How to Build a Profitable Bookkeeping Service & Improve Client Retention —On-Demand Webinar

Managing email amongst your own team can be difficult, let alone managing email for clients. Learn how Outpost can help optimize the process.

Managing email amongst your own team can be difficult, let alone managing email for clients! The pressure of waiting for emails from both your clients and theirs can make it challenging to respond in a timely manner. The way in which you and your team manage email can either make or break the success of your daily workflow. 

Using email management software is a great way to improve your team’s success. Palo Alto Software’s CEO, Sabrina Parsons, and Outpost’s Marketing Manager, Jonathan Michael, got together to demonstrate how a tool like Outpost can help with email best practices that will save time and increase customer satisfaction. Watch or read more below!

Webinar recording

Your Whole Firm Working Together in Outpost

Most firms struggle to manage their accounting@ inboxes and never-ending client email. Missed messages, duplicate replies, and inbox confusion are common because traditional email wasn’t designed for teams. That’s why we built Outpost: to make managing client email truly collaborative.

With Outpost, your team can work together in the same inbox, without sharing passwords or stepping on each other’s toes. Outpost is simple because shared email should be.

Take the pain out of managing client email so your whole firm can see everything in one place, respond quickly, focus on billable work, and provide excellent service.

If you’re interested, you can start a free trial of Outpost today, or schedule a custom tour to learn how Outpost will help you save time and get more done.

Webinar transcript

Original presentation date — October 29

Description:

Learn how to use technology and marketing tactics to build a profitable, scalable client bookkeeping service. Using our methodology, you will learn how to turn your hourly services into service packages, set up monthly pricing, and efficiently manage and grow your client base.  Learn how to use technology tools and processes to scale your services efficiently to be more profitable, without working harder, while delivering excellent service to ultra-loyal clients. 

During this one-hour webinar you will learn:

  • How to package your bookkeeping services effectively to bring in more clients
  • What you should offer to retain clients and build a loyal client base
  • How to price your services into monthly packages
  • How to use technology to set up efficient processes to keep your clients happy and reduce your workload

Sabrina: (00:00)

Thank you so much. We are so happy to be here with everybody today and love seeing all the different places people are from all over the country, Chicago and Pittsburgh and Texas and California. So it’s great to have you from wherever it is that you are checking in with us. And you can see here we’re Palo Alto Software. You may have come across us in the accounting space with our LivePlan product. LivePlan is a platform for strategic advising. So it may be something you’ve heard of, but we also have another product called Outpost that is all about email management. 

And today Jonathan and I are going to be talking about building a profitable bookkeeping service and improving client retention. I’m going to jump right in. We have a lot of content here and I really want to focus on the piece of it that I often hear from a lot of people in the service industry, so not just accountants, but anybody who offers consulting services, hourly services. It’s really hard to understand how to offer hourly services and forecast your business and know how do you grow it if you’re selling hours, right?

Sabrina: (01:36)

Cause there’s only so many hours in a day. And those of you, 54%, who are just you and your firm, you only have the hours to sell that you can actually do the work. So the more money you make, it means you’re working that many hours and that is not a scalable way to grow a business. So what we work with a lot of people across the service industry is to really think about service versus a package and product ties in what you offer. 

You know, what a service is, right? You guys all offer it, you engage with a client. You say I’m going to offer you bookkeeping. In that traditional accounting service model, you would be billing by the hour. So you would work with your clients, you would bring them on board and you would tell them that your services cost X amount per hour, $50 an hour, $100 dollars an hour, or $200 an hour, depending on where you live, what your credentials are and what you’re doing.

Sabrina: (02:45)

The client then gets a bill presumably every month. And on that bill, you have how many hours you’ve worked for them, what your hourly rate, and what that total amount is that they have to pay you. The problem is that when you do that, and particularly in this world of accounting, where bookkeeping is becoming commoditized, where tax compliance, bookkeeping things, the technology have made easier, have made clients feel like it’s a commoditized service. 

There are larger companies offering online cloud services at very low rates. And you’re competing with our idea that everybody can do my bookkeeping. I just need to find the cheapest one. We know that’s not the reality. We know that there are varying degrees of quality and that if you bring quality work, you should get paid for it. But unfortunately, clients don’t always see it that way, right?

Sabrina: (03:53)

So when you have a service and when it’s not packaged, the only way you can justify your value. Sure. There’s value in what you do. There’s thinking there’s thought there’s strategy. But to that client, you have to justify the hours that you build up. And many of you I’m sure have had clients who’ve decided to leave and maybe one press they’ve told you, I found someone who was cheaper. And that’s what happens when you offer services and not packages. 

