Will 2021 be the year you implement a client portal? Here are 5 things you should consider before you do.
As we’ve all become more mobile in the past year, you have likely been looking at your processes, systems, and infrastructure in a new light:
Is it simple – for clients and team members?
Is it systemised – to allow us to get the job done from anywhere, at any time?
Is it standardised – so we know what to expect and can do what needs to be done efficiently?
(Feel free to use this for vetting new business processes/technology partners for your accounting firm!)
Of course, one of the biggest shifts over the past year has been how we interact with clients – and you may have been questioning your own processes in a similar vain. While we’re now used to the new normal of running catch-ups as Zoom or Microsoft Teams meetings, with face-to-face meetings off the table we still need to get documents in the hands of our clients quickly, easily, and securely, and in many cases have them signed off and returned just as fast.
A client portal is a great val-add when it comes to adding accessibility to your client’s data and allows you to distribute documents securely without creating oversized emails. Not only that, but they also provide a fully digital solution to allow your clients to legally sign off on a whole host of documents, from trust resolutions to ASIC documents and tax returns, without needing to print and scan/copy back to you.
That’s why client portals are quickly becoming a standard app in the modern accounting firm’s technology stack.
If you’ve been umm-ing and ahh-ing over implementing a client portal because it seems like it all might be too hard – stop! We’ve pulled together 5 things to consider before you embark on your implementation that will ensure your roll-out is a success.
1. List out your non-negotiables
Whether it’s Practice Management integration, email alerts, or customised branding options, take the time as a team to talk about what’s important for your business and how you want your clients to experience your document portal. This list will make it easier to narrow down your providers and ensure you don’t lose sight of what’s important for your practice.
2. Provider matters
There are a host of document portals and document management services on the market (our own included), but when you’re narrowing down your portal partner, make sure you ask them the hard questions: what security or data segregation options are there, how simple is it for client’s if they get locked out, is there search/filing capability for ease of use, and does it integrate with your existing systems.
3. Leverage your existing platforms
Speaking of integration, we can’t stress this enough. You already have so much data contained in your existing systems, you want to ensure you can use it! There is no point in adding additional administrative work by implementing a stand-alone system. At a minimum you want your client portal to integrate with your existing practice management platform, and even better, your document management platform too. If you’re yet to implement a structured document management platform, this would be a great partner project; you can read some of our tips and tricks here.
4. Step through your customer journey, as if you were one
It’s all well and good to implement a solution that makes things easier for your team, but what about your clients? If your client portal is clunky and cumbersome for clients to use you’re more likely to encounter resistance and push back from your client base. After all, a key driver for implementing a portal is to make it easier for your clients to keep a track of their important documents and sign off on items electronically – so it’s imperative it makes life easier. During your research ask providers to give you access to a demo portal or step you through the experience from the client-side so you can be certain you’re giving them a positive experience.
5. Be prepared for hand-holding
Finally, on the topic of client experience, be prepared for some degree of hand-holding. Communicate with clients about what they can expect ahead of the change, keep instructions simple and easy to use, and it is a nice to touch to call or email clients the first time you send a document to them via the new platform. Assist your team to be ready to troubleshoot questions from clients (as there will inevitably be some), by collating FAQs and making these readily accessible to team members and clients. A blog post or help article on your website can be a good home for such a list, and you can update it as needed. While some teething issues will be unavoidable, if you prepare your team and clients ahead of the change, everyone is more likely to be understanding and patient during the rollout.
HowNow Portal is designed to help your team be as efficient and effective as possible, without compromising on client care – click here to access a handy checklist to help make your portal implementation a success for you, your team, and your clients.
If you’re looking for ways to implement efficiencies and streamline processes for your remote team, click here to book an online discovery session to see how HowNow Portal will make your digital document distribution a breeze.