After 25 Seconds of ‘Irritation’ Accounting Firm Callers May Hang Up

Accounting firms in North America risk losing business by making customers wait on hold for more than 25 seconds, new research has revealed.

Every call made to companies in the accounting sector, as part of the study conducted by audio branding company PHMG, was put on hold, compared to a North American average of 70%. Those callers are being forced to wait for 25.81 seconds on average, slightly less than the North American average of 28.05 seconds.

In addition, callers are left listening to inappropriate audio, which could increase the risk of caller hangups. The research discovered 51% of accounting firms leave customers waiting in silence, while 31% use generic music and 14% subject callers to beeps.

Mark Williamson, CEO at PHMG, says, “The research results do not reflect particularly well on the accountancy sector, as few firms appear to be employing a best practice approach to call handling. It’s worrying that customers are being left on hold for over 25 seconds as this can be a major irritation for customers, but what makes matters worse is that they are left in silence or listening to poor-quality music, which increases the risk of hang-ups.

He says that a previous study of 2,234 U.S. consumers found 59% will not do business with a company again if their first call isn’t handled to satisfaction. The same consumer study also revealed 65% of customers feel more valued if they hear customized voice and music messages on hold, he says. “By ensuring all audio is professional and brand-congruent, companies can drastically improve customer experience and begin shaping behavior by tapping into the psychological power of sound.”

This latest study also found accountancy firms answer the phone within an average of three rings, but only 2% use an auto-attendant service to greet callers outside of normal business hours.

Four Disruptive Cyber Trends That Could Slow the Bad Actors

Jason Bloomberg, president of industry analyst firm Intellyx, has written in Forbes about four broad trends that reveal transformational aspects of the cybersecurity marketplace after recently attending a huge RSA cybersecurity conference in San Francisco.

Disruption No. 1: Targeting the Links in the Cyber Kill Chain

Vendors are improving their ability to understand how bad actors behave, and can thus take steps to prevent, detect or mitigate their malicious activities, says Bloomberg. This may be the broadest of all the disruptions. Today’s vendors are understanding the ‘Cyber Kill Chain,’ or the steps a skilled, patient hacker will take to achieve his or her nefarious goals.

The product of U.S. Defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, The Cyber Kill Chain contains seven links: reconnaissance, weaponization, delivery, exploitation, installation, establishing command and control, and actions on objectives. Today’s more innovative vendors target one or more of these links, with the goal of preventing, discovering or mitigating the attack, Bloomberg says.

Disruption No. 2: Leveraging AI to Better Understand Human Behavior

One area where vendors are successfully applying Artificial Intelligence, Bloomberg writes, “is to tell the good guys from the bad guys, and furthermore, to tell the good guys from the bots simply by analyzing their behavior.” Insider threats are among the most pernicious. Cybersecurity vendors are identifying, investigating and blocking insider threats by tracking the behavior of users and identifying when that behavior violates policy.

Disruption No. 3: ‘Software-Defined’ Cybersecurity

“Cybersecurity has also joined the Software-Defined Everything (SDX) movement. If we can represent our entire cybersecurity deployment as a software-based model, the reasoning goes, then we have better control, visibility and flexibility,” Bloomberg says in Forbes.

Disruption No. 4: Israel Becomes the Cyber Silicon Valley

The fourth trend is how Israeli cybersecurity startups have come to dominate the innovation in this area. Of the 26 vendors Bloomberg and his colleagues met with at the RSA Conference, they spoke with no less than six Israeli firms. Silicon Valley may still have the edge generally, but Israel is gaining fast in the cyber arena.

Combined with innovations in threat prevention, detection and defense, the long-standing advantage that bad actors have enjoyed may finally be nearing its end.

Seven Myths Of CEO Succession: Are Firms Taking The Right Steps To Find The Next CEO?

The CEO’s departure is, sooner or later, inevitable – but are companies prepared for it?

