Tax Prep Using Content Services Solutions
Most taxpayers born in the last 60 years have the expectation that their preparer is harnessing electronic tools to help eliminate errors, speed up processes and make their overall client experience a positive one. This undoubtedly turns clients into raving fans.
So, how do you make a raving fan of your firm? The answer is easy. You need strong communication, you have to set expectations about what information is required by all parties, and you need a solid and secure platform to manage the workflow of information that is being exchanged.
To make this a reality, many providers have turned to Content Services Solutions to enhance their clients’ experience, but equally as important, to hone their internal processes, making things much more efficient for everyone involved.
You may find yourself saying, “That sounds great! But what are Content Services Solutions?” Content Services Solutions, or CSS, is the big brother to legacy Enterprise Content Management software and other document management solutions. It can provide practitioners several tools in one integrated solution to meet their needs, without having to cobble together a bunch of standalone products. While good document management is a must, CSS brings workflow engines, electronic data capture, automated document creation, visual checklists, and collaborative communication together in one place, which allows parties to meet agreed upon objectives and timelines.
When looking for features in a CSS, these are some top items to consider.
Electronic Forms: This feature can automate initial project onboarding, client information and return types; and capture a plethora of other data points relevant to services provided.
Checklists: A checklist provides both you and the taxpayer insight into what tasks need to be performed, as well as who is responsible for performing that task, providing the information, or making the decision.
File Exchange: Married to the checklist is the ability to upload documents pertinent to the item on the checklist. At a glance a taxpayer will see what has been done and what else needs to be provided. In exchange the preparer can upload final documents for review, make comments and gain acceptance.
Workspaces: A good CSS system will have the ability to share workspaces with multiple parties based on their permission sets so that they can subscribe to your workflow process. This allows spouses, business partners and financial teams the ability to upload items that need to be managed.
Security at the Item Level: For each task assigned, you will want security at the item level so that contributors do not see confidential information. Manage down to the user level to specify which fields can be edited, viewed but not changed, or not seen at all.
Track History: CSS systems should have the ability to track changes by the individuals involved. This gives you revision control on documents and captures a running commentary of notes from each party.
Calendar: Calendar assignments can be linked to most of the items above to send automatic reminders to the participants to complete their tasks in a timely manner and by important deadlines.
Integration: This gives the system the ability to share information with other providers, request electronic signatures and even update external sources.
Create Standard Repeatable Processes: Once you and the client have agreed upon a process that works well, you can follow the same process again the next year, making the process even more efficient year after year.
Mobile: While having electronic access is great, having the ability to get updates or send information between parties via your mobile devices will round out the solution nicely.
It all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? While changes like these do not happen overnight, there are several software solutions that have starter templates to get you going quickly. Over time, you can continue to refine your processes and steadily increase the value and the experience you are providing to your clients. As noted by LBMC’s Tax Practice Leader, Brian McCuller, JD, CPA, “We have found that embracing key technology solutions not only allows us to better manage our workload as we become more efficient, but it also enables us to be more strategic with our clients.” And it is very true. Using technology to better serve clients is the way of the future, and it’s how you turn clients into raving fans.
Can you imagine it? Less time searching for information, fewer emails, a reduction in missed phone calls and more time to focus on your client. It’s all possible with the right technology.