When you think about packaging things up, it allows you to think strategically about offering a set of services with a set of deliverables that you’re going to give your clients that are packaged up for a certain price every month. Maybe you give an annual price as well, and somebody can sign up for the year or they can sign up monthly.

Sabrina: (04:49)

I would say monthly is probably more usual in the bookkeeping space. And in order to think about packaging, you have to be very specific about what your packet, what set of services it is going to offer both because you need the client to understand it, but also because it allows you to think through your own business and understand how many clients you can manage. Those of you who are out there and you’re single person firms, if you sell packaged services correctly, you should be able to know it takes me 20 hours a month per client. 

This is how many hours I can dedicate to this particular package service because I also have to run my own business. I have to do some marketing. I have to deal with incoming leads. So I have these many hours a month to dedicate to the 20 hours. It’s going to take to deliver this package every month.

Sabrina: (05:52)

But as you bring in more clients and you know how much you are charging them, you can also then plan and decide to bring on any sort of part-time or full-time employees. And you’ll know exactly when to bring them because that’s what happens with packaged services. All of a sudden you’re selling a unit, you’re selling a thing and you’re not selling hours. 

And then you can start to understand how many of these things can you sell and what price do you have to put them at to make margins and to allow you to grow your business by potentially hiring other people. And then all of a sudden, you’re not in this game. That the only way you make more money is to work more hours. And none of us want to be there. Jonathan, if you want to move on to the next slide.

Sabrina: (06:45)

Great. So here’s something to consider. You want to market a solution, not a commodity. And what do I mean by this? Right? What are you marketing on your website? In brochures when you talk to clients, I mean, these days, I hope you all have very good websites because there are not that many in-person meetings happening. And if you can have that digital presence and do some marketing on your website, this could be really helpful to you. So you’re marketing a solution, not a commodity. 

You’re marketing, how you’re going to solve your client’s problems, right? Their problem is not that they need you to do bookkeeping. Their problem is their finances are a mess. They need to pay invoices. They need to pay vendors. They need to make sure they do payroll. That’s the problem, the problem, they don’t see that as bookkeeping. They see that as I have a problem with payroll and invoicing and paying my bills, I need someone to solve that.

Sabrina: (07:48)

So, so the solution, while in essence, it can be bookkeeping. The solution to that problem that a small business owner has, is to sell them outsourced accounting. We will do it all. You want us to help you with payroll, with bookkeeping, with pain, invoices, with pain, all of your accounts payable, that’s your headache. And our solution is the monthly outsourced accounting that we can give you. And here is what it’ll include and exactly what it’ll include. 

And then you streamline your business and you don’t necessarily do other jobs and take on other projects that don’t fit in within the scope of the solution. And that’s really the important thing is that you really want to make sure that you understand the pain points. You might also want to hone in and might want to think about if there are certain clients that you like working with more. What do those clients look like?

Sabrina: (08:55)

Is it a certain industry? It is a certain size. Is it a certain demographic? If you can hone in and think about your ideal client, the person that you enjoy working with, and you feel like you can bring the most value to, then you can think about that person and the problems they have and build a solution that is based and built around your ideal client. So if your ideal client is a small business, who’s in the wine industry and that’s who you’re helping, and you have quite a few of them. I hope everybody can still hear me cause I just got a message on GotoWebinar. Jonathan, can you still hear me?

Jonathan: (09:44)

Yeah, I can hear you and everyone can hear you too Sabrina.

Sabrina: (09:48)

Oh, thank you. Yeah. I got a message that new hardware was getting installed for GotoWebinar so I just wanted to make sure. So now we’re looking at service versus package. You know, as you think about that ideal client, maybe it’s that winery or it’s construction or it’s dry cleaners or it’s a certain size, right? You work with small businesses that are small owner-operated with 15 employees or less. If you can think about and identify your ideal client, your ideal persona, it’s easier for you to then identify what are their problems and then build your solution and your package around it. Right? And once you get that, you get to be able to do this packaging versus pricing. And Jonathan, it looks like maybe there’s a question or something.

Jonathan: (10:46)

It’s great, what you’re talking about. And I wonder if our audience today, as they’re starting to think about that question of who their ideal client is, go ahead and pop that into the questions panel and let us know if you already kind of have that idea in mind, maybe one sentence of who your ideal client is, or maybe what specific industry focus you have. I think that’d be great to kind of learn from you all and see how you’re applying, what Sabrina’s talking about.

