16 Tech Tools for Working through the Coronavirus

The apps and platforms we use, and why.

By Sandi Leyva

Maybe you were thinking about taking your practice virtual sometime in the future. But with the novel Coronavirus, the future is now. We’re lucky we’re in a profession where we can deliver our services virtually.

More Tech for the Coronavirus Crisis:  Three Tech Solutions for Protecting Client Data |  Top Tech Choices for the Virtual Firm  |  5 Questions to Evaluate New Tech Tools  |   Innovate for the Right Reasons  |  How to Leverage App Technology for Streamlined Services   |  Cyber Security at a Virtual CPA Firm |  How Core Values Affect Remote Work Culture |  The Hidden Costs of Running a Virtual CPA Firm

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Our office became fully virtual in July 2019. Meanwhile, here are the main 16 tools we use, sorted into 11 categories:

  1. Appointment-setting
  2. Conferencing
  3. Data collection
  4. Client portal
  5. Shopping cart
  6. Client emails
  7. Customer support
  8. Task management
  9. Employee messaging
  10. Phone calls
  11. Cloud storage

Note, some vendors are offering free services for the pandemic. Now I'll tell you exactly what we're using and why...

Client Interactions

Appointment-setting software - ScheduleOnce

We’ve always served clients remotely since we are an international firm.

New clients are able to contact us in three ways:

1) via email,

2) by phone, and

3) by using our appointment-setting feature on our website.

I implemented the appointment-setting feature about three years ago, installing and customizing ScheduleOnce. You get a custom URL; mine is https://go.oncehub.com/SandiLeyva, and we simply made a graphic button labeled “Schedule Your Complimentary Consult” and stuck it up on the websites.

Video-conferencing – GoToMeeting and Zoom

Today, most people set the appointment on their own, although sometimes they send an email first. At the appointment time, I call them via phone. If there are multiple decision-makers, I offer them a Zoom or GoToMeeting link.

GoToMeeting is currently offering its existing customers expanded accounts to help more workers work at home during the pandemic.

You don’t need to use the video part if you don’t want to.  I hardly ever do, but I do use the screen-sharing feature when I need to explain something on the screen.  We had so many clients ask us about ScheduleOnce that we became partners and offered the setup as a new minor service. The app saves me about $20,000 a year in my tiny business because all client scheduling is literally outsourced to the client, saving a ton of receptionist time.

Data collection – Google Forms, ShareFile, eFileCabinet

Almost all of our services require the client to complete a questionnaire.  We use Google Forms (for non-sensitive data) and Adobe fillable PDFs.

Our document portal is ShareFile which is HIPAA compliant. Clients can easily upload and download their documents from their private portal.

Since ShareFile discontinued its Basic package, we now recommend eFileCabinet to new clients.

Client Portal – WordPress

Shopping Cart - Infusionsoft

We have a client portal at https://acceleratortoolbox.com/ where we deliver our services. Clients can also update their credit card and change their password as well as access the items they purchased. For this, we use a very sophisticated WordPress plug-in and Infusionsoft shopping cart. I am also an Infusionsoft partner.

Client emails – AWeber and Infusionsoft

Client communications are sent by email using AWeber and Infusionsoft.  We rarely have clients message us, but when they do, we use cell phones, Messenger, and WhatsApp.

Customer support – Website, Vimeo, GoToWebinar

Building our customer support portal is one of those projects you never check off of the to-do list. We record the videos using GoToWebinar, load them on Vimeo, a video storage platform, and post them on our website. These videos help clients find answers on their own. I frequently include links to them in client emails asking about the topic.

TechSmith is offering free screen capture tools during the pandemic.

Our clients haven’t visited the office since 2014, and only then because I was conducting live training.  We have clients in all 50 states and 7 countries, so the client part was easy.

Employee Interactions 

This part was tougher for me.  I had never hired anyone remotely until about 2017.  Initially, all employees went to the San Jose, Calif., office every day. Then a couple of things happened that forced me to change. My husband got relocated to Texas, so we moved there. During that time, the employees kept working at their location, and I traveled back once a month for a couple of days per visit.

We were doing fine on the remote management part, so the employees started working from home two to three days a week. Then, my employees started moving out of the expensive San Jose area. I wanted to keep them, so they started working full time from their new homes. After I sold our office in June 2019, the last San Jose employees started working full time from their homes.

