Results from extensive research commissioned and published today by Verbatim, one of the UK’s leading telephone answering services uncover staggering statistics on accountants’ digital customer service.
With one in three accountancy companies in the UK virtually invisible in search engine results and over 75% failing to use social media to promote their business, our research highlights a stark picture for the industry. However our report also highlights some bright spots and identifies some excellent examples of best practice to show what is possible.
What is digital customer service and why does it matter?
In 2022, accountants can’t just rely on a high street office and a good reputation to successfully grow their business. Prospective customers, whether individuals or businesses now expect to conduct business seamlessly in the digital and physical world. The IMF expects 65% of the world’s GDP to be ‘digitised’ by the end of 2022.
To keep their customers up-to-date with the latest industry insights, and to share knowledge with customers looking for financial advice, accountants must keep up with digital best practices.
Verbatim has commissioned this major piece of research to see how accountants are faring in the world of digital customer service.
Today’s consumers expect a seamless digital customer service journey as they interact with companies online from first awareness through to acquisition of services. Active engagement across social media platforms, multiple customer service options such as web chats, and being discoverable on search engines are all key to accountancy companies maximising the quality of each customer encounter. These days, accountants who have a diverse digital customer service experience and a strong online presence can quickly grow their customer base.
Verbatim has dug deeper to find how accountants are getting it wrong, and how they can bring excellent digital customer service to the forefront of their business.
You can download a copy of the report at the link below.
Key research findings
We looked at how easy it is to first find, understand what is on offer and then communicate with accountancy companies throughout the country.
Our research has uncovered these worrying statistics:
- Despite over 95% of digital users regularly using social media, three-quarters of the accountancy companies we reviewed either didn’t have a presence on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, or didn’t promote it. In most cases we found that those who did have a presence on one of the major channels would have a presence on all.
- 1 in 3 accountancy companies have websites which are virtually invisible in search results severely limiting their ability to be found by customers
- Only 8% of the accountancy companies we reviewed had web chat on their website, despite the fact that research has shown that 75% of millennials admit to avoiding phone calls.
- 81% of the accountancy websites we reviewed would be classed as ‘difficult to read’ even though the average reading age in the UK is nine.
How easy is it to find the typical accountancy firm online?
Invisible in search
1 in 3 accountancy companies have websites which are virtually invisible in search results severely limiting their ability to be found by customers.
Verbatim has discovered that not only are accountancy firms ignoring their Google ranking, but they are also ignoring the time it takes for their website to load on desktop computers and mobile devices. This means that consumers will take their limited time and attention elsewhere to quickly receive the services they need.
Invisible on social media
Despite over 95% of digital users regularly using social media, three quarters of the accountancy companies we reviewed either didn’t have a presence on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, or didn’t promote it.
Are accountants embracing social media? When social media platforms become important for business engagement, companies bring in talent to oversee post content. However, the majority of accounts have not stepped back and re-considered their broader digital presence and brand awareness in the context of a digital world and digital user journeys.
In a world where customers’ expectations of customer service have been dramatically transformed, it is important to make sure that the content is helpful, the brand presence is strong, and that live customer service is available on these platforms.
Verbatim’s original research study shows that the accountancy industry is slow to adjust, but concludes with examples of best practices and companies leading the way in the world of digital customer service.
How easy is it to understand and access their services?
Accountants are unwittingly putting barriers between themselves and their customers.
Poor mobile experience
Despite over half of all website traffic coming from mobile devices in 2022, 61.2% of accountancy websites do not load fast enough for customers on mobiles.
It doesn’t matter how great the user experience is, slow loading websites are driving customers away from the first click. Customers are waiting more than ‘breath’ for accountants’ websites to load and will return to their search results to find another company. Customers are now using mobile devices more than ever for the convenience of doing business on the go during a busy working day, which is why slow mobile speeds will frustrate and deter customers.
To deliver good customer service across all devices, accountants need to have fast-loading websites to get customers engaged from the very first step in the user journey. Google uses mobile speed as a ‘ranking factor’ to decide how to place websites in search rankings. This means fast-loading websites not only help the users stay on a website, but it also helps customers find accountants in the first place.
On top of poor loading times especially, 75% of accountancy firms have websites which fail to meet the basic requirements of accessibility. Verbatim has reviewed over 500 accountancy firm’s websites to see the number of alt tags used, and has found that less than a quarter were actually using them. These websites had minimal or no alternative text for images and videos – a basic requirement for accessibility and an indicator that other more complex requirements for accessibility would be unlikely to be met by those websites. With over 14 million people in the UK reporting a disability, providing a platform accessible to all is both a legal requirement and good business.
This study has found that 8 out of 10 accountancy companies have websites which would challenge the average reader.
This study uses the Flesch Kincaid scale which provides a reading ease score for website text between 1 and 100, with 100 being the highest readability score. Scoring between 70 to 80 is equivalent to school grade level 8 which reflects the national average amongst adults. 80% of accountancy websites tested fell well below this threshold.
Even amongst proficient readers, website visitors often have limited time and attention, and long sentences, jargon and poor grammar all deter prospective customers. Simple, effective language aimed at a broad audience helps users swiftly find what they’re looking for and provides the experience every customer is looking for.
How easy is it to engage with them through digital channels once you’ve found them?
Lack of digital channels
According to Forrester, 41% of customers expect webchat to be available on your website, however verbatim found that 92% of the accountancy companies don’t have it.
Customers, especially digitally native younger ones expect to be able to select their channel of preference and like to communicate via a screen; Contact Forms often deter users, and many don’t bother and 75% of millennials admit to avoiding phone calls.
Verbatim has found that accountants are not embracing webchat despite its great customer service potential.
Webchat means that a conversion can be struck up and the key human part of customer service can be achieved by a call handler who can manage multiple chats at once. Smaller businesses may struggle as web chats can be occasional and it is tricky to maintain coverage. Fortunately, call answering companies like Verbatim are offering outsourced web chat management services which can be a good halfway measure and solution to this problem.
Read our full findings in our report here, which includes a case study into five accountancy firms that are successfully using digital customer service to grow their businesses.