Sabrina: (11:11)

Yeah, that’s a great idea. And I’ll maybe as I see some of that, I’ll share that with people. Someone’s already put that small escorts are their ideal client and you can see they’re saying small business and actually the type of legal entity that they prefer working with and with a small business, S-corp, there’s going to be a series of pain points that that type of entity has. And as you think about those pain points, then you think about the solution. 

And instead of thinking about the hours and the services that you offer, you think about how do I package up something that solves pain points and is a true solution to the small business S Corp. Somebody else works, their ideal client is a local woodworker. Women entrepreneurs, I love that as a woman entrepreneur, to focus on and help women be successful in business.

Sabrina: (12:13)

And somebody else’s, their ideal client is a client that doesn’t need hand-holding or daily uptaking. And I would push you to think about a little bit more than that. That is obviously an ideal client, but what does that mean? Does that mean they’re a little bit more sophisticated, or can you get everybody to be that ideal client if you position your offering very concretely. So they understand what they’re getting and what they’re not getting. 

And this goes to the slide right now, right? So packaging versus pricing, the first step is packaging. And what are you actually selling? Establish your scope of work. What does that mean? What are you doing? What are you not doing? Maybe you are going to offer these end to end bookkeeping services, but included in the price is not going to be taxes. Make sure that that’s very clearly established, what will be the deliverables for that client? The client needs deliverables.

Sabrina: (13:17)

So if every month you are going to make sure that their accounting software is up to date, do all the bookkeeping reconcile, right? That’s a deliverable. Give them a PNL and a balance sheet report, and pay all of their invoices. And also make sure that they’re so anything that all their payables get paid and they get paid and you help them with collections. So those are very concrete deliverables, and you can make sure that you lay those out. You may also want to price things based on the number of transactions, right? 

If you have a client and you have to help collect a thousand on a thousand invoices, because that’s how many they send out, that’s a whole different ball of wax than if you’re working with a client who sends out seven invoices. So you might want to think about that definition of scope and deliverable, and maybe even have different packages based on the number of transactions and invoices and payables that a client might actually have so that you understand what your scope is and make sure that there isn’t scope creep.

Sabrina: (14:35)

And then once you have those deliverables that you’re going to give to the client, you can build your marketing packages from that deliverables list, right? So you have deliverables and that may allow you to then say, Oh, this makes sense for me to have two different packages, offering them at these two different prices. And here’s what I include in each. And this is why a client might want to upgrade to a higher package. 

Jonathan, if you want to go to the next one, I always like to encourage you to establish a small, medium, and a big set of deliverables, because what you actually want to do strategically for your own business is to steer your clients. To that middle package. You have the starter package, you have whatever you want to call the higher end, gold enterprise, whatever you want to call that higher-end package.

Sabrina: (15:27)

And you want most of your clients to be in the middle where there’s, they are paying that middle rate. You’re doing a good amount of work for them, but you’re not doing the high-end work. And you’re also not on the low end. The other thing about establishing the set of deliverables in the packages, it allows you to say no to those clients that need all that handholding and kind of keep bugging you and want you to keep doing things, but don’t want to pay for your time. 

You’re very specific about what you offer and if they choose that small package and not the middle of the big, if they’re asking for things, that’s not included in those deliverables, in the scope of work, then you have a very clear marketing message to them and saying, Hey, that’s great.

Sabrina: (16:17)

I’m so glad you want that. I think we need to move you to my middle tier. In order for me to be able to offer you those services, I need to get you in my middle tier. Here’s all the information about all the things that you get in this middle tier. And it helps you also not feel like you’re saying no to the client. It gives a very concrete answer and you’re not selling them, right? You giving them an option and a solution to their problem. 

And so you don’t have to feel like you’re doing some hard sell. You’re very clear. Here’s the box with all the deliverables of the small package. Here’s what you get in my medium package. Here’s what you get my other one. And when somebody wants to cross that line, then you have the ability to help them understand.

Sabrina: (17:07)

I’ve got a series of examples now, all over the web you can find examples, this isn’t new. If you’re not doing it today, a lot of your colleagues are doing this. So for instance, in this view, we see this is from somebody who’s offering this virtually, they’ve got three packages. They have the hustle, the boost, or the flight. And if you would actually click in on each one, they actually expand and they tell you exactly what you get. 

But they also tell you, this is for bookkeeping. That’s for less than 20,000 in monthly expenses, 40 K K. They’re very clear how they’ve delineated it. And they tell you they’re going to do your bookkeeping. And they’re going to do in the middle boost and in the flight business and state tax returns. So that’s very clear, Jonathan if you want to go to the next example.

