We’ve heard for a long time that chatbots could soon be an integral part of any accountancy practice, but specific use cases can be difficult to come by. Many experts have predicted that chatbots will step in to speed communication between advisers, clients and HMRC, but what has often gone under represented is what chatbots are doing here and now for accountancy.
Auditing is still regarded as a very manual and complex process for both auditors and auditees and, until recently, had not significantly changed for over 10 years. However, chatbots assisting auditors are now very real and we’re beginning to see them positively affect the composition and structure of audit teams in many ways, resulting in improvements to customer service and loyalty.
What is a Chatbot Audit Assistant and Why are Firms Using Them?
Effectively, chatbot audit assistants are designed to ease common auditing pain points. There are a lot of reasons practices are putting chatbot audit assistants in place, but most of the common benefits are ultimately tied to the key success factors for any accountancy practice: maintaining a good reputation and creating a loyal customer base. Today, to maintain these key success factors, it’s essential to deliver an optimised customer experience.
From a basic point of view, delivering a better customer experience may involve practices providing their clients with chatbots as better tools to make audits faster and less painful. Traditional audit systems and processes are often difficult to use, and clients may be required to deal with complex spreadsheets and manual exports of data. The amount of technical support these tools and processes require can be overwhelming and expensive to deliver.
Chatbots can take on much of what has traditionally been a manual exchange of data in hard copy documents. Clients can submit electronic copies to advisers via chatbots as a go-between, which also has the upside of significantly reducing the amount of time expensive on-site teams need to be in place.
Chatbots can also resolve common questions whilst escalating them to a human if necessary, resulting in efficiency gains for both parties and overall accuracy improvements. Think about what this type of differentiator can do for overall practice reputation point of view, as well as the benefits of a reduced support load from the practice point of view.
Online Portals + Interactive, Intelligent Chatbots
You might find yourself thinking: we’ve already got a client-accessible online portal for sharing documents – why do we need a chatbot as well? Client portals and workspaces are great, but where chatbots differ is that they are always ‘learning.’ They are able to collect auditing and financial process data in a more structured way and provide relevant advice on how to submit information for clients based on the situation, and to constantly improve that advice over time.
Chatbots are also decreasing audit processing time and improving insight through Artificial Intelligence driven classification and recommendation.
That means that through the use of Artificial Intelligence, chatbots can classify audit types and highlight anomalies in audit data, recommending outcomes and responses. This means that when an auditor receives information from the chatbot, they’ve already had part of their task started. If a ‘red flag’ anomaly is detected, chatbots can issue an alert for auditors to contact auditees directly for further information.
It is also worth noting at this point the ‘human’ benefit most practices feel with the application of chatbot auditors. In a landscape where practices are being asked increasingly to provide more and more advisory services, having chatbots on hand to help with the volume and repetitiveness of audit queries is most welcome. While the client facing benefits are obvious, most firms are realising that one of the top differentiators chatbots offer is the opportunity to focus staff on more value-add advisory services and automate the low value data processing.
Chatbots & Business Insight
So, we’ve seen how chatbots are helping the everyday tasks associated with auditing, but it would be short-sighted not to examine some of the new opportunities on the horizon for firms that are looking to gain new insights from critical enterprise information.
For many practices, chatbot auditors are being implemented alongside new data use strategies focused on improving data processing and also on gaining new business insight. Many practices are becoming more innovative in leveraging big data and data analytics in audits to improve audit quality and to better protect investors, increasing the overall effectiveness of the audit and the value of it to clients.
It’s one more example of the AI-powered revolution underway in accountancy, and it’s an exciting time as we see chatbot auditors become highly productive members of innovative audit teams set to make auditing a more efficient, streamlined and valuable process to business.
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Chatbots and the AI-assisted audit revolution