access to Previously Used Accounting Systems: If clients have records in programs such as QuickBooks or Xero, they should provide their new firm with access to this information
- Access to Account Information: Personally identifiable financial information, including bank statements, credit cards statements, loan accounts, and pay slips
- Access to Inventory Records (Where Applicable): Should include expenses, supplier payments, accrued revenues, wastage, and fulfillment ledgers
- Previous Invoices: Should clarify the client’s payment processes and information from accounts receivable
- Tax Returns: Prior year should suffice in most cases
Benefits of Automating and Digitizing the Onboarding Process
Regardless of the industry, just 12% of employees report that their employers handle onboarding processes smoothly and efficiently. For most organizations, turning this around begins with process automation. Here are some of the benefits of automating the onboarding process.
- Enhanced Information Security: Digital systems for client documentation can help ensure that only authorized users ever see sensitive personal or financial information.
- Reciprocal Time Saving: Enabling clients to submit onboarding documentation online in a single repository gives them more control over the process and cuts time spent in mail delivery or handing documents over in person. Most client data eventually enter electronic systems through data entry in any case. Additional reductions in wasted time accumulate when fewer manual entry points are required.
- Superior Client Retention: Smooth and efficient onboarding drives retention in business relationships 69% of the time.
Onboarding Software Automation Options
Fortunately for client onboarding automation, your firm does not need to reinvent the wheel. Here are four powerful software tools you can use to get started.
1. Zapier - facilitating software integrations
Zapier is an API-enabled software integration platform. Independently written applications can’t exchange information fluidly or without manual input. APIs connect independent applications predictably so that data requests and updates can move freely between them.
Zapier provides an integration-platform-as-a-service (IPaaS) that uses automatic workflow connectors called Zaps to connect accounting applications, allowing users to automate onboarding documentation reminders, invoices, and account status updates.
GoProposal is an independent platform capable of automating many client onboarding steps. These include:
- Generating engagement letters based on minimal field inputs
- Continuous payment authority through GoCardless
- Automated draft invoices in programs such as QuickBooks and Xero
- Automated addition of new clients to email list servers and work status updates in customer relationship management (CRM) software
3. Practice Ignition
Practice Ignition is a handy onboarding tool designed to roll out steps from the initial client contract signature. Once an official business relationship has been defined and created, Practice Ignition automates six necessary next steps for you:
- Generates engagement letter
- Establishes payment authority
- Creates invoices in QuickBooks or Xero
- Enumerates client onboarding tasks
- Articulates a client-specific onboarding workflow
- Generates an email to client with a startup form, either from Google Forms or your preferred CRM
FileInvite is a secure automated document collection platform, which can be used for many different onboarding scenarios without the need for complex application integrations (but the option to integrate with other systems does exist). Within FileInvite, companies can send out documents for clients to fill, and clients can upload their documentation at their own pace and see their progress reflected in their document upload portal. Users on the other end can configure automated reminders to help ensure deadlines are not missed.