Sabrina: (18:04)

So in this example, there’s a small business package and the small business. Plus I really like this example because it’s very clear up front what is included. Here are the deliverables, right? It starts at $285 a month. It’s for up to 125 transactions per month. And this is what you get very clear. Next one, if you can, Jonathan, here’s another one where they only offer one package. So there’s not another package. But again, I like this advance this example because it’s very, very clear what all the deliverables are and live literally it’s in the box, right? 

And this is what I want you to think about. The more that you can think about, how do you package that up and put it in the box. And if it’s not in the box, you do not do it for that client. If they need it done, that’s when you start moving them up to a higher-priced product, or potentially you have upgrades that they can opt into where you might be able to do some things for them, but you have to be very clear.

Sabrina: (19:15)

And my suggestion is to not let clients nickel and dime you for additional things. If you’re finding that clients are asking for more and you have one package, add another package, make it more expensive, and add those commonly asked for services into that package. Somebody else asked a really good question. Do clients pay their QBO online fee separately? 

I would say no. Offer everything bundled together. You as an accountant or a bookkeeper can get a great price for a QBO package it all in. Don’t make them go out and do that. You own that account. You add it, get them out of the books. You will do the bookkeeping. And this actually ties right into offer sticky offerings. The stickiest thing that you can do for your clients so that they cannot do without you is to run their small business accounting department.

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Sabrina: (20:14)

Small businesses don’t have the resources to have an accounting department, right? It’s usually the owner. And then maybe they go out and hire you as a bookkeeper and things aren’t really seamless. And there’s not a process and things fall through the cracks and the owner’s supposed to be sending out invoices, but they don’t offer the sticky offerings. You want to take that pain point of all the accounting off the table for them and don’t show them how the soup is made. Right? You do it for them. 

You get them out of the accounting. You do the bookkeeping for them. You send out the invoices, you answer the emails that people have about billing questions. You take that off their plate and you’re offering them sticky offerings. These are sticky. They’re not going to leave. They’re not going to go somewhere else. Jonathan, you go to the next slide.

Sabrina: (21:07)

So take overall accounting related email. Don’t have them deal with email and then forward it to you. That’s just a nightmare, right? Because in their eyes, if they don’t forward it soon enough, if they forget, if they don’t CC you, they don’t see it as their problem. If for whatever reason that invoice doesn’t get paid, that bill doesn’t get paid. They don’t collect the money and you’re offering them these services. It’s going to be your fault. So take that out of the picture, take over their accounting related email. 

You do all the email billing@smallbusiness.com. Have it come to you, you manage it. You see what comes in, you see what the questions are. And if it’s something the owner has to answer to, you can send it to the owner. And if the client or small business owner has any questions for you, they send an email there and they know that you will answer it, do all their bookkeeping, including expense reports and reimbursements.

Sabrina: (22:05)

Keep them out of the books and then deliver a simple, easy end of month reporting and did liberal Dilip develop a concrete process that works across all clients. So you do the exact same thing for everybody that puts a scalable process in that also helps you understand how much time you’re spending and how much money you’re bringing in. And when you can afford to hire somebody else, because now you have five more clients you can go onto the next month. 

Managing the email is key. It’s also going to be difficult if you don’t put a process together, but if you manage all of the email related to that, client’s billing and invoicing, then you are delivering sticky services. So you’re going to need technology tools to help you scale. You’re not going to be able to do it on your own. You’re going to have to have robust, even email management tools.

Sabrina: (23:01)

And we’re going to show you a case study and then actually get into a tool and show you how to put a process together, to handle all of that. You’re going to want to use cloud accounting. It’s just easier. I do understand that QBO doesn’t have everything you may have to use Zero. If you have to do QuickBooks desktop, there are ways to get it into the cloud, but make it accessible from anywhere you are. 

And if you have to bring on a part-time employee to help you particularly right now, during a pandemic, make sure that that part-time employee can easily log into the accounting as well. And do that bookkeeping use cloud expense reporting. I’m a fan of Expensify. I really, how easy they make expense reporting. We use it internally at Palo Alto Software, and I know lots of people use it, but develop a concrete process with the same tools across all your clients and make it a package deal.

Sabrina: (24:01)

Don’t let somebody opt-in and say, Oh, I use this. I don’t want to use that. This is what you offer. This is how you offer it. If you deliver and solve all their pain and accounting, they will actually care how you do it. It’ll be more about the fact that you solve the pain than how you did it. So don’t get caught up into that client needs those tools and they like those tools you put together your package and it all hinges on email that email from the client comes in all of the emails from their business that are related to invoicing, billing, charge, backs, bookkeeping. 

