12 ways the app phenomenon could change the way you think about your practice.
By Hitendra Patil
Consider, for a moment, the new "app economy." There are over a million apps in Apple and Google stores, with hundreds of them doing much the same thing in almost the same way. According to Pew Research, 90 percent of Americans have cellphones and 67 percent find themselves checking their phones for messages, alerts or calls — even when they don’t notice their phones ringing or vibrating.
So, are accounting firms like apps already — offering the same services, same deliverables, same outcomes at the same or similar prices? If so, the only thing missing in the accounting marketplace is an “accounting services app store."
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Wisdom tells us to “hang out where clients do." Yet, there are hardly any “accounting firm apps” on the app stores.
Technology and education are great levelers. They create a more and more level playing field. In the process, the quality and value of products and services simply improves for the end consumer. Think early generation cellphones and the current generation of smartphones.
Imagine for a moment that there is such an “accounting services app store” and that your firm appears as an app on this store. And imagine that clients are looking for an app to select the firm of their choice.
Apps as Accounting Firm’s Salesperson, NOT Support Staff
Let apps be not a smartphone as a device for a firm to transmit information to clients — like a mobile website or a client portal on a smartphone. Apps provide interactive, immersive experience and hence, imagine that your firm’s app creates that interactive and immersive experience for both you and your clients.
Think of apps as NOT a service that you provide AFTER the client has bought from you but think of apps as a sales tool that gets you new clients.
Will “Accounting Firm Apps” Do This?
- Will the users know which app (firm) is better than other? Maybe via a publicly viewable, authentic and transparent rating system like Yelp or eBay or Amazon?
- Will they look for a “free” app or one that costs $0.99? The “app” may be most likely free, with in-app purchases for different services.
- Will there be hundreds of apps for each service e.g. monthly bookkeeping, tax prep, audit etc. — with price comparisons readily available?
- How easy it will be for accounting firms to send an “update notification” to all users at once?
- Would apps enable accounting firms to “compete anywhere” irrespective of the firm’s location?
- Would it be great for accountants to introduce “in-app purchase” of items/services sold by its clients to other clients? In other words, can the “apps” be an easy and powerful “private ecosystem networking platform” for each firm?
- Would it help accounting firms to automatically bill the clients without any clicks of the mouse AND clients not being able to use the app unless they “renew” the payment? All automatic?
- Would it help accounting firms to automatically keep reminding the clients to send their source documents for tax or month-end accounting, all automatic?
- Would apps allow for video calls for in-app purchase to ask a question to an accountant? Prepaid?
- Will the convenience of apps increase “client engagement” i.e. count and context of client interactions with your firm?
- Would apps “gamify” the clients’ experience with accounting firms? Gamers are used to “achieving” higher levels with some effort. Can firms create levels for clients to achieve e.g. continued timely payments, continued timely submission of source documents, gaining bonus points for additional business volume etc.?
- Will apps improve security as accountants can see the client when the client seeks certain specific information about accounts/taxes?
Which of your firm’s current interactions with clients and prospects can be app-based? Which ones cannot be app-based? Why?
If most firm apps do most of the things already mentioned, how would you differentiate your app?
Lets assume that the real world out there is the “app store” and you want to differentiate your app and sell through it. What will you do?