The main reason that companies outsource various business processes is the desire to become more efficient and cut costs. Payroll and accounting are the most frequent services outsourced.

As these are largely transaction-based processes, companies are confident that service providers will be significantly more cost-effective in dealing with these issues. Thus, one might think that service providers’ technical skills are the most important criteria.

Grant Thornton’s international business report indicates otherwise, though. Intangible values such as trustworthiness of partners and other non-technical skills count just as much or more than technical skills. It was found that the most important selection criteria for business leaders is the service provider’s trustworthiness, followed by cost-effectiveness and third, trust. Service providers must always be up to date with the specifics of accounting and legislative amendments and be able to provide professional advice to the company precisely when it is needed. For that reason, trust plays the most important role in partnership relations.

The satisfaction surveys conducted among Grant Thornton Baltic’s customers also show that besides expertise, customers also appreciate pleasant and friendly service and rapid feedback.

Trustworthiness and communication skills are important

It is self-evident that customers expect on-time and high-quality service from service providers. In addition, the service provider’s role as consultant is becoming increasingly important. In the current digital age and ever-closer cooperation, all companies look for ways to increase cost-effectiveness and the efficacy of business processes and they expect service providers to support them in this. In other words, companies expect accounting service providers to offer solutions for making their processes more efficient. A good service provider must also listen to customers to be able to make the service better.

Communication has key importance when it comes to building trust. Many companies consider direct communication the most important factor contributing to the success of cooperation with the accounting service provider. Communication is often considered even more important than the company’s background, the administrative capacity of the project, resource management and conformity to technical requirements.

Communication between customer and service provider must function on every level. For some customers it is important to meet regularly with their service provider while others appreciate a service provider who is not too proactive. However, flexibility is considered important by all customers – service providers must be able to meet with customers within 24 hours.

It’s worth asking for customer feedback

Regardless of whether a business is looking to replace its service provider or choosing one for the first time, it is important to get enough background information on the potential service provider. Does your future partner have sufficient resources to be as flexible as possible in interactions with you? Are the people your company will start doing business with competent enough? Is the service provider sufficiently trustworthy?
The most trustworthy source for procuring this information is certainly references from the service provider’s customers. Usually this kind of information is posted on the service provider’s website. If you can’t find references to existing customers, make a point to ask the service provider for references separately and, if possible, contact one of the current customers.

Service providers know the local market

If a management board member is located outside the company’s country of location, selecting a service provider is often a more secure solution than hiring an employee. Service providers know the intricacies of the local market and assume the responsibility of keeping abreast of changes to legislation and of ensuring professional accounting service based on the local best practices. This gives peace of mind that even when managing a business remotely, the financial affairs are under control.

The Grant Thornton survey “Outsourcing: Beyond technical expertise” is available here [ 1264 kb ]