Being proactive in uncertain times

This is likely to be a landmark year for the economy and British business. At the time of writing, we still seem no nearer to achieving a negotiated Brexit deal that satisfies all parties. Like most, I’m not going to stick my neck out regarding what might happen and trust that it will all be alright on the day and life will go on more or less as before.

So, we filed our 2018 tax return in January, considered some useful tax planning in February, while we wait and see what happens with Brexit, let’s focus on being proactive in our business in 2019:

Customer service

Customer service has revolutionised in recent years, in pretty much all industries. Customers are used to far more choice, and will look for businesses that deliver a fast, seamless and personal service. No longer are we waiting for days for that online order, we can get a takeaway delivered by clicking an app and we expect our car repair to be carried out the same day.

Certainly, in the accountancy profession, we can deliver accounts and tax returns electronically and much more quickly than we used to. That’s no excuse to leave filing until close to a deadline! However, all businesses need to adapt to the expectations of their customers, and be clear what the benefits for both the customer and the business might be.

New technologies

We are in a world where technology is changing our personal and business lives every day. Look for the trends in your sector and don’t be afraid to innovate and embrace those technologies to improve your customer’s experience.

In the accountancy profession little changed for 400 years after the Italians invented double entry bookkeeping, but now there is cloud based software that can make the process more efficient. That allows us to spend more time with our clients, providing a value added service.

Human touch

Don’t lose the human touch. Whilst AI is inevitably improving all the time, we should still make sure that it doesn’t replace the human when delivering the customer experience. People need to find more ways to connect in person to build trust and strengthen relationships.

Marketing and advertising

The old saying “50% of the marketing budget was wasted, but unfortunately we don’t know which half”, was very true. Now though, we use technology and analytics to target our audience, creating high value and personalised content, rather than a less effective scatter gun approach.

Google Analytics provides free tools to analyse your business leads, allowing you to get to know your potential customers. Customer reviews are a great driver to your business, and statistics show that businesses without reviews suffer from potential customers taking a step back.

Banking

Banking is changing. We no longer rely on cash, and cheques will soon be a thing of the past. With bank branches closing, and cash machines disappearing, businesses need to be innovative in making it easy for their customers to pay. Paying with your phone or smart card is becoming common and is replacing the cash in your wallet. It remains to be seen what new payment methods are over the horizon.

My local pub only accepts card payments, and the benefit to the business is significant. They don’t have the security issues of keeping cash on premises, and don’t have to spend time reconciling cash and visiting the bank to pay in monies. Clearly, this generates a saving in both time and cost, and has even been a clever marketing tool as they are known locally for their different approach.

Data protection

I’m sure that we’ve all been impacted by the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and whilst this is another level of compliance, our customers should be confident that their data is as secure as it possibly can be.

Unfortunately we live in a time when cyberattacks, phishing and data breaches are commonplace. GDPR leads the world as the standard and it’s expected that the US and other regions will adopt a similar regulation, but it remains that we need to be cautious and promote the same message to our customers.

Employee happiness

Increasingly, businesses need to focus on employee happiness and wellbeing. Unemployment is at historic lows and recruitment is competitive, so employees need to be engaged and happy if you want to retain them. Happy employees also boost productivity.

Flexible and remote working are becoming increasingly popular. Less wasted time on the road can only be a good thing, but we need to understand the challenge of keeping all team members engaged when they might not be working together in one location.

There are many issues that will influence how we all do business in the future. I’ve no doubt that there will be innovations and efficiencies that we can’t dream of at the moment. By embracing these changes, we’ll all benefit from a profitable and enjoyable business life.

If you have any queries or would like more information, you can contact me on 01473 833411 or peter.glading@larking-gowen.co.uk. BGTW members qualify for 30 minutes of free accountancy advice every year.

This article is designed for the information of readers. Whilst every effort is made to ensure accuracy, information contained in this article may not be comprehensive and recipients should not act upon it without seeking professional advice. “Larking Gowen” is the trading name of Larking Gowen LLP, which is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales (LLP number OC419486). Where we use the word partner it refers to a member of Larking Gowen LLP. ©Larking Gowen.



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