We’ve all been there… Someone who’s been on the team less than a year is sitting in a meeting and pipes up, “Hey, I just read that Toolio is sunsetting their sprockets solution. Do we have a transition plan?” Great. We’ve been using this platform for ages, and clients and our team are comfortable with it. Sure, it’s not perfect… but what is? And the work-arounds are well-known throughout the department. But now change that is out of your control is being foisted upon you.
As humans, we are all creatures of habit—clinging onto the known and ignoring new solutions competing against our legacy apps and systems.
However, just like ridesharing disrupted the taxi industry, disruptions can have massive benefits to our lifestyles. Getting a fresh start with a new system could provide your firm an opportunity to streamline processes. Make things more efficient. It might mean finally being able to centralize support for your clients by ending the days of using “whatever app the client wants to use” and being an expert in none.
Instead, you can develop deep expertise in one platform and pass that on to the client through a great experience AND be more efficient in your work and providing support. And if you find the right platform—one that supports your growth—you’ll also have access to resources and people that are plugged into your plan and truly working to help you succeed.
Managing your client’s transition
When raising the subject of switching technology with a client, we should expect resistance.
Even if it’s the answer to their prayers, all they may be thinking about is:
- Great, here’s one more system I have to learn. I just got used to finding all the reports I need in my old system.
- Now we have to make all these updates to our internal processes. It’s going to take accounting/payroll weeks to update all the documentation.
- And how is all our data going to be moved over? Is that even possible? What does this mean? Now we get reports out of two different systems and have to stitch them together in Excel?
As a trusted advisor to your client, you’ve got a unique position to help them research solutions that are the best fit for their size, industry, and specific needs. This is incredibly valuable work for them and deepens that relationship significantly. Present them with the overall transition plan and walk them through each stage of the transition to maximize their comfort. Here’s how.
Take the time to start out with a detailed assessment. For example, if assessing their needs around a payroll solution, you might meet with them to map out:
- Their team size, business size, and specific needs. Are there industry-specific considerations?
- How they pay people. Hourly, salary, commissioned, etc.? How much support will they need in processing payroll versus what will they be able to self-manage?
- What their benefits needs are. Payroll and benefits are tightly intertwined and many options will include solutions that address both sides of this coin.
- Their reporting and output needs. How do they like to look at payroll data?
- And last, and possibly most importantly: what integrations they need. Is there a time-tracking system that needs to drop hours into the payroll platform? What about an applicant tracking system that might be able to turn a candidate into a new hire in the payroll system in one click? By understanding the other technology that touches their payroll processes, you can look for a solution that provides as many integrations as possible to reduce the opportunity for human error.
Once you’ve assessed their specific needs, it’ll be time to move on to getting the client ready for the transition.
Do we jump straight from assessment to a solution? Of course not. You’ll significantly increase your odds of success by preparing the client for this experience. One crucial step is to “normalize change.” Help them see that these kinds of changes happen—not constantly, but periodically. They’re necessary to stay competitive! Help them with wording the communication they can use with their team. The more they talk about normalizing change, the more resilient the culture will become to changes—and eventually, they’ll begin to expect and appreciate it.
Another well-studied step is to get a sponsor for this migration in the company. The more senior the person, the better. Having buy-in from a key team leader can more than double your odds of a successful migration from 29 to 73%. Then, it’s time to communicae.
Collect information from your client’s team. Listen to their pain points. Find and communicate the more desirable aspects of the new tool from their perspective. How will it make their job easier? Or make it less complicated to change benefit plans, etc? Over-communicate. Tell them what you’re going to do, tell them what you’re doing, tell them what you did. And last, don’t forget about the ongoing support. Plan to support them, especially in the beginning. Make yourself available for training, questions, etc.
Then when it’s time to execute this transition, have a clear plan and process. For example, if you’re helping a client migrate to Gusto, you would:
- Present the solution. It doesn’t need to be much, but however you do it you’ll need to lead the client. Show them how where they are today isn’t ideal. Describe where you want to take them and why they would like it better there. And show them there are a few simple steps to get there and that you know the way.
- Present a change-management plan. List the steps in the transition plan. Change is scary. Managers are particularly nervous that changes like this will be mishandled, and if you have a detailed plan, it goes a LONG way to put their concerns at ease.
