the yearly contract renewal nightmare

case studies: time-saving automation answers

It's that time of the year again! One lucky or maybe not-so-lucky employee will spend the next three weeks setting up review documents, contacting, re-contacting and following up with clients. Their aim: to get everyone's revised payment agreements signed, uploaded and refiled at the bank, all in preparation for the next financial year and before the next payday.

In short: that's our client's predicament, and it happens every year without fail.

Our client: Real Time Accounting. A mid-sized accounting firm with quite a substantial number of clients based in South Africa. Once a year, they face the ginormous task of renewing contracts with every one of their clients. The mission takes time and resources, and it's time-sensitive. Meaning the company only gets paid if it gets done on time. Counting all these factors, the repetitive nature of the problem, time sensitivity and the resources needed for the task made their situation the perfect playground for some process automation. 

In the past, the process for each client would look as follows:

  • A client-specific agreement must be drawn up, containing all company information plus the agreed-upon terms and fees.
  • The involved employee then mailed a request to the company, accompanied by the new agreement form.
  • The client then had to print it out, review the changes, sign all documents, scan them, and send them back to the company.
  • Upon receiving the documents, the company had to file and upload the newly signed documents to the bank.
  • If someone at the client's offices forgot or didn't have the time to complete the process, the company would need to follow up to avoid late responses and, ultimately, payment, resulting in its own problems.

Sadly, many companies face these types of obstacles. However, they see it as part of the admin pains that need to be done and don't really think any further about the subject or the cost to their company.

With the help of some very cool cloud-based apps: Airtable, Cognito, and Make, we could take on Real Time Accounting's challenge. The solution was less in what they had to do, but rather what they and their clients wouldn't have to do anymore to get the process done.

The previous process was buried in manual human interference. If the humans didn't respond, it wouldn't get done to the big upset of everyone involved. In the new process, these human blanks are filled in by the automated solution moving the entire process much quicker.

Firstly, Airtable serves as a database for client information. All data, account numbers and agreed-upon services are accumulated and stored in one place. An automated process then extracts the needed client information and sets up each client's customized and precise agreement form at the push of a button. Another button releases the documents to each client, accompanied by a request with a link directly into their mailbox.

But the most impressive part of the process is the renewed client experience. Where the previous process involved labour-intensive processes for the client, they now have to open the link, review, sign online right then and there and click submit. Time-consuming steps were replaced by simplicity and a moment in time for the client.

But like they say, the real success of a pudding lies in the eating thereof. With the first run of the solution process, 80% of Real Time's clients responded, not to mention 70% responded within 48 hours. The impossible had been achieved, and the company's cash flow was saved even before it could take a hit. Finally, the time needed for client follow-up was reduced to the bare minimum.

Looking at the bigger picture, a process which used to take an employee around three weeks now takes only a consolidated one working day. Clearing out calendars all around for employees to use their skills on much more important things, like furthering their own skills and improving their company.

But so much more than that, our story truly brings to light one of the great realities of automation. Automating a mandated operations process can go a long way in client retention. Solving the frustrations of the many can mean more significant relationships and ongoing revenue for the company in the short term and, even better, the long run.

There was even more that could have been done. At the moment, the company would still have to go and follow up periodically with clients who have yet to respond to the request. However, through automation, it's possible to send automated reminders at preset intervals, only leaving human intervention to extremely non-compliant clients. The other part that could be done would be an automated package and submission to the bank once forms are received, daily or at whichever time the company and the bank prefer.

The bottom line of our story can be drawn in the benefits a company can experience when they look at simplifying their own processes and their customers' experience with the company.

Think about your processes where a lot of time, resources and human interventions are involved. For example, if you have to assign a project to some employees for long periods and ask clients to do time-consuming tasks on their side, automation might be a client experience tool you need in your business. What takes time to formulate could mean more meaningful use of resources and a better experience of doing business with your company, keeping clients longer.

Believe in simplicity; think automation!

If you have any questions about automation or think this type of solution could benefit your company, don't hesitate to call us.

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Business process automation and app integration is the name of our game. We integrate your standard, run of the mill, off-the-shelf, out of the box cloud-based API-enabled, webhook capable apps and help them talk to each other.