Living the Paperless Life: Transforming Client Relationships with Receipt Bank
My passion was born out of a severe frustration. As an accountant, I could never understand why clients would pay us hundreds of dollars just to pay their bills and do data entry.
I’ll never forget the day a client came in hauling 20 bags of receipts for us to process. I was interning at my family’s accounting firm, Montgomery & Company, and she was a caterer being audited. I looked at these bags in horror as I realized it was my job to key each receipt into an Excel file. A third of the receipts were faded and unreadable because they'd sat in the back of her car for four years. This client paid $5,000 for me to sit in the back room and input all this in Excel, unable to read a third of it. And in the end, we didn’t even save her more than her fee.
I saw inefficiencies like that everywhere.
We spent way too much time doing data entry for our clients and my goal was to provide more value to them. I knew we could do it, I just needed to figure out how.
A Creative Eye for Best Practices
I came into this business with a different perspective. I’m an artist at heart, but I was highly encouraged to learn accounting and join the family business. While I was in college, I didn’t love accounting, but there was something about it that kept me going. After I graduated, I looked into joining different accounting firms instead of my father’s to get a fresh outlook on the business I had seen my dad grow and build throughout my lifetime.
My dad’s business had become so well known at the time that no other accounting firms understood why I was interviewing with them. Ultimately, I did the inevitable and joined the family business.
Once I became a full-time accountant at the family firm, I started to notice more and more inefficiencies. I sat there scratching my head and wondered why I’d run around in circles filing papers, paying bills, and doing things that could be automated. My Verizon bill is auto drafted, so why weren’t clients doing things like this? It didn't make sense to me that an accounting firm wasn’t using digital tools beyond Quickbooks.
In the Trenches at Tax Time
I started calling my clients and asked them questions like, “How could we serve you better? Is this service even relevant to you?” Then, I started asking, “Do you even look at your financial statements?” They would kind of smile and put their heads down, and I knew they weren't. So instead of asking them why, I asked about their goals for the year. Our clients were focused on growth-oriented tasks like hiring staff; their minds were far away from their taxes and bills.
All my frustrations were compounded at tax time, when we’d get shoeboxes full of disorganized receipts. I was annoyed that people paid a CPA to organize them. It didn't make sense. But clients weren’t going to do it. They hadn't for years and they weren’t planning to start unless something drastic changed.
Along the way, we’d hear their challenges and stories like: “Joe, I just lost my bookkeeper. Joe, my bookkeeper just embezzled. Joe, my QuickBooks files are dead and corrupt because we weren't updating it.” We didn't offer the in-the-trenches-with-you level bookkeeping service that I thought some of the clients needed.
Pivoting to Tech to Improve Services
After I did some client research, I learned that indeed there was a gap between what they wanted from their CPA and the way they were operating with their other vendors.
After hearing our clients’ stories, it was just a matter of finding the right tools to deliver that service.
At the same time, we got connected with Rootworks and started learning about cloud-based accounting, customer experience, and how to run a modern firm. At Rootworks, we learned about a tool called Receipt Bank, which would allow us to cut down on a lot of the manual processes that I hated. We started to test it on ourselves and on some clients.
I instantly saw that it removed the need for data entry and empowered our clients to submit paperwork efficiently—no more babysitting. Clients can take photos of their receipts or invoices, upload copies through the mobile app or email us, and the software extracts the data so there’s no more manual entry or sorting to be done. Plus, it integrates with Quickbooks, and that was an absolute must for us.
It’s ultimately a way to get the data into our system quickly and easily in a way that is scalable, so you're not asking the business owner to do it all on their own. You're asking the team to submit items for you or in some cases we have the office manager ripping the receipts for the busy financial planners.
Buying Peace of Mind
Before Receipt Bank, we had told our clients that as long as their big purchase were on their bank statement, that was all we need. But we’ve now seen audits where the IRS has been able to challenge purchases on items under $75, so it’s critical to keep a precise record of receipts.
No one is audit-proof, but if you are audited, you need to be ready. It's one of the most stressful things that any of our clients have ever been through. By using Receipt Bank to track all your receipts, it will help prepare you in the event of an audit.
Keeping track of your credits and debits also creates accountability for employees because instantly they submit receipts and you see how they're spending your money. If you rely on a credit card statement to get the gist of how someone is spending your money, you’re only getting a small part of the picture.
How to Live the Paperless Life
Now that we’ve been using Receipt Bank for a while, I’ve learn a lot about how to best onboard clients to make sure the process goes smoothly. For starters, we always integrate Receipt Bank with QuickBooks Online (QBO). We don't just give away Receipt Bank accounts if they’re not integrated with QBO. We feel like it's cheapening the value and short-selling to the client.
You should also make time to go to your client’s office from day one and spend time training them and their employees on the software. We’ll even install the apps on the business owner’s phone. It's important to make that investment in time and energy upfront to avoid disengagement or disinterest. Without this step, you’ll spend more time getting clients up to speed during critical times like tax season.
We get all the email addresses of the people that have business credit cards before that meeting. We need to know which employees have credit cards because they're going to be invited to Receipt Bank. Even if we later find out it's a busy executive who’s going to have their assistant do it, we just want to be aware of who the people are. You have to train the client, their employees, and your whole team if you want to make a meaningful impact. You’re changing company processes, so you need buy-in from the staff.
In addition, when pitching a new client, we don’t sell Receipt Bank. We sell a paperless life, audit defense, employee accountability, no more data entry, and seamless integration with your accounting. That's what you should sell. They're just going to know that their accountant is really smart, has the technology to solve a lot of pain, and is going to handle it.
One fun thing my dad and I like to do is take people out to lunch, take a photo of the receipt, then crumple it up and throw it away. We like to act all smug and wait for people to ask about it; then we explain. Nobody likes receipts. They get crinkly, annoying, and take up a lot of space. It’s a different way of making a point and showing others how useful it can be.
Challenge Your Clients to Change Their Lives
Receipt Bank has transformed my relationships with our clients. We have been using Receipt Bank for about two years now—really seriously for one year—and have twenty-two of our clients fully onboarded. Every new bookkeeping client automatically gets the software. It’s been tough for some to get used to logging their receipts, but once they do, they instantly see its value and impact.
We even have our clients promoting Receipt Bank out in the community because it’s changed their lives. One client even gives the same sales pitch at restaurants as we do.
One huge reason why it’s become so sticky with our clients is because they’re building closer relationships to their bookkeepers, submitting receipts and touching base regularly with questions. They’re becoming more involved and empowered in their accounting.
The relationship with our clients has changed from being just the person who does their taxes and spits out a regular financial report that they never look at, to becoming their back office. It’s changing the game for our clients. And for us, Receipt Bank might be saving us 20 to 25% of the time per client in those instances where the job is receipt-heavy. Now, that’s not all of our clients, but that’s a huge amount of time to save with even a few.
The Future of Accounting Is Automation and Growth
My goal today is not how can we build a world-class accounting firm, but how can we build a world-class business. I want to be able to grow our business into a $5 million company. In the past, this wasn’t possible because the receipt data we were getting before just wasn’t reliable. Garbage in, garbage out. But now that we know we have reliable information from them, we're able to help people open a new location, retire five years early, or cut unprofitable products.
Our relationship with our clients is no longer just a transaction. Together, we can help them achieve their dreams—which is my dream. And I’m finally living it.