Using Technology to Bring a Human Touch to Accounting
I don’t buy the idea that AI will replace everyone in traditionally people-driven industries. You will always need that human touch. But, of course, that doesn’t mean we should shy away from technology disruptions.
At 1-800Accountant, we view technology as a tool we can leverage to more effectively communicate with our clients, gather better data on their businesses, and free up valuable time for our accounting specialists. We’ve built a network of accounting specialists across the United States with expertise in every industry or small business you can think of, from dentists to rideshare drivers, plumbers to graphic designers.
We can match a customer with someone who knows their industry and their state’s tax code through and through. It’s that human touch that gives our clients the peace of mind that their books are in good hands so they can focus on running their business.
1-800Accountant was born out of a desire to help the small business owner at the point when they form their business, or even a little bit before. We take care of all the back-office tasks like bookkeeping and taxes. If the business has employees, we do payroll. We file articles of incorporation and we’ve even started doing 401(k) planning.
Many businesses try to do these things themselves, but they need to be careful about where they spend their resources. We free up the business owner’s time so that they can focus on what matters most to them—their own customers.
A Seamless, Accurate, Secure Solution
Bookkeeping is a prime example of bringing a human touch to accounting, and to digital services. Bookkeeping is also foundational to our clients’ businesses. They need to track revenue and expenses. And this includes tax planning, preparation, and payroll. All of this data is then used to ask the big questions. For example, if a company is in the black, is this the right time to hire more employees?
Because we combine tech with human insights and intelligence, our bookkeeping services are more than just inputting line items on a balance sheet. We ensure that we have the most accurate, up-to-date picture of our client’s business, and then extrapolate from that to draw up recommendations. The most helpful bookkeeping services take all of the relevant data and translate it into meaningful guidance for clients.
Of course, in order to make this happen, you have to maintain uninterrupted access to client financial information. Underpinning the bookkeeping side of 1-800Accountant is the seamless syncing of bank accounts and transactions that flow into our client portal. Part of our value proposition is that our clients don’t have to bring in a stack of paper the way they might with a traditional bookkeeper.
Instead, our portal pulls that data automatically. It’s critical for both us and our customers that the data is accurate and timely. If there is an error, if anything is unclear, or even if there’s just a lag, that has obvious downstream impacts when we advise our clients. And if we give the wrong advice, not only does it make us look bad, it exposes the client to financial liabilities like incorrectly filed taxes. That’s why we rely on Finicity to do the heavy lifting on the data access and insights side.
Finicity helps us link to customers’ bank accounts and then automatically draw from their financial activity—things like transactions, statements, account history, and ACH—to populate their account in our portal. We can then reformat and represent that data in the customer’s books. That allows us to make a projection based on what we know of the business in real time. For example, we can say that if your business continues on this track, we might want to talk about the tax deductions available to you.
The customer portal itself is a secure, proprietary backend system that we developed in-house. It gives our customers the freedom to log in anytime and upload documents, manage their expenses, track deductions, and see where they are from a tax liability perspective. They have access to all this information, presented in a user-friendly interface. It’s the same interface we use internally, so when it comes time for our accountants, tax experts, and bookkeepers to have a conversation with clients, everyone is looking at the same information.
Everyone here has been very happy with the portal. It’s simplified and sped up the process. A total game-changer. The great thing about the portal is once we’ve onboarded a customer and set them up to import their business’s financial data, using Finicity means we don’t need to go back and do anything else. That customer doesn’t require any maintenance from a data perspective. It’s pretty turnkey, which frees up our experts’ time to do what they do best: give great, specialized advice for our customers’ unique needs. That’s how technology helps deliver a human touch.
From the customer’s perspective, they don’t see the technology that powers the portal—they just know it works. When we’re dealing with something as sensitive as financial data, and as important as a person’s new business, it’s imperative that the portal is secure, reliable, and stable. That’s what we get with Finicity. I think one of the best measures for a tech solution is whether you need to think about it. Our customers don’t ask, “What technologies actually power this?” because they don’t encounter blips. In that way, Finicity gives our customers the assurance that their financial data is in good hands.
Remember who our primary customer is. Entrepreneurs don’t work nine to five—they pour their heart and soul into their new endeavour. When it’s 3 a.m. and they’ve woken up with a burning question about their books, our Finicity-powered portal is there for them and it’s always up to date, with a level of data quality that gives an accurate picture. Even when they’re in their pajamas.
Tech That Lets Us Focus on What Matters
It’s this commitment to our clients, to all of those late-night entrepreneurs and small business owners, that motivated us to expand our suite of solutions. With our clients’ needs in mind, we recently rolled out a product called ClientBooks. It’s an offshoot from 1-800Accountant, more of a self-service model with 1-800Accountant’s support. ClientBooks is DIY bookkeeping software similar to Xero, QuickBooks, or FreshBooks.
We needed a solution that would allow customers to interact with us directly, so we built that tool and developed it to the point where it could be customer-facing. Spinning that off helps us expand our market footprint, and there’s some added value in that it natively integrates with our portal. We wouldn’t have been able to produce ClientBooks without Finicity’s products and services.
Partnering with Finicity has been so valuable because it’s empowered us to deliver on our promise of seamless, accurate, real-time advice through a combination of technology and human insight. We help our customers focus on what matters most to them and Finicity does the same for us.
We don’t have to waste time inputting data or worrying that the data is wrong or insecure. We don’t have major crunch times to produce quarterly reports or file taxes because the stream of data is real-time. We can focus our energy on delivering those insights to the customer.
A Wide-Open Future
In my role as head of digital marketing, what excites me the most is the future. With its nationwide coverage, 1-800Accountant has the capability and scope to be both broad and specialized at the same time. From a marketing perspective, that presents a challenge because our message isn’t, “We’re all things to all people.” Instead, we want to find those micro-segments: What do truck drivers in Alabama really care about? What are the key words on their mind?
At the same time, while our core mission will likely always be to help the small business owner with their back office, the fact that we are a truly virtual company—but also have this network of local people on the ground—means we also work for larger companies that are struggling to do this work in-house. To those companies, we can say, “We can take care of that. Your employees should focus on the core of your business, not tax law.”
It’s a challenge, but it means there’s a tremendous amount of upside to the company. We’ve got a great team, bolstered by a seamless, automated, secure product. And by tapping into the potential of automation and tech, our people can focus on providing our customers that human touch.