The numbers don’t add up

Damon AndersonDamon Anderson

Research by Xero finds that small businesses are unsatisfied with their accountants.

New research by Xero has looked at businesses using any online or digital bookkeeping tools. It found that 80 per cent of small businesses are working with an external accountant or bookkeeper. However, 70 per cent said they would not recommend their advisor to others and over a quarter (27 per cent) said they are likely to switch accountants.

Despite client experience being one of the most important drivers of growth for an accounting firm, new research has revealed that many small business owners wouldn’t recommend their current advisor to someone else.

Over one third (34 per cent) of small business owners even go as far as telling people to avoid their accountant, saying that they don’t understand business challenges, don’t provide the right support, charge too much and aren’t keeping up with technology.

With the advent of new legislation such as Making Tax Digital, there is now an even bigger impetus on client satisfaction. The research found that in 2019, when asked about what small business owners wanted from their advisor, they listed: industry insight; proactive advice and support; technical competence and the feeling that they are the priority.

The top mistakes that are causing business owners to switch accountants include: rarely providing support (62 per cent), limited industry knowledge (57 per cent), making them feel like a low priority (55 per cent), being behind on technology (53 per cent), being unresponsive (52 per cent) and not providing enough value (44 per cent).

When it comes to customer satisfaction with their accounting firm, the firms using online and cloud-based tools seem to be performing much better. On average, tech-savvy firms using online tools have a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 20 versus -5 for those still using traditional accounting tools such as desktop software and paper receipts.

These firms include:

  • Sharon Pocock of Kinder Pocock has been able to increase her net promoter score to 71 through focussing on client service: “Our biggest focus as a firm is on client service and we’re proud to have been recognised for it. We block out one day a week to look at the good and the bad of client servicing and ensure our clients’ needs are always listened to. We are known as a down-to-earth and accessible firm as a result. We find it’s much easier to satisfy clients when you put them at the centre of your business.”
  • Paul Bulpitt, The Wow Company, commented: “Most of the time, businesses switch accountants and come to us because the firm they’re leaving just waits for their clients to call in for help instead of proactively delivering value. When we ask these businesses why, they say their old accountant didn’t care enough about them to engage with them frequently, or even simply return their calls.”

Damon Anderson, Director of Partner at Xero commented: “It’s vital that accountants are helping their small business clients succeed – and it’s a concern that so many business owners wouldn’t recommend their advisor to someone else. However, it creates a real opportunity for accountancy firms to really benefit.

“By adopting the right cloud tools, they’ll be in a far better place to improve their NPS score. Take Sharon from Kinder Pocock or Paul from The Wow Company. They’re amongst the many pacesetters who have seen their businesses prosper by taking the simple step of improving client satisfaction.”

In the wake of Making Tax Digital, it’s never been more important to be the driving force of huge technological change.”