They all come to you and you manage it end to end. It also allows you to bump up that package pricing and with the right system and process, which we are going to help. You kind of see how you can lay it out. You will see how efficient this is. And now you’ve got this super sticky solution. Given that it’s 12:35, I really want to jump into how you’re going to manage all of this email, right? Email is a sticky way to make sure that your clients stay with you and to show your value. So Jonathan is going to kind of talk to you about how do you get beyond this traditional email problem. We all have, if you’re going to offer to take over your client’s emails, how do you do that efficiently?

Jonathan: (25:24)

Yeah, that’s right. And just as a reminder for you, Sabrina is still on here. And so if you have more questions about packaging and services and things like that, feel free to use that questions panel and Sabrina will be able to jump in and answer questions, whatever we don’t get to, we can always follow up and come back to help answer those questions. I know it’s great content to think about for your firm. So, we want to talk about an example of how a customer of ours was able to do this, how they were able to scale up. And we asked you about whether or not you’re using general addresses like info@ or accounting@, and it’s okay if you don’t. Even if you use more of a personal professional email address to communicate with clients, the reality is, is that as you continue to scale, traditional email has a problem.

Jonathan: (26:11)

Whether it’s Gmail or Office365 or whatever other email provider you’re using it, wasn’t designed for teams. And this becomes a critical problem. As you try to scale and bring on more team members in your business, whereas you try to work with those team members that you already have. So you can see an illustration here. An email comes in, it’s confusing. There’s a lot of back and forth with your team like you already said in the poll. And then there’s a lot of just messy clutter. This is what we’re about. We built Outpost as a tool. 

An email tool is designed for efficient team collaboration. It comes in and we’re going to show you how you can implement a process and some tools to make that efficient with your team. So just before we go any further, I just wanted to introduce what Outpost is.

Jonathan: (26:59)

If your team is struggling to manage those general inboxes, or if you’re struggling to coordinate with your team via email communication, this is what Outpost does. It lets you use your existing setup, Gmail Office365, whatever other provider you have is a layer on top of that. And it’s easy to use. It looks and feels just like regular email. 

So your team is not going to have a learning curve, whether you’re the most technologically savvy or the least savvy person, it’s okay, it’s going to feel exactly like, you know how email works and there’s no costly, it setup required. You don’t need to be an email expert to get this thing up and running. I want to talk to you about Accolution. They’re one of our customers and they’ve done this with Outpost and they have scaled their business and are poised for continued growth because of it.

Jonathan: (27:50)

So Accolution does full-service bookkeeping. They also provide virtual CFO services and they do exactly what Sabrina talked about. When they get a new client, the client often says, Hey, here’s our accounting email address. Can you, we’ll give you the password, you manage it. So you respond to these emails about billing, about invoices, whatever it is, you do this for me. And they launched in 2014 and they’ve grown every single year, double-digit growth every year. And they have clients all over the world: Canada, Australia, US. 

All around the world and they’re managing these things for them, but they had a problem. As they continue to grow, could they streamline their email system so that they could reduce headaches, retain clients, and continue growing. Now I don’t think I have to tell you, but I’ll, I’ll tell you anyway, one of the key foundational aspects of retaining your clients is not just how good of service you provide.

Jonathan: (28:46)

How well do you do the job, but how well do you communicate with them? And you know, the risks that if you’re not very responsive, if they wait too long to get a response, if they get incorrect answers, it starts to erode that trust and that loyalty with you. And when a frustrated client does not get communication in a timely manner, that’s when they start thinking about moving on to somebody else who will respond to them quickly. 

So think about your competitive advantage as you grow and how you can use responsiveness and communication as a way to keep that trust and further grow that trust so that it’s a lifelong long-term client. So Accolution had this challenge. And Dan, you know, I was able to sit down and talk with him for a couple of hours and just really understand his business. And they went looking for a solution.

Jonathan: (29:36)

They had a problem where they had multiple mailboxes. They had Gmail accounts from clients, Office365 accounts from clients. And they were hitting a real critical mass of a problem day in and day out. Their team members of bookkeepers were having to open multiple tabs and log into each one. They’re sharing passwords with each other, which isn’t a very secure thing to do. So they knew that they were building this problem. It was just growing. And so they went looking and Dan says it here, you know, he looking at help desk solutions or practice management solutions. 

These types of tools were overkill. They were trying to turn every email into something like a ticket or a task. And then it wouldn’t work like email it’d become something else. And he said, what we really needed was just something that worked like an email address, where we could reply to people, attach things, do all the email, basic things, but bring in more of us together so that we could add ourselves to the conversation for things out it needed to work like email.

