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Formalising ‘Quick Fixes’ in the Face of Long-Covid

When lockdowns were first enforced in March, an estimated 300 million[1] office workers across the globe made the shift to remote working. With little warning and question marks around the logistics of handling such a seismic operational change, business leaders made quick decisions in their endeavour to keep running.

Months later, despite widespread initial reservations, many accountancy firms are embracing the transformation to working from home. Bosses have recognised that they’re able to operate effectively with a dispersed workforce and haven’t experienced the drop in productivity they’d anticipated. According to Gartner, 74% of organisations plan to permanently shift to more remote work post-Covid-19 [2] – including PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, which announced that the majority of its 22,000 UK staff will work remotely in the future.

Love or hate homeworking, the fact is that it’s here to stay and as the UK embraces ‘Lockdown 2.0’, it has become apparent that businesses are facing long-term change. Any temporary measures put in place back in March won’t constitute a sustainable long-term solution and could hamper businesses from transitioning successfully into this new era of remote and hybrid working.

Leading outsourced communications provider, Moneypenny, has supported the accountancy sector throughout the pandemic to ensure firms are available as and when their clients need them. Head of the Finance Sector, Louise Wilson, shares her advice for formalising quick fixes in the face of long Covid.

Sensitive documents

Accountants handle a vast amount of sensitive materials – from tax returns and bank statements to employee files. Data and information are given to them under the agreement that it is secure and when this is compromised, not only is the firm held responsible, but the client is put at serious risk of identity fraud.

With team members working from home, sensitive documents could quite easily find themselves in the wrong hands and even if staff is equipped with shredders, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be used properly. Outsourcing this requirement to a mobile document destruction service is the most strategic way for firms to ensure that they’re protecting themselves and their clients. Employees are provided with sealable bags or lockable bins, which are collected regularly and the contents shredded professionally. The FCA Handbook details specific requirements for record-keeping and data retention, but there’s no room for error when it comes to data handling, so this is a smart investment.

Telephone connection

‘How are clients and prospects going to get hold of us?’ – it’s one of the very first questions asked by businesses when switching to remote working. The most common solution – if a phone system allows it – is to reroute calls to mobile phones. We’ve even heard of a business fielding all office calls to one mobile and working on a rota system with the office manager delivering the phone to staff members by car. This approach creates a dangerous single point of failure that, if it failed, would completely breakdown the inbound phone connection to a business.

Relying on mobiles also depends on good signal in employees’ homes and them constantly being available to answer calls. Inevitably, callers will get through to the wrong people and have to wait for a call-back or even worse, reach a voicemail. It makes for a clunky client experience and opens firms up to missing valuable leads. Outsourced telephone answering support ensures that every single call is answered and handled professionally. Calls can be transferred to any member of staff wherever they are working and the service is available round the clock, so firms can be contacted outside of the traditional 9-5 – an ever-growing requirement in the world of remote working.

Post management

Although the majority of communications may take place digitally via email, there’s still a very real need for physical mail. While accountancy firms are operating remotely, receiving and distributing post isn’t easy and sensitive paperwork being delivered to a residential address is far from ideal.

Instead, physical mail can be redirected to office mail management companies who use secure technology to digitise post so it can be accessed and managed remotely. Alternatively, private couriers can collect and deliver mail to employees’ homes.

Printing

Printing from home can be costly and tricky when letterheaded paper is required – as it tends to be within the financial sector. Cloud-based printing technology such as Google Cloud Print allows employees to print from anywhere to one, centralised printer that can be manned by a dedicated individual. With one person responsible for printing, packaging and posting, costs can be controlled and it’s one less stress for staff.

File sharing and collaboration

When working remotely, sharing files securely and finding ways to collaborate digitally, rather than face to face has become imperative. Cloud-based low-cost tools such as Microsoft Teams, Slack and Google’s G-Suite provide a relatively intuitive experience for even the most un-tech-savvy and helps teams to work together at the click of a button.

As well as sharing and storing files and enabling multiple employees to access and edit documents at once, these tools also get people talking, which can help to address some of the wellbeing concerns around remote working.

Digital presence

Client visits to the office are off the agenda so the spotlight is firmly on accountancy firms’ online presence and now’s the time to ensure websites are working as hard and they can.

With reduced resource and remote teams, websites can help manage some of the marketing and communications burden. Live chat solutions can keep volume away from phones and offer a quicker, more interactive alternative to online forms. Additionally, regularly updating website with useful content such as FAQs, videos and downloadable guides give visitors added value and make websites become lead generators rather than just brochures.

There are also GDPR considerations around remote working. Personal data can only be gathered under strict conditions and for legitimate purposes. Those organisations that collect and manage people’s personal information must protect it from misuse and must respect their rights at all times – and that includes employees working remotely.

Customer relationship management

For remote teams, cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) software can house all essential contact details and client information in one place. Software such as Salesforce and HubSpot also provides end-to-end visibility of ongoing activity and ensure that all relevant parties are updated with vital client updates. This helps remove delays in communication and avoid doubled-up efforts which lead to disgruntled clients and team members.

The Coronavirus pandemic has brought about a complete shift in worker habits and team dynamics. With little time to prepare, accountancy firms naturally went into survival mode and put measures in place that made sense in the short term to help combat the immediate impact of lockdown. However, in the long run, these fixes create bottlenecks and can begin to have a bearing on productivity as team members don’t have easy access to information they need. The quality of client experience then drops and ultimately, reputation is put at risk. By putting solid foundations in place for successful remote operation now, firms will not only survive the latest lockdown, but future-proof their businesses.

Moneypenny provides telephone answering and live chat services to hundreds of financial services businesses and is trusted by the UK’s top accounting firms, including five of the top 30. 

Established in 2000, Moneypenny is the world’s market leader for telephone answering, live chat, outsourced switchboard and customer contact solutions. In total, more than 13,000 businesses across the UK benefit from Moneypenny’s mix of extraordinary people and ground-breaking technology.

For more information about Moneypenny’s work in the financial sector visit: 

www.moneypenny.com/uk/accountancy-answering-services

[1] Data from Boston Consulting Group

[2] Gartner CFO survey