Is this all we can aspire to as a profession?

Is this all we can aspire to as a profession?

Is an NPS of 20 all we can aspire to as a sector? It’s time to rethink how technology and skill works together says James Poyser, CEO of inniAccounts

Is this all we can aspire to as a profession?

Depressing research came out this week. Despite 80% of small businesses using an external accountant, 70% would not recommend them, and the industry average Net Promoter Score (NPS) stands at a woeful -5. I dread to think what type of companies that puts our industry on a par with.

Small businesses attributed this sense of being failed to a lack of understanding of the business challenges that they face, and therefore an inability to provide the right support. A sense of being low down the priority list, and a culture of unresponsiveness don’t help either. You can see why 44% say they don’t get value from their accountant with a list like that and it explains why a quarter want to switch.

But what I struggle to understand is why that figure isn’t higher. As a consumer of all sorts of products and services, if I’m not happy I switch. So why aren’t small businesses doing that? Is it a case of better the devil you know? Perception is that one accountant will be as bad an another? That’s not a good place for our sector to be.

Is technology the answer?

Perhaps the answer lies in the statistic that half think accountants are failing to keep up with technology and so there are few places to turn. I can imagine that Making Tax Digital will have well and truly brought that issue to the surface and highlighted all the other factors of support, understanding and priority that come from a more digital experience.

Yet it appears that those small businesses lucky enough to have a forward-thinking accountant using technology are clearly in a different boat, as the NPS for techie accountants is much higher at 20.

That’s still very low. Though it needn’t be. It is possible to achieve 70. But it takes a different business model. You can’t just bolt on technology to your accounting and business processes. Technology has to be integral to them. It has to be built both for the customer and the accountant. It needs to be transparent and it needs to be slick, by which I mean it should take a matter of minutes to do the business admin not days.

But it’s not just about technology – we can’t wait for things like Artificial Intelligence (AI)  to solve the problem because it won’t. AI is just an enabler, the race for higher NPS still comes down to people – skilled accountants with the interpersonal skills to go above and beyond. We need people who are tech savvy, understand how technology can help them not just do their job better and faster, but do a better advisory job. Appreciate how it will give them the time to provide well-structured and considered advice that’s right for the individual.

The message is clear; we are now being benchmarked against other sectors businesses are using. The inertia won’t last forever.

Yes, technology is a part of the answer but with a marked difference between a 20 NPS and a 70 we must acknowledge that as practitioners we need to up our game too. We have to consider how our skills must evolve to meet the new demands. Set out new ways of working that make every client feel like they are the top priority, that they are understood and they are valued. They won’t value us otherwise.

But above all change must happen now else we face a scenario where the majority of practices will go out of business.

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