With CEOs turning over at a rate of 10-15% per year – from jumping to another company to resigning due to poor health, poor performance, or just retiring – both accounting firms and public companies would be expected to be well-prepared for CEO succession. But governance experts from Stanford and The Miles Group have found a number of broad misunderstandings about CEO transitions and how ready the board [firm] is for this major change.

In a piece for the Stanford Closer Look Series, David Larcker and Brian Tayan of the Corporate Governance Research Initiative at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Stephen Miles of The Miles Group name seven myths surrounding CEO succession – myths shared by corporate boards as well as a large amount of the business community.

“The selection of the CEO is the single most important decision a board of directors can make,” say the authors, but turmoil around these decisions at the top “have called into question the reliability of the process that companies use to identify and develop future leaders.”

What are the seven myths? 

Myth #1: Firms know who the next CEO will be. “The longer the succession period from one CEO to the next, the worse the company will perform relative to its peers,” says Larcker. “But, shockingly, nearly 40% of companies claim they have no viable internal candidates available to fill the shoes of the CEO if he or she left tomorrow.”

Myth #2: There is one best model for succession. “There are several different paths firms can take to naming a successor – including internal and external approaches,” says Miles. “One reason firms fall short at succession planning is that they often select the wrong model for their situation. A firm may need an external recruit to lead a turnaround, for instance, or may have the capability to groom multiple internal executives over a period of time to allow the most promising one to shine through. One size does not fit all.”

Myth #3: The CEO should pick a successor. “Sitting CEOs have a vested interest in the current strategy of the firm and its continuance, and they may have ‘favorites’ they want to see follow them,” says Larcker. “Boards, however, must determine the future needs of the firm, and what kind of successor will best match the direction the firm is headed.”

Myth #4: Succession is primarily a “risk management” issue. “While a failure to plan adequately certainly exposes an organization to downside risk, boards should understand that succession planning is primarily about ‘building’ overall value,” says Miles. “Succession planning is as much success-oriented as it is risk-oriented.”

Myth #5: Boards know how to evaluate CEO talent. “Our 2013 survey found that CEO performance evaluations place considerable weight on financial performance and not enough weight on the nonfinancial metrics that have proven correlation with the long-term success of firms,” says Larcker.

Myth #6: Boards prefer internal candidates. “While, ultimately, three quarters of newly appointed CEOs are internal executives, external candidates still hold a strong appeal for succession – especially at the beginning of a search,” says Miles. “Often boards aren’t given enough exposure to internal candidates, and directors are often nervous about giving an ‘untested’ executive the full reins of a firm. There is a still-prevalent bias against promoting the insider ‘junior executive’ to the top spot one day. So, while the myth may end up mostly true in the end, there is often a long journey of getting the board to that decision.”

Myth #7: Boards want a female or minority CEO. “The numbers speak for themselves,” says Larcker. “Diversity ranks high on the list of attributes that board members look for in CEO candidates, and yet female and ethnic minorities continue to have low representation among actual CEOs. We continue to see that boards select CEOs with leadership styles they perceive to be similar to their own, and the fact is that boards today are still highly non-diverse when it comes to gender and ethnic backgrounds.”

IPA INSIDER: March 2017 News

Listed below are the Top 10 most-read stories on the INSIDE Public Accounting blog for the month of March. IPA Logo - with tag line

  1. Firm Using Andersen Name Denounces Andersen Tax Claims
  2. IPA Spotlight On … Jim Proppe, Plante Moran
  3. BDO USA Announces Addition of LBA Wealth Management
  4. Polk & Associates and Rogow & Loney Merge
  5. MPs: Partners Can Be Complacent And Ego-Driven, But Their Success = Firm Success
  6. Carr Riggs & Ingram Merges Atlanta Firm BNKJ
  7. UHY Advisors Returns to Texas with Union of Berkeley Research Group
  8. Yeager & Boyd Joins Aprio
  9. KPMG Names Thomas as Global Chairman
  10. Suggestions to Recruit and Retain the Future Leaders of Your Firm

IPA a Corporate Sponsor for GRRACE Rescue in 2017 Brackets For Good

Brackets For Good hosts a single-elimination, bracket-style fundraising tournaments across the country that raise much-needed funds and awareness for nonprofit organizations of all sizes.

