There was time when a financial audit focused more on client service than client experience, but technology is driving a change in that focus.
Technology has been an integral part of financial audits for decades, and historically it was auditors using the technology, with less emphasis on the client and the client’s “experience.” While service emphasized being on time, technically accurate and having a strong working relationship, client experience encompasses much more.
Experience seeks to give clients what they need in a way that delights them year round but especially during the audit process itself. Relationships are still paramount — and always will be — but clients are now looking beyond the relationship factor. While service focused on the “what,” experience focuses on the “how.” How do we interact? How do we share information with clients? How do we provide clients with what they need?
The key to designing the client experience is seeing your business from the client’s point of view. By applying that lens to every part of the client’s journey — from the first time you have contact with the client, through the service that is provided, to a follow-up process to verify that their needs were met — you design a strong customer experience.
Technology improves the client experience with its impact on the “how” portion of the auditor/client equation. The following are just a few examples of how technology can improve the client experience:
As a tool used for data acquisition and analysis, IDEA software allows auditors to obtain client information and then format and organize it any way they choose. This eliminates the need for clients to use their IT department’s time for writing and developing reports for auditors. It saves the client time and can be used for more efficient and effective audit work. More importantly, IDEA allows auditors to generate value-added insights to clients.
Long gone are the days of passing paper confirmations back and forth and arranging for them to be mailed. Confirmation.com allows clients to provide quick authorization to financial institutions to confirm auditor requests electronically. It’s both efficient and effective for auditors and their clients.
Historically, information prepared by clients has been shared via email with volumes of documents being extracted from emails and email messages being stored until the information was needed. Once the documents were downloaded, audit team members would then update their list of requests to reflect what was received and what was outstanding. While the files were electronic, the process was painstakingly manual and susceptible to user error.
Today, SmartSheet is a cloud-based software platform that allows all documents to be shared between clients and auditors in one place — with real-time access and updates. The request list and the documents are all in one place, and there’s no question when/if documents were received and downloaded. The software also has other project management functionality that can be used between client management and engagement teams.
The audit technology being developed today will continue to improve the client experience. It will do so while providing more real-time audit information and higher levels of assurance through verification of vast amounts of data. This will be done with minimal required actions on the client’s part — a great way to give clients a great audit experience.