Looking back at 2021: Navigating customer support through a pandemic

As we approach the end of 2021, I’ve been reflecting on how companies have managed to keep their customer-first approach despite the difficulties of working during a pandemic.

Last year, when the pandemic hit, businesses around the world quickly learned the importance of being highly digital, and those that were digital-first certainly had a head start in responding to customers’ changing needs.

Businesses that had set up their structure with all customer-facing teams closely aligned were able to make well-informed and fast decisions. The combination of digital tools and processes, and well-aligned teams set companies up to quickly feed data into marketing, communications, education, product and digital responses to customers.

Small businesses are embracing digital tools
In 2020, being highly digital was considered a ‘new way of working’. In 2021, it’s simply how many businesses now operate and will continue to do so well into the future.

The benefits of this move to more flexible, remote-style working was evident in recent research conducted by Xero. It revealed that digitally-enabled small businesses were significantly more resilient throughout the COVID-19 crisis, and outperformed their peers in most performance metrics. The research also revealed that the pandemic significantly boosted technology uptake.

From a customer experience perspective, I’ve always believed that customer support was moving towards a new age of focusing on digital content and self-service information. The pandemic simply accelerated this timeline.

A proactive support experience
Small business owners often do it all – customer service, social media, accounts, logistics – on top of their day-to-day business. They’re increasingly time-poor and more and more are relying on technology to help solve their problems. It’s quicker, more personalised, and is available at any time of the day or night.

With this in mind, we’re starting to see a shift from old fashioned reactive customer support to a model that predicts what customers’ needs are. Businesses like Xero are empowered to evolve their customer support frameworks. Instead of providing only reactive one-on-one support, highly evolved customer support platforms not only have nearly every answer available with the click of a mouse, but they harness technology such as machine learning to help answer their customers’ questions, before they even know they have them.

Education outside our core business
The pressures and stresses of the pandemic prompted many customer-facing organisations to delve more deeply into what other areas their customers needed support. Additional paperwork, grant applications, and figuring out government restrictions all added to the day-to-day load that small business owners constantly carry.

For us, this means developing new resources to help business owners navigate completely new hurdles, including understanding and applying for government support schemes, creating business continuity plans, and looking after their wellbeing. Customers and partners can choose from courses, programmes, live webinars and classroom events. – Read more

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Small businesses struggling to go green? How digital tools can help

With COP26 now behind us, did we make any progress in the small business community? We all have a role to play in fighting climate change, and while small businesses may be battling many challenges on the home front – from Brexit fallout to Covid recovery and more – there are still ways to contribute to this, our greatest fight. 

While no single business or organisation has all the answers, what everyone can do is take action by making reductions to their carbon footprint. 

Putting your best foot forward

Calculating your carbon footprint – the first key step in tackling the business’ impact on the environment – is often a granular, laborious process. 

There isn’t much support for small businesses looking to make a tangible impact on their carbon footprint, while putting sustainable practices in place can be seen as complicated and expensive. 

Thankfully, there are digital tools available on the new Xero App Store that enable small businesses to simplify this process.

One of these tools is Spherics – an app that automates the process of carbon accounting, offering a comprehensive snapshot of the environmental impact of a business in minutes. Spherics combines transaction data from Xero with a carbon intensity database to convert pounds spent with a merchant into an estimated Carbon Dioxide equivalent.

What does this mean in practice? For small businesses, the hugely time-consuming, finicky process of capturing every carbon-intensive aspect of their operations is instead carried out – quickly, affordably and with accuracy.  – Read more

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Everything You Need to Supercharge Your Firm’s Accounting Workflow

Your practice has a workflow, which is how you get work done. It’s the sequence of steps you follow to turn a pile of receipts, invoices, and bank statements into financial statements or turn financial statements into a tax return.

But is your workflow as efficient and effective as it could be?

If not, you may be wasting time and feeling stressed out, and—yikes!—even losing money.

Why Your Accounting Firm Needs Airtight Workflows
Accountants and bookkeepers tend to be smart, process-oriented people, so we’re going to assume you understand that systems and processes are a good thing.

But here are some of the many benefits you can reap when you’ve done your homework and built detailed workflows:

  • Client experience improves: The client onboarding process is more efficient (and effective), client communication is more responsive, and clients have a better understanding of what services you offer versus their responsibilities
  • You save time: Compliance work, especially, gets done faster so you can focus more on advisory services.
  • The work is more consistent, period.
  • Team communication improves: Everyone knows which parts of the process they “own”
  • It becomes easier to delegate tasks to junior employees as your practice grows. Sounds pretty appealing, right?

Well, before you dive into looking for ways to improve your workflow, it’s critical to get clarity around how you work now. After all, you can’t improve on a system you haven’t documented.

Getting your workflow down on paper (or a spreadsheet or workflow software) is essential if you want to identify bottlenecks or breakdowns that are costing you time and money.

strong business foundation
Understand Which Workflows You Need
Wouldn’t it be great if upgrading your workflow was as easy as buying a new laptop? But processes and workflows are different for every firm and every individual practice, depending on your niche and your service options.

Besides workflows for the services you offer (bookkeeping, tax planning and preparation, advisory services, etc.), you might need workflows for:

  • Prospecting and qualifying leads
  • Client proposals
  • Onboarding new clients and employees
  • Billing

You might divide your workflows for service delivery into “standard accounting or bookkeeping” vs “advisory accounting services.” Or, you might dive deeper and develop individual workflows for each of your services—one for tax services, for example, and another for cash flow forecasting. – Read more

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