Apps We Love: Communicating!

How do you communicate with your clients and your co-workers? If you’re still relying on the telephone, you’re probably finding that many of your colleagues prefer to connect with you in more modern ways. Even email is taking a backseat to many of the quicker, easier, more direct ways to send and receive messages.

Keep in mind that when the message is complicated and requires explanation and disclaimers, email and even written documents are best, and when the message requires emotion (and I don’t mean emojis!), telephone and face-to-face conversations are irreplaceable. But we wanted to know what our community uses when the message is succinct and needs to be delivered immediately, or when group communication is required. Here are the responses we received:

Roman Kepczyk, CPA.CITP, CGMA, LSS-BB, Director of Consulting, Xcentric, said, Xcentric utilizes Skype for Business for all our meetings and we have implemented a MS/Polycom Roundtable video conferencing system which does a 360 view of those sitting around the conference table. This system allows those users to meet face to face in that office and allow the remote viewers to see them all in one ‘filmstrip’ screen. The camera also highlights the person speaking in a central screen and can automatically adjust between different individuals, whether they are in the conference room or connecting remotely.”

Brian Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA, director, strategic relationships at K2 Enterprises also uses Skype for Business for most of his video chat and text chat needs, and is experimenting with Slack with a startup incubator. “I like Slack, but you have to play with it for a while with a group before you work out the ground rules of how you will work with it – getting the structure right is hard.”

As you’ll see, Slack is overwhelmingly a favorite among many of our contributors. Scott Hoppe of Hoppe Tax said, “I write scripts so when a client uploads a file to their google drive client upload folder it messages their Slack team (similar to what zapier does except I write the code myself). So client does what they normally do and it automatically triggers events for the internal team to address.” Hoppe also uses Google Hangouts: “Whether it is a video chat or phone call it comes from Hangouts. I can call from my desktop, laptop, browser, phone, or ipad.”

Misty Megia, head of accounting programs and education at TSheets, is also a Slack and Hangouts fan. “My current favorite communication tool is Slack. It decreased our in office emails by over 50%!! That alone was a gift. Slack streamlines communication and creates quick conversation instead of books. You can also call people through Slack and it integrates with Google Hangouts giving you the ability to do video calling and screen sharing. (Once you hit the integration button you type: /hangouts and it takes you to a Google Hangout). On top of all of that it is searchable, you can upload videos, documents, and links so the conversation is dynamic. You have the ability to set up channels giving specific areas for conversation. Also the list of other apps Slack integrates with is incredible. It connects with my favorite task app Asana and so much more! Lastly you can also add GIFs in for that added fun when there are no words.”

Arline Welty, partner at Dataquest, said, “We are fond of HipChat. It’s part of our overall love-fest with Atlassian tools, including Confluence for beautiful online documentation. It’s all integrated. They also have a very amusing library of emoticons that we use when we need to send each other cookies, Star Wars characters, and ninjas.”

David Cieslak, CPA.CITP, CGMA, BSEC, Principal, Arxis Technology, recommends: “GoToMeeting – web based meetings and video conferencing. Principally use for client facing appts., product demonstrations and webinars). Straightforward and reliable. Zoom – web based meetings and video conferencing. Easy, fast and always at the ready! And Trillian – Instant messaging between team members. All Arxis employees use this tool and communicate constantly throughout the day. Much of our internal communication has moved from e-mail to instant messaging.”

Integrating new tools with traditional email, Stacy Kildal, founder of Kildal Services and StacyKAcademy, said that her favorite communication tool is the chrome extension, Boomerang for Gmail. “It allows me to set recurring emails (handy for reminders), schedule emails to be sent at a later date, get read receipts and best of all - bring emails back to my inbox for follow up.”

Leslie Shiner, owner of The Shiner Group, recommends What’s App. “I have clients in other time zones and other countries. I can text or call for free as long as they also use What’s App.”

Sandi Leyva, CPA, president of Accountants Accelerator recommends Zoom and Wunderlist. “We use Zoom for virtual board meetings so people can see each other via their Webcams. Most of our staff communication is done via our to-do list app, Wunderlist. It saves dozens of emails daily. I just put the task in and anything related to the task - questions, comments, notes, and files - gets posted in one place.”

Elizabeth Pittelkow, CPA.CITP, CGMA, DTM, director of accounting and compliance at Arrowstream, is another Slack believer. “I use Slack for my job and for my Not-for-Profit Board. I love I can access it on my laptop and mobile devices, and file sharing is convenient! Slack's blog is helpful and interesting to read, too!”

Kristen Rampe, principal of Kristen Rampe Consulting continues the Slack theme: “I love Slack! In my office, it’s replaced most email messages. With clients, it facilitates conversations on topics we’re exploring – deeper discussions and less cluttered inboxes are a huge benefit.”

And here’s one more: James Bourke, CPA.CITP.CFF, technology niche practice leader at Withum: “Hands down, the best app we use at Withum is Slack. What a great collaborative tool. I deployed it to my technology niche practice for the professionals in the group to memorialize all of the events and activities that they are attending.”

Geni Whitehouse, CPA.CITP., Countess of Communication at Brotemarkle, Davis & Co., a CPA firm specializing in the wine industry, said, “We have our very own WineCPAs app on the Apple Store and Google Play. It was created for our firm by . I was seeking a way to connect to our clients in a more targeted, reliable way and found this solution. In addition, we now own that term on both of these stores – helping further our brand identify.”

Sandra Wiley, president of Boomer Consulting, said that her firm uses Google Hangouts for instant messaging and video conferencing. In addition, “We use Workplace by Facebook for remote communication within our team. It is a closed business application that we use for client stories, water cooler talk, health quest updates etc. Also Mighty Networks for communication with our clients. We just started using it this year and we finding it is really good.”

Here’s another member of the Slack camp: Brett Mills, CPA, partner at McCarthy, Rose & Mills, said, “Email is a time killer! It is so hard to maintain ‘inbox zero.’ We have banned email for internal communication and use Slack for most communications and Skype for video and short IMs in the office. When communicating with clients we like to use Zoom or Google Hangouts for video communication whenever possible. Email allows us to hide behind the screen and deprives us of nonverbal communication. We believe accountants can benefit by bringing the personal touch back… digitally speaking, at least.”

Danielle Supkis Cheek, CPA, CFE, CVA, uses Zoom. “We love that it can be used as traditional conference call as well as video chat and screen share software. It gives us all the bells and whistles we need for at a price we can afford.”

And finally Brian Tankersley sent this caveat for any of the social communication tools you may be using: “I’d advise your readers to keep your confidential stuff out of FaceBook chat, Twitter DM’s, and anything consumer-focused because of the potential for non-compliance with regulatory mandates.”