Monthly Archives: September 2017

Scheduling Software Helps Accountants, Financial Planners Better Manage Sessions During Tax Season

Tax season is typically a busy time for accountants, financial planners, non-profits and other groups that offer tax assistance as individuals rush to prepare and file their taxes before the deadline. On one hand, the months leading up to the filing deadline can be some of the most profitable of the year for tax preparers and their staff. On the other, it can be a challenge to accurately and efficiently manage this influx of customer appointments. This is especially true if they schedule their appointments in the more traditional manner, namely over the phone or by e-mail. Not only is this a tedious process that requires significant staff time, it can also involve additional time-consuming steps, such as manually recording appointment and customer information in separate paper appointment books, calendars, spreadsheets and files.In addition to the burden traditional appointment-scheduling places on office staff, it also doesn’t give customers a convenient way to schedule their tax preparation sessions when it’s best for them, such as outside for normal business hours and on the weekend.More so than most, CPAs and financial planners know the importance of managing accurate information. That’s why they’re finding the perfect solution to their appointment-setting needs in the form of online scheduling software.SCHEDULING SOFTWARE IDEAL FOR TAX SEASONThe dynamics of online appointment-scheduling software make it an ideal choice for most service-oriented businesses that require appointments or reservations, such as tax preparers. Most online scheduling applications are cloud-based, which means they’re accessible in the same manner as online banking, e-mail and social networking sites. All that’s required to implement these services is an Internet connection, which most businesses and individuals have. Since the software is housed on a secure server managed by the service provider, there’s no need for expensive hardware, downloads, installations or ongoing maintenance. Users simply access in the same way as they would any other Web site. In essence, the online scheduler itself is a Web site accessible through a URL.Features can vary among the many providers, but generally most offer such functionality as:• Online customer self-scheduling. This allows individuals to view availability and book their appointments when it’s most convenient for them, such as at night or on the weekends.

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• Automated e-mail and text message reminders. Sent prior to a scheduled tax-preparation appointment, these can reduce the number of “no-shows” by over 50 percent. They’re also appreciated by customers• Online payment options. A scheduling system may give tax preparer the ability to securely accept online payment from their customers. As with automated reminders, this feature likewise can reduce the number of “no-shows,” as individuals are more likely to make their appointments if they already paid for them.• Record-keeping and reporting. These terms are synonymous with accountants and financial professionals, and online scheduling systems help them manage accurate data on their customer and appointments by centralizing all inputted information in one easily accessible location. Some even offer standard reports that users can quickly create.• E-marketing capabilities. Most service providers are now communicating with customers via e-mail, e-newsletters and through other online means. An online scheduling system is ideal for managing e-marketing campaigns, as tax preparers can manage their customer e-mails right in the scheduler instead of in separate spreadsheets and files. And not only are they easy to access, most e-mail addresses will be current, as customers have the ability to update them when scheduling an appointment (in the event that they’ve changed).In addition to scheduling customers for tax-return-preparation sessions, many CPAs, financial planners, non-profits and other groups use it for other services throughout the year, such as for consultations, tax-planning and reviews, payroll services and forms filing.Known as Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, online appointment-scheduling programs are typically “pay-as-you-go” with low monthly fees and no long-term contracts. Many offer a free trial of their service, which is a perfect way to test the system and see if it will fit specific scheduling needs. Generally, most scheduling providers give users the ability to set the hours when appointments are accepted, block off unavailable days and times, list staff members that customers can select for the service, describe available services offered, determine if and when automated e-mail and text message appointments reminders are sent, and modify the appearance of the schedule with different color schemes, logos and photos.Although some tax preparers will use an appointment applications primarily as an internal scheduling, most take advantage of the online customer self-scheduling feature by adding a “Schedule Now” or “Book Now” button to their Web site (most scheduling services provide these to their clients). Tax preparers can also add the button or URL link to their e-mails and newsletters, as well as include the URL address in invoices, postcards, receipts and other paper documents. They can also give the URL to customers in person and over the phone. In this regards, the scheduler itself is a Web page that anyone with an Internet connection can access. It also means that an accountant, financial professional or group does not even need a Web site to use online appointment-scheduling software.THE BENEFITS OF ONLINE APPOINTMENT-SCHEDULING SOFTWAREScheduling and managing appointments may seem like a simple, cut-and-dry task. However, depending on the volume of appointments a service provider handles, it could have a significant impact on staff resources and a business’ bottom line.Here’s a look at some of the benefits of a properly-implemented scheduling system:• Time savings. Online customer self-scheduling can dramatically reduce the number of staff hours necessary to answer phones, manually book appointment times into paper appointment books, calendars and spreadsheets, and change or cancel existing appointments. Automated e-mail and text message reminders can also eliminate the need to make reminder phone calls or compose reminder e-mail messages. This frees up employee resources to focus on more important tasks and responsibilities.• Money savings. The time savings of an online scheduling software application can equate into monetary savings as well. For example, a business with only one or two employees would not need to hire a receptionist or assistant to manage service appointments and customer information. Online scheduling software can also make the business more efficient, allowing it to maximize the number of service appointments offered by automating tedious and time-consuming procedures. “No-shows” cut into a business’ operating revenue as well, as the time slot is lost and now not available to another paying customer. The automated e-mail and text message reminders help reduce those and increase the likelihood that customers don’t miss their appointments.

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• Accessibility. Managing customer appointment times and services in a single paper appointment book, calendar, file or spreadsheet is inefficient, especially if more than one staff member must have access to it. Oftentimes, it’s confined to a receptionist’s desk or one employee’s computer. The same holds true to traditional, “boxed” scheduling software applications sold at retail outlets and installed on a single computer or network. Online appointment-scheduling applications are cloud-based and accessible from any Internet connection. This means that staff can access the appointment calendar from any Web-connected computer or PDAs, Smartphones and other mobile devices, a tremendous benefit for individuals who must have the ability to view their appointment calendars from home, on the road, and from other locations outside the office. This trait also makes online customer self-scheduling simple and without the need for any custom programming.• Cost. Cloud-based scheduling software is the perfect fit for small businesses and organizations with limited technology budgets, as it’s generally affordable and doesn’t require long-term service contracts. Additionally, it eliminates the need for contracted IT service for ongoing maintenance, upgrades and updates, as the service provider typically conducts these automatically.Scheduling customer appointments can be a tedious and time-consuming process for tax preparers, especially during the busy tax season. Implementing online appointment-scheduling software can help these individuals automate and improve this necessary-but oftentimes frustrating-task so they spend less time focused on appointment times and dates and more time focused on their customers’ tax returns.