At Skype, we occasionally come across a really unique and cool business that is using Skype. Today, we want to share the profile of Crunch, a UK based online business that provides accounting, finance and tax services. We interviewed Darren Fell, CEO of Crunch to share their story.
Tell Skype readers about Crunch. What does Crunch do?
Since Crunch opened its doors just over two years ago, we have always strived to provide the very best customer service. We are an online accountancy service for freelancers, contractors and small businesses – as such our clients often work alone or have very few employees and so need plenty of support and advice on how to best manage their finances and maximise their tax efficiency. Cash flow is a big deal for small firms, and without the proper guidance they greatly increase the risk of not making it to the end of the all-important first year.
We are in something of a unique position. We are breaking new ground in small business accountancy by using a hybrid of cloud software and full-service accountancy – our clients record their expenses and invoices using our software, and we do the rest for a flat monthly fee. Because of this approach we are popular with tech-savvy individuals such as IT Consultants, Web Designers and Programmers. Our clients are predominantly early adopters and technology enthusiasts. We have found ourselves in a virtuous circle where we are constantly pushing hard to exceed our client’s expectations and deliver a cutting-edge service, and our clients in turn expect us to push the envelope and are always demanding more of our service and our software – a challenge we thoroughly relish.
What challenges do you face and how does Skype help you meet those challenges?
You may think software development is the hardest part of our business, but in actuality developing the very best customer service is the most challenging element. One accusation often leveled at online businesses is that they cannot offer the same quality of personal service as their brick-and-mortar counterparts. We’re always working hard to dispel this myth, and consistently rank higher than traditional accountants, and have been recognised for our commitment to customer service. All our clients have their own Account Manager and Accountant who they get to know by name, and our social media presence allows us to interact with our clients on a daily basis.
With VoIP now firmly in the mainstream for both individuals and businesses, we thought it was about time to integrate it into our service. But how? Skype calls to our office was a good place to start. As Crunch grows we are taking on more and more clients who do business in the UK but live abroad. By integrating Skype into our office telephone system we help save our ex-pat clients money on their phone bill, and also provide a convenient Skype click-to-call mechanism for anyone else who cares to use it call us directly from our website.
How did you approach integration of Skype into your business?
We teamed up with Foehn, a business communication service provider, to pipe the incoming Skype calls right into our PBX, meaning our team on the phone don’t even know the difference between a Skype call and a vanilla landline call. This type of integration is vital for both sides of the business/client relationship. Seamless execution means that our staff don’t need any extra software or training. For our clients, the inclusion of the “Skype Us” button on our website means calling us is now actually easier than picking up the phone and dialing in our number.
Although the ability to Skype directly to our office is a valuable addition, we decided to take it one step further (our clients would expect nothing less). We may not be able to physically be in the same room as our clients, but our Skype integration allows us to do the next best thing – live video help.
Why go with offering live video help over Skype and what is its impact on your business?
All of our Accountants are now equipped with high-definition webcams, and are able to video chat with clients while they give them guidance on their finances, or how to handle a particular tax problem. Our testing has proven using Skype is not only enjoyable, but also beneficial to our relationship with our clients. A good accountant is nothing without the trust of their customers, and being able to actually see their accountant is helping us build a more trusting relationship with our users.
We’re not stopping just at video chat with clients, though. Our team are often on the road, attending trade shows and giving seminars for freelancers and contractors. While this is a great way to educate small businesses on how to make the most of their money, traversing the length and breadth of the country can be time-consuming and costly – an Accountant out on the road is one less Accountant available to answer questions in our office. To address this we’ve created a small studio in our offices, and our Accountants can now be beamed in via high-def Skype video call to seminars and presentations around the country. Those who present can pose questions or ask for advice, and get answers as if the Accountant was in the same room.
Where would you like to take business in the future?
We’re always toying with new ways to improve our customer service, and Skype throws out some interesting new possibilities. For example, we are in the process of implementing a new in-context help system which will contain recordings of our accountants answering common questions.
Skype has enabled us to add several powerful new strings to our customer service bow which differentiate us further still from both simple online bookkeeping software and traditional accountants. Most importantly, these new services are seamless, scalable and easy-to-use – everything we look for in a service partner.
Given a customer retention level of 97.2%, since our launch in April 2009, we’ve proven our service is better, easier and more cost effective for small businesses in the UK. Now it’s time to continue to grow, ensuring our excellent customer service never waivers.
The plan is to service 10,000+ small businesses and be the largest small business accountant in the UK. With the next 4,000 square feet of office space about to be negotiated to hold another 50 expert accountants and accountant managers we are well on our way. After that we have the rest of the world in our sights!