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How to Use Online File Collaboration to End the Paper Chase

April 07, 2015

How to Use Online File Collaboration to End the Paper Chase

Do you want an easier way to work with your accounting clients?

For most accountants and tax preparers, tax season means long hours and high levels of frustration. Many of those hours are spent trying to collect information and tax documents from their clients, all while having to meet immovable deadlines. And once all the paper is collected, most accountants file clients' tax returns electronically. A paper-saving boon for the environment – not to mention the speedier refunds.

And yet the data and document collection process remains cumbersome.

Typically tax preparers snail mail big envelopes stuffed with forms clients need to fill out. They send checklists of the documents clients need to bring with them to their in-office appointment. Clients arrive to the appointment, without forms filled out, or incomplete. Necessary documents have been forgotten. The result? The in-person appointment is not productive.

Thus starts the cycle of chasing the client for the missing information via email and phone. This whole process requires a tremendous amount of time and effort.

Online File Collaboration Provides an Effective Alternative

The partners at Peninsula Accounting Services were tired of being hamsters in this paper chase. They wanted to improve efficiency, reduce the stress of tax season, and actually see their families more often.

They searched for an online solution that would let them collect information from clients easily and communicate with them without having to hunt through hundreds of emails. After conducting a collaboration platform comparison, they found something already close to home.

The wife of one of the partners, Mike, uses a free online collaboration tool to manage her graphic design business. After looking at what she was able to do with the tool and how easy it was use, Mike convinced his partners to try it. Less than 24 hours after Mike's wife showed him her pages, the partners set up their own account. They ran a pilot test with a few select clients to see if it made the flow of information and communication easier.

To their delight, the entire collaboration process became far easier and simpler. The partners set up private, secure pages for each client. Each client can access their individual page and see the specific checklist of documents they needed to provide. Instead of bringing a hard copy to an in-person meeting, clients used the online file collaboration tool to upload electronic documents or scanned images of a hard copy.

And because clients could post questions right within online collaboration tool instead of sending an email, the partners stopped needing to sort through hundreds of emails to match up a client’s file with their questions. Having the client queries and firm responses connected directly to the client's files provides the means of contextual collaboration that slashes hours off the time wasted searching for the right email thread and current files.

The partners are so thrilled with the results, they're now rolling out use of this online collaboration tool to all their clients.