Jonathan: (30:35)

It just needed a team component. And so that’s when he found Outpost and I don’t want to stay on this slide for too long, but I want you to see just a few things before Outpost and after Outpost. What were they able to do in taking care of this mailbox? 

The problem, smoothing out client onboarding, building an efficient process so that they can stop wasting time with the nuts and bolts of managing email and spend more time focusing on producing client work. So I want to just we’ll talk through each slide and I’ll kind of go into the tool and I want to just, I would love to talk to you about the 25 or 30 different things that Outpost is going to do for you, but I’m not going to do that. I really want to focus on the specific things that pertain to what Sabrina was talking about.

Jonathan: (31:20)

Being able to scale your business and be more efficient so that you can grow with your clients. So the first problem was that they had lots of Gmail and Office365 mailboxes. The solution that Outpost was able to provide is that they give each team member one login and that one login gave them access to all of the mailboxes that they were managing. So I’m just going to show you real quick. This is Outpost. This is what it looks like. We designed it to look and feel exactly like an email client because that’s what it is. 

But here, when I look at this, these are all individual mailboxes. I’ve connected them into Outpost with a direct sync. I use Gmail logins. I use the Office365 logins and it creates a direct sync with Outpost. So now all of those mailboxes are here in one place. I don’t have to open any more tabs. I don’t have to go anywhere else. And I can tell my team to do the same thing. My mailboxes are all here and my team members are all here. So now we’re working from one tool together so that we can get rid of that headache of looking around for each mailbox and trying to manage all of that. That headache is gone. One time we set it up and we’re done. We no longer have to worry about that headache.

Jonathan: (32:41)

The next problem that they had was inconsistent client onboarding. And maybe you feel like this is true for you too, where you get a new client and you know, between all the tools that you’re asking them to sign up for and the backend process that you’re trying to build, you know, it, maybe it’s different for each person. And it starts to feel like you’re reinventing the wheel every time. Well, without Outpost was able to do, especially when it comes to client communication, it allowed Accolution to create a seamless onboarding process on the backside so that this was invisible tech to their clients. 

Meaning their client could say, yes, here’s my Gmail account. Here’s the password. Can you manage it? And the Accolution team could say yes, absolutely. And what the client never saw was exactly this in Outpost, they have a process for setting up their clients. They go into their mailboxes, they add that client for the first time. They can say, you know, here’s my client, it’s Palo Alto Software. They asked us to do their onboarding. And here’s the email source. It’s a Gmail account. Or it’s an Office365 account, or maybe it’s another platform, but you could easily pick the platform that it is. 

You connect it, it directly sinks. I also get to decide who on my team has access to that. I connect it one time, like, let’s look here. It’s connected. My team has already assigned to it. That’s the first part of the process.

Sabrina: (34:16)

I’m just going to step in because there’s a really good question here. You give each tank team member a login. Each person can go to all the mailboxes and I will say, yes, you give each team member a login, but you, as the account owner decides which mailboxes they have access to. So if it’s you and a partner and you work equally, you guys probably want to have access to all the mailboxes. If you’re like Accolution. And they have, you know, I think 50 clients, not every employee or team member needs to access every mailbox. So you can, and Jonathan’s going to show you right here.

Jonathan: (34:55)

Yeah. And that’s exactly right. Accolution the way they do it. Because they have so many clients, they ended up basically pairing up their team members in teams of two. So, you know, if I’m looking at Antonio here, I could say, I want him to have access to these ones. Or maybe I can just de-select and say, you know, he doesn’t manage anything besides these two clients, I want them to have access to our general mailbox, you know, the accounting@ or the info@. 

And I want him to manage Easy Does It in Seattle Realty. I’m saving my changes. So now when Antonio logs in what he sees, what he has permission to see as a user, is just those mailboxes. He doesn’t need to worry about Christmas supplies or Robin Egg, right? He’s focused on just the clients that he’s managing. So you can set that up again, right at the beginning of when you have that client, it’s part of your onboarding process.

Jonathan: (35:47)

You get their email into Outpost. You assign the team members who are going to have access to those mailboxes. And then there are a couple of other things that you can do. You can set up a tag or a label like what Gmail has for that client. And you can create that tag. That’s part of your onboarding process for your team. And then there’s another tool that I’m just going to show you a little bit of, and we’ll talk more about it later. 

But one final piece of the onboarding process is to create a rule. And this rule, you set up based on your clients who are communicating with you from that company and you set it up so that any time an inbound message comes no matter which mailbox it comes to, maybe they forget and accidentally send you a personal email, or maybe they send the general mailbox a message. They forget to email their client address. 

