Accounting firms have been traditionally focused on compliance services, such as taxes and audits, but many small- to mid-sized businesses are interested in bookkeeping, payroll and advisory-level collaboration. Rather than hiring dedicated staff to manage these tasks in-house, many would prefer to outsource it all to a single accountable third-party.
Let’s take a closer look at client accounting services, identifying opportunities for your practice and leveraging automation to unlock value.
Many SMEs want to outsource their bookkeeping, payroll and other day-to-day tasks to a full-service accounting firm—does it make sense for your practice to handle these tasks?
What is Client Accounting Service?
Client accounting services, or CAS, refers to a broad range of accounting tasks that includes everything from payroll to bill pay to strategic reviews. Oftentimes, CAS is geared toward small- to mid-sized businesses, or SMEs, that don’t have the budget for a full-time bookkeeper on-site and want to focus their internal efforts on their core business.
Some of the most common CAS include:
Financial statement preparation
Accounts payable and receivable processing
Bookkeeping and monthly reconciliations
Payroll and payroll compliance
Periodic tax payments and compliance
Strategic consultation and outsourced CFO services
In practice, CAS are often customized for each individual client. Some clients may want end-to-end accounting services whereas others may want to be involved in some processes. There may also be some clients that want specialized services, such as sending manual checks or guidance on specific areas of their industry or business.
There are two key reasons to consider CAS:
Better Relationships: The accounting business is all about relationships. By working with clients at a deeper level, accounting firms can create better relationships that lead to less client turnover and greater revenue and profit opportunities.
Growing Competition: With the growing trend toward remote work, small- to mid-sized businesses are increasingly comfortable hiring remote nationwide CAS firms to handle their accounting requirements, which could put local accounting firms at risk.
The challenge for many accounting firms is knowing where to start with embracing CAS in their practice—especially if they have limited resources.
How to Get Started with CAS
Most accounting firms aren’t ready to immediately jump into the deep end by offering every client accounting service. A better approach is focusing on the most in-demand services and slowing adding new capabilities over time as clients request them. That way, you’re spending resources in the most efficient manner and providing clients with what they actually need.
The most in-demand CAS tend to be:
Accounts payable and receivable
General ledger management
Financial statement preparation
It’s often a good idea to survey existing clients to see what services they’d want added in order to ensure that there’s a market for them. In addition, these surveys could uncover peculiarities associated with specific tasks, such as a need for paper-based accounts payable or accounts receivable rather than electronic payments.
Most CAS are structured as a fixed monthly fee rather than a rate structure. By transitioning from a rate structure to a monthly fee, it’s much easier to generate reliable and recurring monthly revenue for your practice that scales. It’s also much harder for clients to switch CAS providers when there’s a fully developed business relationship.
Leveraging Automation to Focus Effort
Some accounting firms have been reluctant to embrace certain client accounting services because they involve a lot of low margin grunt work. For example, many of these tasks involve a lot of collaboration with clients, which can be challenging to say the least. If you’re not careful, you could end up spending valuable time just trying to collect basic details.
Standardization is key to scaling these kinds of services. Everything from onboarding processes to day-to-day activities should be well-documented and standardized across all clients. That way, there’s no confusion about what needs to be done next and clients have the right expectations and results when they sign up.
Fortunately, Client Hub has made it easy to automate much of the additional grunt work, streamline workflow and improve the customer experience at the same time. The all-in-one platform includes workflow, client communication, client portal, file sharing and other capabilities under the same platform, which minimizes the need for a patchwork of services.
For accounting firms, Client Hub makes it easy to manage workflow by creating tasks and recurring jobs for each client (both internal and client-facing) as well as consolidating communication and files in one easy-to-access location. You can even integrate with QuickBooks to instantly create client tasks to resolve uncategorized expenses!
Your clients can sign in to see all of their tasks and latest communications with one-click access to their apps and bank accounts. There’s even a customized mobile app that makes it easy for clients to respond to requests on-the-go and access files when they need them. Email and mobile notifications ensure that they never miss a beat.
The platform makes it incredibly easy to provide a great client experience while minimizing the challenges of communication. Within your practice, you can also quickly see the status of every client to ensure that nothing is slipping through the cracks.
The Bottom Line
Client accounting services, or CAS, encompasses a wide range of different accounting-related services, including those that some firms are hesitant to adopt. Fortunately, cloud-based software has helped automate some of the tedious and low margin tasks and improve the client experience in order to open the door to these levels of service.
After integrating CAS into your practice, it’s easy to fine-tune the processes to target specific industries or types of businesses with differentiated offerings as well as market the all-in-one service package through email, social media, events and other venues. The result is a growing recurring revenue stream with predictable cash flow over time.