For CPAs, accountants, and auditors, busy season sucks. The stress can take a serious toll on your personal life, your relationships, and even your health. That’s because it’s hard to find time for things like diet, exercise, and those pesky “other people in your life” when you’re busy reconciling the list of outstanding client requests from:
- Email threads,
- Excel docs,
- Handwritten scribbles on the back of a tear-soaked cocktail napkin from last night’s happy hour that ended with you making merciful pleas to a series of increasingly obscure deities and fictional wizards,
The internet offers no shortage of guides and tips on overcoming your busy season woes. But nearly all of them miss a relatively simple step: Get the flow of documents between you and your clients under control with a document request management solution.
In our research for this article, a public accounting firm revealed that it spent up to 30% of its time collecting documents in a typical engagement. So there seems to be a ton of potential for time-savings and stress relief with a solution that keeps everything in one place as you request, track, and review large volumes of document requests.
No doubt, document request management can make the 2023 busy season less sucky for CPAs, accountants, and auditors—and even help you build smarter processes that deliver long-term busy season relief. We thought of several hundred reasons why, but our editors made us condense it down to these four:
1. It helps you stay calm under pressure
Ah, the busy season fire drill. We can picture it now:
The client takes three months to get you the documents you need—then demands immediate results. So you’re wading through the year’s worth of Excel docs and emails that flooded your inbox over the last two hours, trying to reconcile the mess while the partner is asking the manager who is asking you if anything is missing because he has a client meeting in 13 minutes. Tensions are high, and angry Teams messages PING your desktop and phone with greater frequency, but without a PING predictable cadence or rhythm PING that would allow you to PING PING tune them out, driving you PING ever closer PING PING PING PING to the edge PING PING PING of madness PING…
With a proper PBC (Provided by Client) request solution, however, a different picture comes into view—one where busy season fires can be extinguished with just a few clicks, coworkers and clients keep their cool, and, most importantly, your sanity remains intact.
“Instead of having to reconcile everything, you could open your dashboard on UpLink and see exactly what documents are missing, late, or have been uploaded for your review,” said Alex Maher, co-founder of UpLink, a leading document request management solution.
When problems do occur, document request management makes it much easier to discover what happened and validate it to the client.
“When you wait three months to get something from a client, and then they ask you to turn it around in a day…(UpLink) gives you ammunition to go back to the client so you can stand up for your staff,” said Alex Grant, co-founder of UpLink.
(And yes, two of the co-founders of UpLink are named Alex. Maher refers to Grant as “Grant” to avoid confusion. It’s kind of adorable.)
2. It gives you more time to build relationships
Conversations with clients can be painful endeavors, especially during busy season. But a document request management solution can give you the power to check off meeting agenda items in rapid succession, easily confirming what you have, identifying what you still need, and even receiving and uploading documents in real-time.
“When you get all the important meeting items out of the way in five minutes, that puts valuable time back in your day,” Grant said. “Sometimes those calls will end early, allowing you to move on to something else. But you can also use the 25 minutes left to develop that relationship.”
When you know your clients—who they are, what sports teams they like, which circle of hell they ascended from to make your life miserable, etc—you can serve them better, reduce friction, and gain some leeway for when mistakes do happen.
“Several of our customers have stories about clients staying on the call longer to talk about hobbies, interests, whatever,” Maher said. “That may not always be a good thing, but…it leads to more collaboration, more sharing the load…so clients want to get you things faster and are generally nicer.”
3. It helps you empathize with clients
Clients can be mean during busy season. But it’s important to remember that clients…(extra long pause for emphasis)…are still human beings.
They’re under intense pressure from their bosses and colleagues to achieve results within tight timeframes. And while that’s no excuse to take out their frustrations on you, you can still defuse a lot of problems with a few simple expressions of human empathy.
One way to get there is to remind yourself that, as the auditor, you have the power in these situations.
“It may not seem like it, but a lot of times, clients are afraid of you,” Maher said. “When they come at you with bad behavior—bullying, finger-pointing—that may be their misguided way of dealing with that fear.”
That’s where solutions like document request management can play an important role. It’s a tool that empowers you to demonstrate exactly what you need from the client, why you can’t move forward without it, when it was delivered vs when it was promised, etc. And that enables you to use your power in a confident way.
“When you have that confidence, you can stand your ground but also be more empathetic,” Grant said. “You can say, ‘I understand your frustrations, but we are about to run up against the holidays, and I don’t want you to stress when you’re trying to enjoy your family.’ So you’re better able to push them forward while still being nice about it.”
4. It can help you make your clients look good
While they may not always deserve it, making your clients look good is generally in your best interests. Document request management makes it easy to provide specific metrics to clients that validate their hard work (even if their efforts can’t reasonably be called “hard” or “work”), strengthening your goodwill with them.
“With good telemetry into your whole request system, you can find slivers of gold even in a sea of you-know-what,” Grant said. “You get insights to say things like, ‘Wow, Bill got us stuff 30 percent faster this year!’ Instead of, ‘We got behind again because Bill is too slow.’ Hyping up your contacts like that can encourage them to be more proactive with you in the future.”
Why use UpLink for document request management?
Now that we’ve empirically, indisputably, and oh-so-humbly proved that document request management makes busy season less sucky for CPAs, accountants, and auditors, there’s only one question left to answer: Which document request management solution is right for you?
Hell, we don’t know. What does this look like, Consumer Reports? But, according to a public accounting associate we spoke to:
“Most of the tools out there are not that great and feel outdated. UpLink has a really modern interface, and it’s dead simple for clients to use.”
And, from an accounting manager at a large energy company:
“I wish all my auditors would use (UpLink), because version control around updating Excel request lists is terrible.”
Also, Team Alex gave us the deets on several features UpLink has that its competitors don’t, ultimately making UpLink easier to use and more effective:
- Excel integration. Bulk create and edit the PBC using Excel
- In-app preview: Review documents without needing to download them
- Mobile-friendly interface: Take UpLink with you and access a single source of truth across your devices
- Custom attributes: Tag requests with specific values that are important on your engagement, such as priority, control number, department, etc.
Special offer: Readers of Going Concern can try UpLink risk-free with a complimentary free trial: either two months or 5 engagements free, your choice. Sign up before the end of February and you’ll get a six-month window to activate your trial whenever you’re ready.