You say it doesn’t matter wherever the message comes from, if it comes from these people who are my clients, I’m going to add a tag and I’m going to assign that to my bookkeeper, who is assigned to that client. So now anytime a message comes in, it’s automatically categorized with the time and it’s automatically assigned to the team member. Who’s responsible for it. And that is your onboarding process.

Sabrina: (37:05)

There’s a quick misunderstanding here, but I think it’s really good for everybody to hear somebody is saying, wait a minute. So without posts, you’re seeing all their emails and then you’re sorting out which ones have to do with accounting. No, absolutely not. You’re all obviously seen all the emails from your actual client, right? 

So Beatrice is the client who owns Robyn Egg Chocolate Company. So she’s emailing and you’re seeing all her emails, right? Those are her requests. And Beatrice is saying, Hey, I’d like you to manage my billing@robineggchocolatecompany.com. Those are the only emails that you see, any emails that anybody any of the Robin Egg Chocolate Company customers or vendors send to the billing app. 

Those are the emails that you’re managing. You’re not managing Beatrice’s email. You’re not managing her marketing emails. You’re not managing her logistics emails. You’re only managing her accounting emails. And that’s what you offer. But with the rules, you also make sure if Beatrice herself, she should be emailing you at billing@ cause she knows you manage that email address. If she forgets, you setting up the rule. So that email goes into the right client box. And any time you’re dealing with Robin Egg Chocolate Company, you know, all their emails are in that mailbox.

Jonathan: (38:32)

That’s right. Cause how many of us have, who forget which email they’re supposed to send something to? You know, maybe they send it to you at your general mailbox. Maybe they, you know, send it to the billing@, the mailbox that they asked you to manage. But you can’t always bank on them remembering the best place to send it to. 

And so that’s what this rule is about is it says I don’t care which mailbox they emailed because all of my mailboxes are connected here. It’s just that if it comes from the address or if it comes from Kelsey Duff, it doesn’t matter. I’m automatically tagging that as our client label so that I can keep that all organized across my mailboxes, no matter what my client does or forgets to do. It’s okay. All of my email and all of my team are here and I’m keeping this clean and organized for us moving forward.

Sabrina: (39:26)

Can you talk a little bit about when you do respond? So when Accolution is responding to an email for Robin Egg Chocolate Company, what does that look like? What email does it come from? What signature does it have? And I think kind of hand in hand. Somebody also wanted to know, does it sync back up with Gmail? So the client knows you answered things.

Jonathan: (39:53)

Yeah, yep! And we are running a little short on time. So I’m going to try to go through these pretty quickly, but yes, to answer your questions, I’m going to get into the team process once your client is onboarded, what does that look like for your team to collaborate together, to improve efficiency? And the quick question about syncing is yes, once you connect your Gmail account or your Office365 account, those are directly synced with those accounts, or whatever happens in Outpost happens in that Office365 account and vice versa. 

So let’s talk about the team process that you have now that you’ve successfully onboarded your client. They’re set up an Outpost for you to manage that internally as a team. What does that mean to collaborate together, to make your process more efficient as you communicate with clients? So here’s what the process would look like.

Jonathan: (40:41)

I get an email and it comes from Gerald and this is a new, a new lead, right? So here I am, I’ve got this, I’m going to take this. My whole team can see this message in this mailbox, but I’m going to say, you know what, I’ve got this, I’m assigning it to myself. So they know that I’m taking care of it. And maybe I want to assign this one to, you know, Linda, because I see she’s online. So here she goes, she’s assigned to it. And so now she gets a notification that she’s been assigned to that message and she can take care of it. 

So assignments are easy to do. And again, this could be across all mailboxes or I’ve been drilled down to a specific mailbox and do that. So my whole team is here so I can assign. And then instead of forwarding and CC-ing back conversations, I can leave notes inside in our inbox without adding it to the email conversation.

Jonathan: (41:35)

It’s not part of a forward chain or CC. I’m not creating more email clutter. I can leave a note and ask Linda a question. I can tag her. So she’ll get a notification as soon as she gets mentioned, and I’ll ask her if she can help with this, I’ll post that. And now that conversation is a private internal conversation with our team. That’s helping us where we can share information. I can link to a document, whatever it is we can do that privately and internally instead of, you know, a forward chain or a CC chain where our client could potentially see that. 

The last thing about this team process now that we’re all in it working together, we also have shared drafts with our emails. So I’m, I see Linda’s on this email and I want to show you that actually, Linda is currently editing this draft.

