In an industry struggling with faster deadlines, frustration with software and complex regulation, being able to address and resolve our customer’s challenges can be a considerable task. Providing both solutions and satisfaction is also essential to creating advocacy within our customer base. 

As a former accountant, I can attest to how the finance function is evolving. This can be partially attributed to the pandemic as well as other external factors that have contributed to a climate of risk and uncertainty. But, tech is also playing a transformational role, with greater automation and AI, liberating accountants from many of the manual, repetitive, and number crunching aspects of the occupation. 

Recent research – ‘The State of Play in UK Accounting’ – of UK finance directors and controllers, has highlighted the multitude of challenges facing today’s finance teams. 

Tightening deadlines, existing applications and technology, and complex compliance and regulatory tasks are all hindering accounting operational excellence.  As accountants are prevented from fulfilling their jobs, accounting basics such as meeting deadlines, transparency, and accuracy are being compromised. One in three accounting and finance professionals are unsure of the accuracy of their month-end figures, while 40% admit they are failing to meet accounting operational excellence.

In short, accounting teams don’t have the bandwidth to fulfill demands being made, or their own aspirations to grow in their role and career. So, helping customers to resolve these problems will result in a natural reciprocity – happy customers become great business advocates.

Reliability is key

The reliability of financial data is paramount. Senior leadership that has access to accurate accounting insights are better placed to pivot the business in response to real-time, unexpected external factors such as the pandemic and Brexit. Remote working has also hindered the communication and collaboration of accounting and finance teams, driving up stress levels, especially at the month end.  This turmoil and heightened pressure on the accountancy profession has contributed to shortfalls in standards, and worsened staff retention. 

The research found that stress is a major barrier and a debilitating drain on staff. 87% of respondents claim to have lost accounting and finance staff due to burnout, and nearly half of those respondents cited the stress of month-end close as the specific cause. Accounting and finance talent is so hard to come by its imperative that businesses ensure they are retaining their current staff by easing the manual load to provide greater job satisfaction. 

Addressing these pain points, which impact the wellbeing of customers, is not only crucial to job satisfaction but will also make our customers our champions. So how do we do this? What’s the fix or remedy? This is where the power of automation emerges. 

Power of automation

Better tech will improve workflows and working practices to alleviate the pressures finance teams are feeling. It can drive better accuracy, transparency, and speed of processes. It also offers greater support to remote or global teams by offering better collaboration and sharing of information. 

Accountants’ roles can develop and transform, taking on a more strategic, decisive role. Underpinned by reliable and accurate data, they will be in a better position to deliver confident insights and analyses … and guess what, they’re more likely to be happier in a progressive, supported environment!

Real advocacy can be achieved when providing a true solution for a customer. As well as identifying the challenges a customer is facing, it’s important the product keeps on delivering, future-proofing the team’s performance. Automation can be the catch-all medicine to meet these challenges but organisations also need to efficiently train employees on new applications and continuously onboard new employees at speed without disrupting workflow.

Natural advocates

I would argue that to turn happy customers into business advocates it’s really about understanding their pain points and delivering solutions. Organisations that truly feel the benefit and demonstrate ROI when it comes to digital tools will be natural advocates. 

Similarly, due to smoother workflows and reduced stress, customers will champion the product that has liberated them and allowed them to advance in their careers.