If you run an accounting firm, you know that email reigns supreme as a communication method. But I would like to introduce something else far more powerful for staying on top of your clients communications. Help desk software. In this article I’ll discuss why help desk software for accounting firms is useful and what it is exactly.

Why did I choose to write on this topic? A recent newsletter of mine included a topic on help desks and I had many people coming up to me asking why something like this may be useful for their accounting firm. So here we go!

What is Help Desk Software?

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Your customers are arguably the most important part of your business, so when they get in touch, you should have a way to handle their requests in a manner that ensures that they are solved in a timely & efficient fashion. When you are bombarded with 100’s of emails coming in from different clients, sometimes it’s hard to stay on top of all communications and especially hard to ensure that those requests are 100% solved.

A help desk, also known as ticketing software, is a way for businesses to manage, organize and solve customer inquiries easily and efficiently.

In its simplest form, the way it works is that each business generates a dedicated email address for customer support, something along the lines of [email protected] Clients are instructed to email this address for any questions they may have (if you frame things properly there will be no pushback) and their email is then forwarded into your help desk software and converted into something called support ticket. This ticket would be assigned a ticket number and generally be assigned to the person or a group of people handling this client depending on how you setup the software.

From there you can track this ticket to completion. Each ticket in the system should eventually be marked as solved. A help desk can therefore help improve your customer’s experience through more timely, efficient & effective communications (click here for more apps that help make communication with your clients easy, efficient & effective).

You have likely interacted with help desks before without even knowing it and while help desk software for accounting firms have not been especially popular (mostly because most firms think that they are impersonal, which is false if you approach it properly), they should really be near the top of each modern firm’s technology stack.

There are many help desk apps out there, but some of the more popular ones are Zendesk, Teamwork Desk, Groove, Freshdesk, among others.

Benefits of Help Desk Software for Accounting Firms

Here are just a few benefits of help desk software for accounting firms:

One centralized place to search all client communications

When your client communications live in email, they remain in a silo, meaning, no one else at the firm can see this communication and therefore cannot get great context about what may be happening with that client at a certain point in time.

A help desk turns this on its head by allowing all those authorized at your firm to view all communications pertaining to that client in one centralized place just by doing a search in the app.

This is incredibly helpful for a few reasons:

  1. There is an amazing history of communication with your client between all team members that you can look up. This is helpful years down the road when you need to dig up an issue or communication.
  2. If someone leaves your firm, all of those communications reside in the help desk.

Often, when I wanted to see what has been transpiring with a client before a client call, I would just perform a search in the help desk and review recent communications.

Avoid emails slipping through the cracks

An email platform is a terrible platform to organize, manage and solve client inquiries. Here are 2 reasons why:

  1. If multiple people are cc’d, no one on your team really actually knows who will lead the matter. Sometimes, that means that no one does and an email may go answered, which is a surefire way of aggravating your client.
  2. When you respond to the client’s inquiry, that email is marked as read in your inbox, forever forgotten about. We all know the clients are maybe not always the most responsive, and without you flagging that email to follow-up on with your client, your client’s inquiry might not ever be solved, leading to potential customer services issues down the road.

With a help desk, a ticket must remain in a few stages, essentially, open, pending or solved.

An open ticket status generally signifies that a client is waiting for your response. A pending ticket means that you are waiting on your client to get back to you. A solved ticket means that the inquiry is fully solved. By organizing inquiries in this fashion, you can ensure that all open tickets are answered promptly and that all pending tickets (ie. emails you have sent with no response back from your client) can be followed up on periodically.

Over and above this, generally, a ticket is assigned to a person (or group of people) where an expectation that an open ticket is responded to within x minutes/hours/days depending on company policy. If no response is made, the ticket will continue to remain as open and will certainly stand out in the system.

Following the above basic framework ensures that support is tightly and efficiently managed.

Get a quick pulse on support

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Want to know if your team is either overloaded or lagging with customer support? Just login to your help desk and get a bird’s eye view with how many open tickets there are and how many are pending. Lots of open tickets could signify that your team is overloaded with over stuff and can’t get around to answering emails fast enough and that you, as a firm leader, may need to take action in some way, for instance.

Additionally, many can produce different kinds of dashboards. Want to see open tickets per individual that were submitted less than 48 hours ago? Set a dashboard for that. Want a view that just shows all pending tickets. You can do that. You can mix and match various variables and produce a dashboard that suits your needs so that you can get the views you want into customer support at your firm.

Ability to introduce efficiency & automation into customer service

One of my biggest reasons for advocating help desk software for accounting firms is that we can start to use technology to streamline and automate customer service.

When it comes to efficiency gains, 2 important features come to mind.

First, I love having the ability to have internal conversations with my team on a support ticket. If a client submits a ticket and you need to chat with someone else on your team about it, just submit an internal comment in the ticket itself to your colleague and you can both chat about a solution directly in the ticket before publicly responding to your client. Not only does it make the communication process more efficient but it also helps keep a documented audit trail of your conversation which can be incredibly helpful down the road.

Second, if you or your team have standard/templated emails that you tend to write to your clients when dealing with similar matters (ex: here’s how you pay your taxes), you can write canned responses and save them in the help desk. When it’s time to respond to your client with one of your standard emails, simply select the canned response in question and the message will populate with 1 click. It can be a nice time saver.

Next, when it comes to automation, there are a lot of interesting things that you can do depending on what you are trying to achieve. Examples:

  • If company policy is to respond within 24 hours, you can have the app ping the person assigned to an open ticket to remind them that a response is required if 24 hours have elapsed, for instance.
  • Certain words found in a client inquiry can actually have the app auto-respond for you (this can be dangerous, but also effective if done properly).
  • Some help desk apps can connect to some other apps in your tech stack to help streamline parts of the customer service process (ex: perhaps you want to turn a ticket into a task, this is something you can achieve with the right tech stack).

There are endless automation possibilities for those that are creative.

Get interesting analytics on your firm’s customer service

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Want to know the average amount of time it takes your team (or a certain person) to respond to client inquiries? Want to see how long it takes on average to solve tickets? Want to start getting happiness ratings on tickets from your customers? Want to see how your KPI’s are trending over time? All of these stats and reports (and more) are possible with a good help desk.

Things To Consider When Using Help Desk Software for Accounting Firms

While there are many good reasons to adopt help desk software for accounting firms, there are a few things to consider first:

  • These apps are typically not cheap and could essentially end up being $20+/user/month. In my opinion it’s worth it, but it can add up with a larger team.
  • Getting the help desk setup takes some time, testing and tinkering. I personally did it myself years back and it was a many months exercise, granted, the app I was using was a bit more complicated, though more powerful, than some of the other options out there.
  • There will be a bit of a learning curve for your team as it’s not as straightforward as sending an email. That being said, it’s not exactly rocket science either.

At the end of the day, I rank help desk software for accounting firms as a critical component of any modern firm’s tech stack. I’m obviously just scratching the surface here and there’s tons of other features that you may be able to leverage in your firm, but the above article is a good introduction to how help desk software can help you and your firm.