Accounting software provider Xero has promised to work more closely with bookkeepers and create a dedicated section of its website for its bookkeeper partners, after the company’s marketing practices were the subject of a heated LinkedIn discussion thread.
Both Xero chief executive Rod Drury and chief marketing officer Andy Lark have responded to the concerns posted in a discussion that started a month ago in the LinkedIn group for the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB), as reported by Fairfax.
In a post titled “Annoyed with XERO and its Marketing attack”, certified bookkeeper Paris Mitsakis said she is “annoyed at the fact that XERO is sending out the message to the public that it has a brain of its own and does all the bookwork on its own”.
“This can’t be further from the truth,” said Mitsakis, who said she does appreciate some of Xero’s “nifty little admin features”.
“Whereas bank feeds help, [Xero] is still not able to do the hard work as in complicated journals, complicated payroll, picking up incorrectly fed items etc.”
While many of the commenters in the thread said they do not have concerns with Xero’s functions or product features, they said they are concerned the important role of bookkeepers is being overlooked in the company’s marketing efforts.
Some also said they are concerned small businesses are being misled about the potential savings of using accounting software without the help of a bookkeeper.
However, Xero has responded to the claims and attempted to reassure the members of the group, with a response from chief marketing officer Andy Lark saying “we don’t think we do the work that bookkeepers do, or, that we seek to replace bookkeepers”.
“We also don’t think the end is nigh for bookkeepers – quite the opposite,” Lark said.
“What we are doing is looking to automate as many of the mundane tasks and reports that keep bookkeepers from getting into the keeping of the books, advising and engaging clients, and, adding more clients to their roster. And building as much collaboration into the platform as we can so it is easy for bookkeepers and their clients to come together.”
Lark said Xero will be placing “an even greater emphasis on communicating with bookkeepers” over coming months and will “revamp our site with a dedicated section for bookkeepers, and, we are working hard on a new partner directory to introduce bookkeepers to more clients”.
Xero chief executive Rod Drury followed up Lark’s post with a personal comment to “reinforce we’re 100% committed to bookkeepers”.
“We have a lot to do but you’ll see us invest further in bookkeeping this year and are differentiating our approach between bookkeepers and accountants because you are different,” Drury said.
“You are small business owners yourselves, each of you helping many other small business owners to grow and achieve their goals. Software should help eliminate the drudgery and get you having conversations.”
“I’m sorry Paris if we got our wires crossed somewhere. But we’re all in on bookies.”
In a statement issued to SmartCompany this morning, Drury reiterated Xero’s commitment to bookkeepers.
“We’re 100% committed to bookkeepers, as evidence by the fact we hired a Head of Bookkeeping in Australia, Melanie Power, have developed content aimed at helping bookkeepers grow their business, and have an advisor directory on our website that helps Xero customers find the right bookkeeper to help them guide their business,” Drury said.
Matthew Addison, executive director of the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers, told SmartCompany this morning the institute “understands the marketing needs of the software companies” but believes “the best use of software is established when an expert, ‘the bookkeeper’, assists the business to utilise the software”.
“ICB encourages businesses and bookkeepers to use current software to enhance the efficiency of business processes,” Addison says.
“We believe the development journey of all software brands to automate and improve the business processes is a positive development.”
However, Addison says software on its own “does not apply to all businesses the same way, recognising that each business has unique characteristics, with customised use of the software”.
“Bookkeepers are essential to understanding how software may apply to a business and typically are essential in taking the features and processes of the software and helping the business to use them,” Addison says.