What real customers say: 3 ways to improve your practice

The Practice of Now survey has captured the thoughts and feelings of accounting professionals since 2017, and the latest version is now available.

For the 2020 edition of the report, a new element was added: an additional qualitative survey from Coleman Parkes, which carried out in-depth interviews with users of accounting services. This included small and medium businesses in the UK, US, Spain, France, Canada, Australia, and South Africa.

The questions are candid. What pain points do businesses experience with their accountants, and what expectations do they have? Put simply, do they feel their accountant is meeting their needs—and, if not, what are the areas for improvement?

Below we look at some of the answers, and the surrounding areas that less progressive accountants might still struggle with: dealing with digitization, helping businesses with compliance and attracting the next generation. These insights can be used to improve your practice and its service offerings.

The Practice of Now 2020

Discover how accounting is on the brink of positive disruption and what accountants and bookkeepers should do to be successful.

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The results make fascinating reading for any accounting professional, and provide a snapshot that can guide growth and help create improved service offerings.

All the responses are anonymous except for details about the nature of the survey respondents’ businesses and their locations. But they are reproduced verbatim.

According to this year’s main Practice of Now research, 82% of the survey respondents agree that customer expectations of accountants and bookkeepers have expanded to include advising on relevant finance and accounting technologies.

Meanwhile, 83% of accountants surveyed agree that new technologies and a culture of digitization means they have had to invest more, and quickly, in order to keep pace with the market.

The C-suite executive of a medium-sized energy sector business in Australia explains the business benefits clearly: “Technology has enabled us to make real-time decisions.”

If technology is this important to clients, then it simply can’t be ignored by accountants.

“Technology has positively affected our relationship,” said the CFO of a small construction business in the US. “Our accountant has been flexibly adapting to technology. This has been delighting us and they definitely have elevated the quality of their work with the proper utilization of technology.”

The financial controller within a medium-sized retail business in Canada said of their accountant, who they’ve used for more than 30 years: “They have always been progressing with the emerging changes. That is one of the reasons why we have stayed with them this long.”

This same individual explained which technologies their accountant has been helping them with: “We have not deployed AI yet, but we are already using automation, cloud, and cybersecurity. They have been doing a great job.”

It’s clear from the survey that businesses measure their accountants by their willingness to embrace technology. One director of a small analytics business in South Africa offered a warning: “[My accountant] hasn’t yet adopted any technologies, which is the reason why she is being replaced with somebody who can. My accountant is not adopting technology; but the industry is.”

A private individual with income tax responsibilities in the UK said of their accountant: “They need to be IT literate. This is the modern

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