Jonathan: (42:26)

So she’s going to reply to Danny and I can see that she’s working on it and it actually locks me out. So I don’t accidentally start replying to the same message at the same time Linda is. She’s writing the response. I see it. I could move on to the next email and take care of that. The other thing is that Linda when she’s finished, she could save her draft. And then I could jump in after she’s done writing a draft, I can see it, I could edit it. And then I could potentially send that email after I’ve finished editing it. So assignments, notes, and collision alerts in these shared drafts really help improve that efficiency for our team.

Sabrina: (43:10)

I wanted to add something because somebody asked the question in terms of assignments. They really like you know what they’re seeing here, they ask, add due dates so you can’t add due dates. This isn’t a full practice management solution, right? It’s just to help you with email, it’s a very affordable tool. It helps you put a process and a system in place, but it does actually track analytics. So you can say to your team, I want to make sure all client email is responded to in 24 business hours. 

And you can track that. You can see the analytics and if a team member is taking longer than that, that will show up in the analytics. So you can put a business rule in place for yourself and for client satisfaction and for your team members to say, Hey, we always respond within X amount of time. And that is our response rate. And that’s our golden rule. And that’s what we want to do. And Outpost will help you track that.

Jonathan: (44:13)

That’s right. And again, it is back to what Dan was talking about. You know, he didn’t want email to be turned into a task or a ticket. It still needed to operate and work like email. And so what assignments do is it lets your team coordinate and see who’s on top of things. You could also set up an email digest in Outpost to give you an alert if there’s mail, that’s assigned to you or another team member, and it could send you that daily or hourly. 

So you can make sure that you’re staying on top of our people, taking care of the messages that they’ve been assigned to. Now let’s bring it all together. Just within the last couple of minutes here, we talked about getting the mailboxes all in one place, getting a more efficient, collaborative process together.

Jonathan: (44:59)

What this does is it takes you from spending way too much time managing email. I think we spend about two and a half hours a day, each of us managing email, it gets rid of those headaches. It streamlines the process. So you can focus on client work. And there are just a couple more things I want to show you how to do that and spend less time managing your email. So the first thing I want to show you is another tool in our toolset called templates. I get a lot of frequently asked questions. You probably do too. And maybe you are sick of typing the same answer over and over again. Or maybe you have frequently asked questions and answers saved in a doc somewhere. And you’re sharing that as a team. Well, you can save these as template responses right in Outpost. So that when I respond, I can just easily grab my template, insert it.

Jonathan: (45:52)

I now have the opportunity to customize it a little bit more. And then I can send it. That took me a couple of seconds instead of writing everything from scratch. And this is what you do. You help your whole team respond to emails faster and more quickly. We talked about the rules feature. Our team likes sticking to a lot of industry newsletters. But I don’t want those cluttering up my inbox. I want to read them when I’m ready to read them. 

So I’m going to create a rule that takes those newsletters and adds the tag newsletters and then archives them out of my mailbox so that it’s not cluttering up my team’s day to day view. But when I feel like it, I can go to newsletters and read a newsletter that I’m interested in. This is another way that we get rid of clutter so that your team isn’t spending time annually, clicking and saving and moving things around. It’s just out of your inbox. Your team has the view that they need to respond to the most important messages first. And then I can even set up a rule to reply to certain messages with a template response. So again, I’m cutting down my time and you will see the impact of this.

Sabrina: (47:06)

Jonathan and I worked together, you might’ve seen me pop in, I was Linda in this demo and I added the note there. The thing that’s great about the collaboration is, for instance, the templates that Jonathan uses I can use as well. So we can share templates and I don’t have to have my own templates. Maybe I’m using Outlook right now to manage all email. That’s great, but the templates that I might save as drafts in Outlook, well, they’re not accessible to Jonathan or maybe we have a whole bunch of templates of things that we use and we commonly respond to and they’re in, you know, a Google doc, but then we have to go into the Google doc and grab it and put it there. 

All of these templates, you can have in Outpost, you can have templates by the mailbox. You can have general templates that everybody has access to and they’re there at your fingertips. We really want to help you think through the process and how adding a tool like this can completely, kind of make you rethink the offerings that you can give your client, and this is the type of sticky, sticky offering that once you clients are there, you’re going to keep them happy and you’re going to keep them loyal and you’re going to retain them. And it’s easier to keep clients than to find new ones.

Jonathan: (48:26)

I couldn’t have said it better myself. So we’ll, we’ll leave it at that. And we thank you for being with us today.

Posted in: Customer Service Webinars

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