- Get access to their existing/historical data. Talk to whoever can get you access to the current payroll system or payroll data.
- Connect with the Gusto migration team. Gusto will make it painless to get your client’s data loaded into their system. There are dedicated advisors to help you and your client through the migration. They’ve seen almost every payroll system under the sun by this point. Give them access to the historical data, and the rest is done for you!
- Build out the profile for your client. You know how you show up at a great hotel or Airbnb, and they’ve left you notes and set everything just how you’d need it? Anticipating your needs? Take a few minutes to load the background info about your client into their profile so they don’t have to. (Address, EIN, payroll tax account numbers, filing frequency, etc.) They’ll appreciate coming into a room already arranged for them.
- Take the time to train. Offer yourself as a resource, and also connect your client with Gusto support resources. Make sure they feel comfortable and know where to turn if they wind up having questions.
- Check in to confirm success. Ask the client 30 days in, 90 days in, how the transition is going. Have they realized the benefits they were hoping for? Are there challenges they’re encountering that you could help them troubleshoot?
Handling a transition for a client is one thing, But maybe you’re facing similar concerns at your own firm. As a firm owner, you probably have systems designed around your key tools. If a new option comes around for a new bill pay service, accounting package, or payroll provider—you’re likely going to think long and hard before jumping in and making a change.
You’re probably thinking:
- So now we have to not just know this new tool, we have to develop expertise, and FAST! Our clients will turn to us when they have questions, and we can’t look like we don’t know what we’re doing!
- We’ll have to retrain our staff and integrate the new tool into our existing processes. That’s more admin work and time pulled away from serving the clients…
- If it’s a system that has the benefit of automating manual work, we need to rethink our billing model! If we’re not busy with busy work, what will we charge our clients for?
You very well might become a client of this new payroll solution yourself. I mean, why not, right? In that case, the assessment, preparation, and execution steps outlined above are worth considering for your practice as well!
But since migrating technology tools like this is like swapping out a new tool in your toolkit, there are specialized considerations for your firm.
Special considerations for accounting firms
Let’s stick with our payroll example. Before you select a new provider for payroll services for your firm, you’ll want to further consider:
- What processes need to be updated? Map out all the systems and processes in your practice that touch payroll and make sure you’re prepared to update the documentation.
- What team members are impacted? Based on the assessment of your systems, which members of your team will be affected by this change? You’ll want to get their input, buy-in, and support throughout the process, so check in early and often!
- What does the financial flow look like? This isn’t just a project management tool for you—this is a revenue-generating activity. So how will you manage the fees and billing for your clients? Do you plan to charge them for payroll services inclusive in your service agreement, and you’ll pay Gusto directly? Will you have Gusto bill the clients? Make sure you’re clear and that you have a consistent way to message this to every client.
- What training is needed for your team? Gusto has many options for training, including certification processes, and you’ll want to give your team space to properly get up to speed on how you want them to train. The People Advisor certification program from Gusto will be beneficial for practitioners who meet with clients in an advisory capacity. It’s a great way to position yourself as a provider of high-value services to your clients!
Formalize your internal change management
So as a practice, make sure that you take the opportunity to create a consistent change management approach.
- Document what you’re doing so the next time you need to change to a new tool, you already have the steps laid out clearly.
- Plan for an annual review with feedback from the team to identify ways to improve the process.This change management approach can be a huge time-saver, but it also has to be updated regularly.
- And last, take the time to develop evergreen training tools. Think about the things every new staff member will need to know going into the system and record video walkthroughs. Snap screenshots and document the steps. Creating training resources takes more time than just training someone the first time. But after dozens of new team members have used your training tools instead of blocking off time on your calendar, you’ll be thanking yourself.
Uncertainty is behind so much of our fear of change. Taking the time to develop thoughtful approaches to change can eliminate that uncertainty and make the experience a smooth and enjoyable process for you and your clients. When you have your client’s best interests at heart, take your role as a trusted advisor seriously, and position yourself as the guide that’s there to help them on their path to success, both you and your client will come out on top.
Have technology changes thrown your clients or firm for a loop? Send an email to [email protected] and include “Tech Disruptions” in the subject line to learn how we can help.