How to harness the power of client collaboration

Improving client collaboration is essential for accounting firms. Find out how firms can improve their operations by getting closer to clients.

minute read

Last Updated February 14, 2024

Two men talking about the power of client collaboration.


Your accounting firm might be more important to your clients than you realize. The closer you can get to your clients, the more benefits you both can enjoy. But for a lot of firms, client collaboration isn’t as easy and powerful as it should be.

A recent BILL survey revealed that 89% of clients consider their accountants to be trusted advisors. That’s pretty much all of them…and it’s actually kind of a big deal. The level of satisfaction clients report having in accounting firms has almost doubled since BILL conducted a similar survey in 2019. Clients are looking to accounting firms to be far more than tax preparers. They want firms to be critical partners in multiple facets of their operations.

Almost 60% of clients in the BILL survey said they wanted more services from their accounting firms. In fact, two-thirds of respondents said they would stop referring a firm to other businesses if it didn’t offer advisory services. In 2019, fewer than half of respondents said they would stop referring a firm that didn’t offer an advisory component. So, not only is the demand surging for services beyond tax work, but firms that don’t expand their offerings risk losing business.

Client collaboration is the key to offering new services

It’s no wonder client service jumped ahead of other common issues as a priority for firms in a recent Thomson Reuters survey. Efficiency and client service, both of which go hand in hand with offering new services, replaced talent and growth as the top two areas of focus for firms. The focus on client service was especially strong among small and midsize firms, with 29% of firms with 1-3 employees and 37% of firms with 4-29 employees naming client service as a priority.

The closer a firm can get to its clients, the more services it can offer successfully. But a lot of firms are struggling with client collaboration. One study noted that 70% of firms wanted to make digital client interactions easier. Two-thirds of the respondents in the same survey said their online presence was insufficient. Technology is a critical component of improving client service and enabling firms to bolster their status as trusted advisors. In fact, 79% of respondents in the BILL survey said they would fire or stop referring their firm if it didn’t keep up with the latest technology.

Graphic with the following text: 82% of accountants surveyed said technology has helped them create more meaningful client interactions.

Firm leaders are starting to grasp the urgency of investing in technology for client collaboration. More than 90% of accountants in a QuickBooks® survey said they’ve used technology to meet clients’ needs in recent years. And it’s working, as 82% of accountants surveyed said technology has helped them create more meaningful client interactions. Additionally, 81% said technology investments have enabled them to free up time to focus on offering new services to clients.

What can firms and clients gain from client collaboration?

For accounting firms, expanding client services is a path to reducing reliance on tax preparation for revenue. That means shifting work from spending seemingly unending hours working during busy season to adopting a year-round schedule. Decreasing reliance on tax season spreads revenue throughout the year, meaning firms can take on fewer and better clients rather than having to take all comers for tax business. It also eases the burden employees feel when the majority of work is crammed into only a few months. And it lets them work a more manageable and balanced schedule.

Firms that embrace client service can also set their employees free to do more than just grueling tax work. In a profession constantly beset with hiring and retention issues, accountants are more likely to gravitate to a modern firm. And modern firms offer a variety of services rather than being overly focused on taxes. For firm leaders, offering new services provides stability because the more a firm can offer a client, the more inextricably connected the client becomes with the firm. With advisory services in high demand, leaders should be able to pick and choose the clients they want to work with. It shouldn’t be the other way around.

Graphic with the following text: 93% of accountants said real-time insights are important to the success of their clients.

Of course, a broadening of advisory services helps clients run their businesses more effectively and efficiently. That’s especially true for firms that can offer real-time client metrics and make strategic recommendations based on continually updated numbers. In the QuickBooks survey, 93% of accountants said real-time insights are important to the success of their clients. So important, in fact, that 84% of respondents said that companies that have real-time financial insights are more likely to survive a recession than those that don’t.

How can firms and clients use technology to collaborate?

There are a few attainable goals firms and clients should set for collaboration. They all involve running applications in a cloud environment, which enables both employees and clients to access updated information securely at any time and from anywhere.

Graphic with the following text: In a Rightworks cloud environment, firms and clients can: Establish an online environment for meeting and sharing data, set up a secure email connection, and share and use real-time data.

Rightworks provides cloud services to thousands of accounting firms and other businesses and has worked with accountants for decades. In a Rightworks cloud environment, firms and clients can:

  • Establish an online environment for meeting and sharing data. Confusion with crossing emails, version control and missed messages virtually disappears when firm employees and clients have a secure online space for collaboration. In the QuickBooks survey, 80% of accountants said technology helped them increase face-to-face communication with clients.
  • Set up a secure email connection. Email can supplement an online environment as a method of secure communication. Most email applications offer some security, but not enough for the level of sensitivity of the data clients and firms share. Email secured by a cloud provider makes sending information via common email environments safe.
  • Share and use real-time data. In a feature exclusive to Rightworks, firms and their clients can view real-time key metrics at any time. The real-time data engine can even suggest strategic decisions based on Rightworks’ years of experience working with accounting firms and their clients.

Collaboration will continue to be a major focus for both firms and their clients. Firms and businesses that implement cloud technology can rest easy knowing that experts are handling security, updates and maintenance for them, as well as providing valuable functionality. When firms need to boost client collaboration to improve their operations, there is no substitute for the cloud.

Are you ready to get closer to your clients? Get started now.

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