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Expanding services and attracting new clients are top priorities for most accounting firms in today’s competitive market. While firms want to cement themselves as trusted advisors for their clients, many struggle to keep up with clients’ shifting expectations and prioritize the services clients most value. Now, firms will be able to have a bit more insight into what those priorities should be.
In June 2020, Bill.com, in partnership with CPA.com and Hinge Research Institute, released a report entitled “Where Opportunity Meets Value: Business Model Trends for Accounting Advisory Services” which showcases the shifting expectations of the services and expertise clients most value from their accounting firms. The report is based on the responses of more than 650 accountants and business professionals nationwide.
The survey results confirm that more and more accounting firms are branching out beyond traditional accounting and compliance services to promote more strategic offerings. Of the accountants surveyed, 60% said they offer strategic advisory services, while 26% offer outsourced/virtual CFO services, and nearly 25% offer cash flow analysis.
While these results were gathered prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the findings are more relevant than ever now. As companies are struggling to find their place in a changed industry and adjust their operations to meet a new normal, the need for proactive strategic advice from their accounting firms has increased and will continue to grow in the months to come. The benchmarks discussed below serve as a great starting point for firms that want to better guide clients going forward.
While value pricing is commonly viewed as a way to build revenue, it’s also key to providing better customer service. The survey results show that the ability to offer expert insights about finances gives accounting firms the upper hand when it comes to implementing value pricing. When asked to rank the top benefits of value pricing, survey respondents identified transparency, demonstrating the value of expertise, and eliminating billing surprises.
Value pricing goes even further toward improving the overall client experience when it’s combined with automation. Accounting firms that use automation to eliminate manual tasks and increase accuracy have more time to focus on being trusted advisors for their clients and report experiencing fewer challenges overall than their non-automated competitors.
Clients’ top business challenges are also the best areas for accounting firm growth, because they offer firms an opportunity to demonstrate real value. The top challenges identified by survey respondents include planning for growth and expansion, cash flow and minimizing overhead costs, staying in compliance, and lacking time to focus on accounting and financial matters.
The pain points your firm should prioritize will also depend on your clients’ size. Large company respondents reported difficulties with technology and maintaining efficiencies. Midsize respondents struggled with attracting top talent, planning for growth, and staying in compliance. Small firm respondents cited lack of time and difficulties dealing with cash flow. Tailoring your services to the unique challenges of your specific clients is the best way to start expanding your offerings, providing better client service, and growing your business.