During the Brackets For Good tournament the last five years, more than $2,700,000 has been raised for charities.

INSIDE Public Accounting is honored to be named as the corporate sponsor for GRRACE, The Golden Retriever Rescue & Community Education. Those of you who know us well know that we are part of GRRACE, a rescue organization in Indiana that works to rescue and re-home abandoned Golden Retrievers. GRRACE has been selected as one of the 64 nonprofits for the 2017 Brackets For Good fundraising tournament.

GRRACE is now in the “Engaged 8” round of the tournament.  Help us advance GRRACE to the next round with your generous donation today!

Most Business Executives Prefer Repeal of Affordable Care Act, AICPA Survey Finds

Most business executives want to see the Affordable Care Act repealed, an AICPA survey of CEOs, CFOs and other senior-level CPAs found.

But they also expect their company’s health care expenses to rise this year and next, no matter what happens in Capitol Hill deliberations on the fate of the sweeping health care insurance law, the AICPA says.

Asked their preference for action on the Affordable Care Act, 61% of respondents to the first-quarter AICPA Economic Outlook Survey said they preferred “repeal and replace,” while another 10% said they wanted to see the health care coverage program repealed and not replaced. Almost one-in-five respondents (18%) said they preferred to leave the law as is. Ten percent said they weren’t sure which option they preferred. The survey questions were fielded before the Trump administration and congressional Republicans unveiled their own version of a health care coverage plan, the American Health Care Act, earlier this month.

Despite the uncertainty over health care reform, an overwhelming majority (80%) of business executives said they expected at least some additional expense for their employer-provided health care plans this year, with 43% saying they expected an increase in the range of 6% to 10%, and 26% estimating a rise in the 1% to 5% range.

“Business executives now cite ‘employee and benefit costs’ as the top challenge facing their companies,” said Arleen R. Thomas, managing director of Americas Market, Global Offerings & CGMA Exam, Management Accounting for the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. “A year ago, that category was No. 6 on the list, and it’s clear health care costs are a major concern driving this upward shift.”

LinkedIn Launches Facebook-like Redesign; Facebook Adds Job Search

While LinkedIn has launched a redesign that makes it look more like Facebook, Facebook has added a job search function that’s a lot like LinkedIn.

Both changes came about in the last couple of months. LinkedIn launched what it called a “complete overhaul” of its design in January, and Facebook allowed users to search and apply for jobs in February.

LinkedIn says its redesign was intended to provide a “more intuitive, faster” and more valuable experience. “Our goal is to ensure you can seamlessly access the most relevant professional conversations, content and opportunities whether you’re on our mobile app or on our desktop experience,” the company says. LinkedIn users say it looks and acts more like Facebook now.

LinkedIn is the most-used professional networking and job recruiting social media site, but Facebook’s new feature allows companies to publish a job posting on their page. Facebook users can click an “apply now” button that leads them to a page that is pre-populated with your name and any education or employment history that you’ve agreed to make public. A 1,000-character text box allows for a note, although resumes can’t be uploaded. The information then goes to the company in a Facebook message.

“Businesses and people already use Facebook to fill and find jobs, so we’re rolling out new features that allow job posting and application directly on Facebook,” Facebook vice president Andrew Bosworth said in a statement.