Task Management - Flow

The most important and constant communication tool we use is Flow, which is a task management system. When work comes in, I send it to Flow, which creates a task.  The employees self-assign, although I can assign a specific employee to a task if I want to.

I get a notification when an employee completes a task or comments on it, which is frequently – several times an hour. I know exactly who is working on what at any time simply by looking in Flow.  We also keep our procedures, templates, and forms in Flow so that they are handy and right next to the tasks to be done. In the past, we used Wrike and later Wunderlist, now owned by Microsoft.

One of the main reasons why virtual work is so easy for us is that our processes are heavily documented and “proceduralized,” if I can make up a word. This is not only key to a successful virtual office, but also to significantly improving profitability.

Employee messaging – Slack

Calls – Slack and Zoom

For employee interactions, we use Slack for messaging when things are time-sensitive and Zoom or Slack for when we need to have a conversation.  We rarely have “meetings.”

Cloud storage -- Amazon S3 and InMotion Hosting servers

Everyone’s main computer is already a laptop, and when I have a new employee, I just ship one to them.  For storage, we use Amazon Web Services S3, and we rent dedicated servers from InMotion Hosting. Everything is in the cloud.

We don’t have fax; we haven’t had a client fax us since 2012. Most employees don’t have printers or use paper; it’s all onscreen.  Most employees don’t take incoming calls, so they don’t need a work phone (since we use Slack and Zoom). We used RingCentral for a while but I disliked it.

I’ve gotten accustomed to hiring virtually. The only thing I still do face-to-face is to deliver performance reviews. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep doing that until it doesn’t make sense.

In summary, here's the list:

  1. Amazon S3 -- Cloud storage
  2. AWeber -- Client emails
  3. eFileCabinet -- Data collection
  4. Flow -- Task Management
  5. Google Forms -- Data collection
  6. GoToMeeting -- Video-conferencing
  7. GoToWebinar -- Customer support
  8. Infusionsoft -- Client emails and Shopping Cart
  9. InMotion Hosting servers -- Cloud storage --
  10. ScheduleOnce -- Appointment-setting software
  11. ShareFile -- Data collection
  12. Slack -- Calls and Employee messaging
  13. Vimeo -- Customer support
  14. Website -- Customer support –
  15. WordPress -- Client Portal
  16. Zoom -- Calls and Video-conferencing

If you have some new ideas to make your business more virtual, let us know in comments.

7 Responses to “16 Tech Tools for Working through the Coronavirus”

  1. Jennifer Poncher

    How do admins work from home and what about paper filing and older clients that do not have email?

    Reply
    • CPA Trendlines Research

      Admins, especially, can work remotely. Many already are. As for paper filing and meeting in-person with older clients, there are precautions that can be taken to minimize the risks to both the accountant and the client. Much can be done by phone or mail. Face-to-face is being done by phone, with people on each side of a porch window, for instance. But follow the guidance of your local authorities.

      Reply
  2. Brett Rowe

    Can you tell us exactly which “task management flow” program you use? Is it “Getflow” or Microsoft Flow

    Reply
    • Sandi Leyva

      Hi Brett,
      I use Flow, available at getflow.com. But it’s never a good idea to use a task management system just because someone else does. We do not need time tracking, for example, and you might. I recommend you make a list of requirements and then look for software that meets your requirements. I don’t want to be salesy but I did record a course on this in 2018 https://ne220.infusionsoft.app/app/storeFront/showProductDetail?productId=584.

      Reply
      • Brett Rowe

        Awesome! Thanks for the suggestion. I agree that one “shoe” doesn’t always fit everyone. But I’m tired of paying lots of money for crap that doesn’t work. I want to see and know if it works for someone. Thanks again!

        Reply
  3. Ben Copeland

    I really like your remote work flow. I am transitioning to a 100% remote environment and have put in place most of the piece but using a lot of the Microsoft 365 platforms. I’m looking at Flow but not quite sure how to implement into my process so would love to know more about how you integrated into your remote process. What tax software are you using? I’m currently using ProSeries.

    Reply
    • Sandi Leyva

      Hi Ben, If you’re already using Microsoft products, take a look at Microsoft Teams. It’s already integrated for you so it might make more sense than Flow. – Sandi

      Reply

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