Portal communication leads the way in a Covid-driven paperless push

22nd September 2020

Whittles’ Managing Partner, Rachel Skells, reflects on one of the more positive aspects of the last six months.

Whilst appreciating the challenges, some unsurmountable, that many of our clients have had to face in the last six months, there has been some positive aspects for those businesses who could, and did, move with only a matter of 48 hours’ notice, to remote working and virtual client communication. For Whittles, as a business, we appreciate that it could have been a lot worse.

Before the exodus at the end of March, our news feed had been dominated with the government’s push on “Making Tax Digital”.  In preparing for this gearshift we had helped many of our clients to further embrace technology and our team members had explored and reviewed software packages.

We, ourselves, were also immersed in a digital transformation as we looked at storing more data digitally and reducing the amount of paper used. To begin with the primary motivation was eco – let’s save those trees – and of course improving efficiency. One such complementary development was the introduction of a client portal, created with our specialist software provider so that our team and clients could receive, send and share confidential information. We can also use the facility so that clients can approve accounts, tax returns and other documents via the portal rather than in paper form.

 

We have been impressed by how many of our clients have signed up to the portal and as we continue to market the portal and its benefits, the numbers are growing. We appreciate that for many of our clients using a portal is a technological step too far and now that most of the team are back in the office, albeit not all at once, receiving paper documents has become that much easier. However, we are now in a different stage of working in a pandemic. Now out of full lockdown, our priority must be to keep our clients and our staff as safe as possible. The case for going paperless has become even stronger because COVID-19 has been shown to stay on paper for up to four days. Teachers are no longer marking books because they cannot turn over the setting of work, having it gathered in, commented on and returned within a sensible window which also allows safe periods of quarantine. As accountants, we have the same issues albeit with good planning, longer lead in times.

So the more clients who can interact with us in a paperless fashion can only be a positive development and central to this strategy is the portal. However, we do also acknowledge that this will not be for everyone and for those clients who wish to continue to send and receive paper, that is how we will operate. It is our clients who determine the methods of communication which suits them best, but it is always worth being aware of the ever-changing options and developing technology available, and not just because of Covid. Looking back on the beginning of this year, I still can’t quite recall what was the trigger for us signing up to Zoom in February, but I’m very glad we did!