Wired magazine calls LinkedIn’s “blatant cribbing” of Facebook “smart.” In a Jan. 20 article, Wired says, “People know how to use Facebook, but even company co-founder Reid Hoffman once called the old LinkedIn ‘confusing.’ Amy Parnell, the company’s senior director of experience design, was more charitable when she said it had ‘too much noise, too much cognitive load.’ ”

LinkedIn’s cleaner look is easier to digest, thenextweb.com reports. “It’s more Facebook-like, which for a lot of people – especially new members – will mean something more familiar. Anything that gives people a reason to stick around is a win for LinkedIn.”

Suggestions to Recruit and Retain the Future Leaders of Your Firm

Mike Platt

Mike Platt

Attracting and retaining talented staff is top of mind for firms across the country. In a recording of a recent webinar, Mike Platt, publisher of INSIDE Public Accounting (IPA), offers ideas on keeping under-40 CPA professionals involved, engaged and excited about their work.

Retaining this critical demographic has never been more important. IPA’s annual survey of more than 550 accounting firms shows average turnover among all non-Big 4 firms is nearly 14%. At firms of $75 million or more, it’s even higher, at 17%. While some turnover is healthy, extra emphasis needs to be focused on making sure the right people stay.

Access this recording to hear results of an extensive survey/study of more than 700 professionals aged 21-40 on their key motivators and “stay factors.” IPA partnered with ConvergenceCoaching to conduct the research survey, which uncovered what young professionals like (and don’t like) about their jobs, and how the firm can position itself to appeal to this key demographic of future leaders.

This webinar will offer analysis from the research study, “The Road to Retention: Motivators and Drivers for Young Public Accounting Professionals.” Learn:

  • The best and worst parts of working in public accounting, according to Millennials (21-33) and Gen X professionals (34-40).
  • The top reasons they would make public accounting a long-term career.
  • The types of financial information they would like leaders to share with them.
  • How often they prefer feedback about their performance.
  • Their ideas on how different generations can work together more successfully.
  • Their top firm weaknesses and strengths.

Get a better understanding of what role you can personally play within your firm to retain young professionals, encourage a culture of openness and transparency, and involve young staff in firm initiatives.

MPs: Partners Can Be Complacent And Ego-Driven, But Their Success = Firm Success

Without the support of the partner group, MPs can’t move their firms forward. The realities of gaining consensus among hard-driving professionals with different working styles, skills and drivers can be more challenging than even the most insightful firm leader could anticipate. One MP says, “It’s like herding cats, and it’s very difficult to get all partners on the same page because not everybody has the same value proposition and not everyone is motivated by the same metrics.”

No MP owns a how-to guidebook on juggling the multiple – and sometimes competing – priorities demanding their attention every day. INSIDE Public Accounting, therefore, asked more than 70 MPs to offer anonymous insights on the frustrations, challenges, joys and rewards of the top job. In a 12-question survey, they offered unfiltered, candid insights. Here are responses to just two of the questions.

What are two of your biggest frustrations with the partner group?
Two themes – egos and complacency – immediately emerged from MP responses to this question. Some MPs say partners think their way is the only way. They fail to see the benefit of trying a different approach, close themselves off from other points of view, second-guess decisions (after failing to participate in the discussion), and stay in their comfort zone of client service without committing to professional development, marketing, timely billing and collections.

Download the full article.

 

IPA INSIDER: February 2017 News

Listed below are the Top 10 most-read stories on the INSIDE Public Accounting blog for the month of February. IPA Logo - with tag line

  1. IPA Spotlight On … James Hickey, Alliott Group
  2. Brown Edwards Acquires Dixon Hughes Goodman in Roanoke
  3. Elliott Davis Decosimo Admits Ten New Shareholders
  4. Frazier & Deeter Joins PKF International
  5. Armanino Admits Five Partners
  6. HCVT Admits Takahashi as Audit Partner
  7. UHY LLP Grows International Tax Practice with Merger
  8. Two North Carolina Firms Combine
  9. Chapter Closes in Novelist’s Suit Against Anchin
  10. Lutz and McDermott & Miller Join Forces