Being Intentional Now, to Smooth Out the Peaks And Valleys of “Busy Season”
With January payroll tax forms and 1099’s now complete, many firm owners turn their attention to capacity and resource planning for “Busy Season”. It’s a tricky calculation that involves a ton of inputs. Probably you rely on what happened last year, look at the current year expected volume, and try to plot it all out so your resources match the demands. And you get through it like you always do – with good intent, grit, and a lot of late nights.
What if this year it could be different, with fewer late nights and a more even workload for staff?
To make this happen each staff member needs to be fully productive at work (beginning early in season) so that overtime is not needed. If that sounds obvious, it is. However as you know, it is easier said than done. The good news is it can be done with some intention and focus now, before your busy season hits.
Let’s explore how it might play out, including how to deal with a “hiccup” that can derail even the best-laid plans.
First, let’s look at the basic ingredients needed, in order for staff to be fully productive:
- Documented workflow processes and teamwork
- Up-to-date software
- Client documents in hand
You’ve probably spent quite a bit of time on items 1 and 2 and are in good shape. This is the bulk of season readiness that most firms invest time in. Firm leaders make sure that staff are trained on any new rules and regulations, and that workflow issues identified in last year’s busy season post-mortem are solved internally and documented before this year’s busy season hits. And of course teamwork is always emphasized.
For number 3, it is likely that your firm made the main “bread and butter” software decisions late last season, or are continuing with the current tax, accounting, and workflow software vendors, so it’s just a matter of making sure that the staff understand any new capabilities or changes that were rolled out since last season. So you are probably in good shape there as well.
It is number 4 that can bring the best laid plans to a grinding halt..
If you’re like most firms, your staff spend a lot of time waiting for clients to send you documents. You probably also waste countless hours searching for things across multiple different platforms.
Clearly your staff could move a lot faster if they had all the documents they needed from clients in one place, and if clients quickly responded to firm requests. But how do you make that a reality? You are already communicating early and clearly with clients to let them know what is needed and when you need it. You may even have an incentive plan in place for clients to send in documents early. So WHY are clients not responding quickly? WHY do they wait until the absolute last minute to send in what you need?
To understand the root cause, you need to ask the question “Why?” five times. Here is how it plays out for most firms:
First, you need to state the problem clearly.
“Work is held up because the client has not sent the document(s) we need.”
Now, ask the question “WHY?” five times:
1… Why do we not have the documents we need?
- Because the client has not sent them.
2… Why has the client not sent them?
- Because they have ignored our email request(s).
3… Why have they ignored our email requests?
- Because they are busy running their business and our emails are not a priority.
4… Why are our emails not a priority?
- Because clients need things to be “easy” in order to respond quickly during their busy day. Easy login, a mobile app, a phone scanner, electronic signatures, all their files in one place on every device, so they can deal with things quickly without having to jump over a series of hurdles. Our method of requesting things just doesn’t stack up.
5… Why doesn’t our method stack up to what they need?
- Because we aren’t making it easy for them to work with us. We’re asking them to stay on top of email, log into clunky portals, fill out antiquated tax organizers, scan documents, and remember deadlines. We make them break from their day, instead of allowing them to respond quickly and easily using modern apps with the convenience features that they are accustomed to in the rest of their financial lives. We need to walk in their shoes and make things easy, instead of putting barriers in their way.
The real root cause, using the ”five whys” exercise above, is the fifth one.
Your clients are not trying to hold you up!! Clients don’t respond quickly to your emails because it is hard to do that during their work day. And if you add a portal that they’ve probably had a bad experience with already, it makes them even less likely to respond quickly.
The really good news here is that Liscio is a solution that you can quickly adopt and your clients will LOVE to use. Using the 4.5 star mobile app, your clients will have all the tools they need to meet your deadlines, including an organized task list, automatic reminders, electronic signatures, and even a built-in scanner to send you the documents you need on a timely basis.
Liscio clients respond 19 times faster than email, and with a median response time of 6 minutes or less.
This season, stop chasing clients for documents and give them an easy, secure, mobile “accountant app” they’ll love to use to send you documents and ask and answer questions. We call this Client Experience 2.0™ because your firm becomes a welcome and seamless part of your clients day. And the best part is that accountants and bookkeepers can move a lot faster with Liscio.