How Accountants Can Save Time by Automating Emails With Power Automate
With a shrinking workforce, and legacy pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic, time and the best use of it, have never been more important in the accounting industry. Between balancing client finances, growing expectations to provide advice and guidance and as well as keeping up to date with industry changes and regulations, accountants are under pressure to find new ways to meet the demands of the industry.
One way accountants can save time and streamline their processes is by using Power Automate to automate some of the emails they send to clients. Provided by Microsoft, Power Automate is an upgrade to many Microsoft 365 licences. It can be used in many ways to automate repetitive tasks and save time. In this blog post, we explore how Power Automate can be used by accountants to automate client emails, whilst ensuring they continue to provide an exceptional customer experience.
Using Power Automate for client communication.
Effective communication is key to building trust with clients in all industries, but with the central role finances play in business, this is perhaps most applicable to accountancy practices. Whilst keeping clients informed and up to date on their finances is essential, there are now growing expectations on accountants. Often seen more as a business advisor, businesses often look to their accountants to provide advice and inform business strategy, alongside traditional bookkeeping functions.
However, these expectations mean there is a growing need for more frequent communication which can be time-consuming. It also puts added pressure on accountants, at a time when the industry is struggling to retain staff. Common emails can include updating businesses on their financial positions and statements or reminding them of upcoming deadlines. These tasks can sometimes go unnoticed but take up a significant amount of time, which could be better spent on the strategic work mentioned previously, which often requires more time, concentration, experience and expertise.
This is where Power Automate can be used to automate some of the simpler and more repetitive client emails. Power Automate is a cloud-based service from Microsoft that helps you automate tasks and existing workflows. It connects to hundreds of apps and services, including the Microsoft 365 software your accounting firm is likely already using such as Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft SharePoint.
What’s more, with many of the leading cloud accounting providers such as Xero, Quickbooks and Sage able to integrate with Microsoft 365, Power Automate allows you to create automatic workflows that directly involve your clients and their businesses. This is particularly powerful when automating client emails, as it allows you to send specific emails, containing specific details, as opposed to emails of a generic nature to all of your clients.
For example, you can set up a flow that sends an email to your clients whenever their financial statements are updated. You can also create a workflow that sends automated reminders for deadlines, or regular tasks you require input on such as the submission of receipts and invoices for data processing. Whilst these may not seem like particularly time-consuming tasks, multiplied by the number of employees you have and the number of clients they each serve, the time spent on these emails can soon add up to something quite substantial, especially when considered over an extended period of time.
An accountant could easily spend 15 minutes a day sending emails they’ve sent multiple times before to various clients, providing updates, chasing information or offering timely reminders, all of which could be automated. Across an accountancy firm of 20 accountants, that could be as much as 25 hours a week of time spent on emails that could be better spent elsewhere on providing real value to your clients. Many accountants will be spending more than 15 minutes a day on these emails though, making the possible time savings even greater!
How accountants can start to automate their client emails with Power Automate.
Starting to automate client emails with Power Automate can seem daunting, but it isn’t as complicated as you might expect. Remember, we’re talking about automating repetitive and simple emails here. Your clients rely on your knowledge and experience to provide advice and strategic guidance, so those types of emails are best left to you – the experts. In this instance, we’re talking about simple repetitive emails such as reminders, that technology can easily take care of, giving you the time you need to focus on more difficult tasks.
With that in mind, here’s how we’d recommend you start automating some of the emails you send to clients.
1. Understand what emails you’re regularly sending to clients.
This first step is particularly important. Without knowing what emails your accountants are regularly sending to clients, it’s impossible to start automating them.
Speak to your various teams to get a better picture of what regular emails are being sent to clients and if there’s anything extra they may do if time was no option. For example, many might like to nudge busy Directors for receipts and invoices but simply don’t have the time to do so.
Also, consider that different teams or employees may send different emails given the nature of their function or specialisms. Therefore, it’s important to talk to various employees to get a full picture of what emails you’re regularly sending as a business.
2. Consider which emails should be automated.
As mentioned previously, not all emails should be automated! Some require the experience of your accountants, while others, perhaps in relation to particularly difficult subject matters, may require a human touch.
With the list of different emails your accountancy practice sends, start splitting them into two lists. You want a list of those that you think can be automated and those that can’t.
You may want to start off cautiously here and have a third group – those that you don’t wish to automate straight away but may do so in the future. If you’re new to automation, this may be wise, as it’ll allow you and your clients to get familiar with automation before sending anything too complex without human intervention.
At this point, it’s important to calculate roughly how much time you will save from each email that could be sent automatically. The best way to do this is to multiply the time saved per email by the number of employees you have. Once you’ve done that, multiply that number by five (or the number of days worked per week in your organisation). This will give you a rough time saving per week.
3. Check Power Automate is a worthwhile financial investment.
With this rough time saving calculated, you can work out whether Power Automate will be a worthwhile financial investment. We don’t want to teach accountants how to do their job, but for absolute clarity, you don’t want to spend more money on Power Automate than the time saved is worth.
To do this, take your weekly time saving (in hours) and multiply that number by the average hourly rate of your employees. You then want to compare this number with the cost of Power Automate.
Power Automate is often an add-on to most Microsoft 365 licences with prices starting at £11.30 per user per month at the time of writing (March 2023). You don’t need a license for every user, and prices can change based on any existing licences and your specific needs. An IT expert should be able to confidently explain the price for your organisation.
4. Write templates for your automated emails.
Assuming that Power Automate is financially viable for your accountancy practice, it’s time to write templates for each of the emails you wish to automate.
Whilst you can personalise these emails, and the software can automatically add things such as names and specific pieces of data, remember that these emails are automatic. Therefore, they are likely to be seen by a large range of people. Keep this in mind when writing your templates, ensuring they remain suitable for all.
5. Implement Power Automate for your accountancy practice.
At this point, you’re ready to get started!
Your IT team or IT support provider should be able to help you create the relevant workflows you need in Power Automate to send these emails automatically. The configuration of Power Automate uses triggers, meaning that when certain criteria are met, a certain action is performed. For example, when the date is February 1st send the following email to the following people.
By having your emails planned out and templates written, the implementation should be relatively straightforward but if you’re looking to use additional integrations such as your cloud accounting software, you may wish to get additional assistance.
If you’d like assistance with this, any of the above, or would like to find out more about how Acronyms can help your accounting firm use Power Automate to save time, you can book a free no-obligation consultation with one of the team.
Alternatively, if you require any further information, you may find the following pages useful: