EP32: Angela Meharg - How To Improve Your Customer Service

Ask questions.

Some bookkeepers don't do this when working with clients.

As a result, they are missing out on an incredible opportunity to not only help their customers grow their businesses, but they lose the chance to become a powerful asset to them in the process.

Our guest, Angela Meharg, who owns Datisfy which helps business owners receive custom QuickBooks reports, feels bookkeepers should increase their value by digging deeper and truly getting to know what their clients’ needs are.

During this interview, you'll learn...

  • Why you should research the industry your customer is in and find out the things that are typically measured

  • The crucial questions to ask your client that could be the key in solving their major problems and catapulting them to greater success

  • Why you must send a monthly email to your customer detailing how you've gone over and above to assist them

To learn more about Angela, visit this link.


Michael Palmer: 01:20 Welcome back to The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. I'm your host, Michael Palmer, and today is going to be a terrific episode. Our guest is the founder of data's Phi, which is a company that helps business owners get customer reports for QuickBooks. She is called the crystal reports goddess. Now. That's interesting. We're going to get into that in a bit and I'm happy she is here today. Welcome to the show. Angela Meharg.

Angela Mehrag: 01:30 Oh, Michael Palmer. Thank you so much for such a great welcome.

MP: 01:45 You are welcome and thank you for being so generous with your time to join us on the podcast today. And uh, we want to get right into it and get to know you a little bit. So tell us how you became the founder of Datisfy. 

AM: 02:05 Well, as you said, I had, because I had come to be known in my industry as the crystal reports Scotus crystal reports. Many of you may know that is a software application that connects to databases that allow you to pull information out of any database, any structured database. And I had been working with it for a very long time since 1996 and I had come to a point in my career where yeah, I kept getting hired as a contractor or consultant, but I realized I could never reach my financial aims if I kept doing work for hire by the hour or even by project. I needed to scale something up. I needed to have an enterprise. And a friend of mine who's a CFO asked me if I could do a custom report, a split commission report for QuickBooks. I'm going to, I'm gonna just that lingo cause I know that bookkeepers went understand what I'm talking about. 

AM: 03:03 You are the totally the audience who knows what I'm talking about. I said, well QuickBooks, how hard can it be? I've been doing complex reports for systems like Oracle and SAP for years. How hard can it be? And then I found out how hard it was and I was a little bit stunned by how hard it was to get data out of QuickBooks. And I did it, but it cost me a lot more than I charge the customer. Put it that way, but I learned something and what I learned was I'm never going near QuickBooks again and I wrote a blog post about it and it turns out people search for things and they find you when they, when you mentioned these things in a blog posts and people about three months later found me, they started to vote between one and three inquiries a week, begging me to do a custom report for QuickBooks. 

AM: 03:53 But knowing what I knew at that point, they couldn't really afford me because it was so complicated to get the data out until somebody said, hey, there's this software application you should check out. It's called QQ Cube for QuickBooks. It's a data warehouse it takes, it sucks the data out of QuickBooks. It improves its structure to make it easier to get at the data and makes many more fields and data items available. Drops it into this separate data warehouse that stands alone. And that's what I'm like when I saw it instantly recognized an opportunity to build a true solution for this exact breakdown in the market place. A single click report to get what you wanted, a QuickBooks, the numbers, exactly the way you need them as a business owner, that would be a miracle, especially if he could develop it, those reports fairly quickly and it didn't cost a ton. 

AM: 04:49 So I knew at that moment that I could start an enterprise, but I couldn't keep being the crystal reports goddess. That's a great cheeky personal brand that's not a scalable enterprise-level brand. And so I actually hired someone to come up with a new name and he came up with Datisfy out of our conversations and things that I'd said, he said he's come up with Datisfy and a tagline that says do what counts. So both of those words on that as far as the made-up word, but it says something and I liked that very, very much. And so we settled on that and it was available. And the rest is history, which is now just about three years. In fact, focusing on this very niche problem when working with QuickBooks. 

MP: 05:42 Beautiful. What a story. What an interesting evolution to your, to your business journey. So, with you growing your business, you have more, you work with probably anybody, business owners, bookkeepers, accountants, people that need to get this kind of data out of their QuickBooks. What has been your experience of working in the marketplace and what have you seen from the launch? 

AM: 06:09 There are a few things. One is that typically who contacts us is the business owner, the CEO or the CFO, which surprised me, but that's Kinda, I guess that's typical in a smaller business. And that's who uses QuickBooks. I was also surprised at just how large those businesses can get and they still use QuickBooks. So I've been, I've worked with companies that are, you know, five, 10 20 5,000 million dollar companies still using QuickBooks because it, it takes care of the basic needs and the only thing that's missing for them and how what they need is to be able to just get better reporting and analytics out of their own system without having to ditch the system. Because if you go to upgrade to a more advanced system like Lawson or one of the more advanced sage ones or Microsoft dynamics, you're talking hundreds of thousands of dollars, first of all, just for the software and the implementation and the customization, the training, the business interruption. 

AM: 07:06 And then you're still gonna need custom reports because every business runs a little bit differently and they need to see their diff, their numbers a little bit differently. And how, what has surprised me the most are, and we've done now hundreds of reports for different companies, different industries, only once have we been able to reuse a report that we built for a different customer in all this time. And that just tells you how unique every company is. And I liked that because it makes it a challenge for us. We really have to listen to what the customer wants. But that is, that's really it. I think that's what people don't realize is so important about data analytics and running a company. You gotta have your, your fingers on the pulse and that's the, yeah. 

MP: 07:57 Beautiful. 

MP: 08:05 I absolutely love what you're saying. And I think there's a couple of things I want to pull out of that in that. Number one, businesses not generic. If it was everybody is doing, it'd be easy just be like, turn on, Hey, can I just start a business that's going to dump money in my bank account? Sure. Just press this button. So it's, it's not like that. It will probably won't be that like that for a long time. So this whole conversation of automation, AI and all of these interesting and exciting things, it's not necessarily going to remove the importance of people like yourself that actually can think critically and laterally and think about, okay, your business, you're unique, what information do you need and let's help you get that information. And that really relates back to our listeners, right. Bookkeepers. Um, and, and another level of that is your surprising discovery of entrepreneurs being the people who are contacting you. 

MP: 08:57 I mean, when I heard that, I'm like yes because that is what we are changing here at The Successful Bookkeeper podcast is that the bookkeeper should be the one contacting you because they should be asking the entrepreneur saying, what is it that you need? What analytics do you need? What do you, what are you really trying to get to in your business? How can we help you with the information that we're collecting and making sure it is accurate? How can we help you bet, make better business decisions and then going out and s and satisfying that by speaking to people like yourself? So I think it's exciting for our listeners to say, hey, I need to be thinking about this. And being the person that is ahead of that entrepreneur and thinking about, well how do I help them be more successful? 

AM: 09:36 Oh yeah. To have that kind of attitude in a bookkeeper would be amazing. In fact, I have a bit of that in the one that you referred to me cause I was having a real struggle finding a bookkeeper who could enter things on a monthly basis for me and just understands how to enter those. And I'm now, because of now, I'm so closely related to this industry and to that the data that goes into QuickBooks, all the transactions, I'm much more familiar with the lingo now, the jargon of the industry. And I actually am a member of a LinkedIn group called QuickBooks tips and tricks and some of the best QuickBooks folks who all are seeing either they may be CPAs, they may be really advanced bookkeepers, they're t, there are tons of discussions about how to do things the right way. And it took me a really long time to find a bookkeeper who could do it the right way and they, I just a first thanks for that recommendation. I don't know if I should mention her name. 

MP: 10:36 Absolutely. You can read your name. We're proud. We are proud to salute the great bookkeepers out there. Shavon Harrop Scott and she will definitely be a guest on our show and she's one of our wonderful clients with pure bookkeeping and she's just got a really switched on business and uh, and is growing like a weed. So we're going to have Ron and I, it was really easy for me to refer to you based on where you were and what you needed. And we've got, you know, handfuls of, of great bookkeepers across the country, but you're right here in Toronto and Chavonne was there and wow, what a beautiful connection. So it's my pleasure. 

AM: 11:11 Absolutely. Thanks for that. 

MP: 11:13 Yeah. And so excited that, yeah, that, that I'm hearing that feedback and it's great and Chavon will listen to this podcast and have a big smile on her face as well. Yeah. So this is so cool. I love that insight that you, you, you gained from Your Business Journey. And I want to make sure though, I think the listeners probably have realized you're not a bookkeeper, but you're, you're a person who understands data and understands the structure of data and how to move it around and pull it from this place to that place and put it where it needs to be to get information out of it. 

AM: 11:40 Hm. So in fact, just if I may, uh, we have a new project that just kicked off last week. It's a company, a construction company in Calgary, and they just, they wanted some cost analysis report, just one actually because they spend a lot of time getting the [inaudible] data out of QuickBooks into excel and then putting it into this other spreadsheet. I'm like, wow, you don't have time for this nonsense. And they have like hundreds of projects to deal with. Not all at the same time, but managing them in an XL is, oh my gosh. So not the way to go. But the other complication of it is that they use an additional system to manage all the estimating, it's called Quickbid. So we are going to actually combine the two into a single report. So nobody ever has to touch excel again. So talk about different systems and pulling them together.

MP: 12:40 That's a perfect example. Wow. Very cool. Very cool. what would you say for the bookkeepers in terms of them being able to start these conversations with the owners, the people they serve, how do you see that going? Well, first of all, just asking a question like that is a great place to start because I, I would imagine that the business owners aren't accustomed to having received a question like that from a bookkeeper. I think also understanding, getting, doing a little research, a little background gathering on the industry that that particular customer is in and finding out what are the things that are typically measured in that industry. And of course you may not have access to all of the systems and your focus would be on the financial system, but to find out what things are measured, what are the typical ratios like restaurant industries run on different ratios than other industries, food and beverage costs as opposed to the rate measured to the sale of the food measures, the cost of the goods sold. 

AM: 13:47 That's not a typical ratio obviously in other industries. So get familiar with what are those kinds of calculations, uh, percentages. And then a lot of business owners tend not to think in the numbers so much. A lot of people avoid the numbers and a different way of asking them is, what's the question you always want the answer to but can never seem to find about your business? Say that again. That's a beautiful question. We need to say that. Okay. 10 Times. Yeah I know like asking them, what's the thing you always want to ask and you don't know who to ask or, or where the information is, but you'd really like to have that on a regular or recurring basis so that they see you could manage something cause if you can't see it, you can't manage it. You can't direct it. Just a beautiful question. It's a great question and I think it's a tough question for people that find themselves doing the work as a bookkeeper in that they are very uh, black and white. They look, they're trying to put things in perfection into 

AM 14:52 perfection and that that behavior, that characteristic in itself could be, you don't want to ask a question that you might not know the answer to. And so part of this I think is an invitation that he, both of us, you and I are actually going to make of our listeners is to give yourself permission to not have the answer to these types of questions and be okay with that. And, and that's where you'll get to, uh, opportunities and new relationships with these owners is by asking questions. Just like Angela asked, is that we don't know. Their problem could be something that you would never ever be able to solve for them, but the fact that you've asked it is going to improve the relationship with them. 

AM: 15:30 Can I tell you another question?

MP: 15:40 Beautiful. Let's do it.

AM: 15:50 I don't think this is strictly a QuickBooks thing. I think it just happens to be very much a thing with QuickBooks. But I suspect this is a thing with other systems as well is where are people exporting stuff to excel and managing stuff in excel instead of in the systems. Now the business owner may not know the answer to that, but it's a worthy sort of investigation because there's this data living in spreadsheets all over the organization. Even if it's a smaller organization, those are called data silos. A, it's not secure. And B, what do you, you can't do anything with that data except in the form that it's in. So it's not, it doesn't lead to great analytics and decision making. So I think that's a really good question to ask is where are things being exported out of this system and manipulate it and played with and stored elsewhere. 

MP: 16:29 It's great. And it's also sort of brings up, in my mind, it's, it's the owner, it's like what question are they trying to find the answer to but can't seem to find it. But as well, if they are a larger organization, do they have other people in their organization that report to them that are trying to answer questions to answer the question for the leader, it's like Kinda like this a hierarchy of, hey, we can't find an answer. You go find it. I don't know where you're going to find it. Do you know? Right down to the bottom of the people's front lines. Right. So that's it's kind of thinking not just the owner, but where else are these people trying to answer these questions and these excel spreadsheets hanging out and inputs and outputs and Angela, I would have to think that the work you do brings a level of consistency to analytics and as well helps businesses scale. 

AM: 17:18 Yes. Consistency. You know, the same old expression, garbage in, garbage out applies just as much to financial transactions as to any tanks. And you just said that bookkeepers tend to relate to things as very black and white because a transaction is a transaction. It's an input or an output, right? It's a credit or a debit. It's, it has to be one of those things. So I can really appreciate where the black and white view is important. You need to have that objectivity. What surprises me about accounting, which is not the same thing as bookkeeping, I've come to learn is that accounting is just as much an art as it is a science or a mathematical thing. And learning how to and where to allocate things is, is very, can be very subjective and having an understanding of that as a bookkeeper would probably be useful too. So that you know what questions to ask depending on your customers' aims. Uh, and it's, it's not, I'm not saying do anything illegal. This is all very legal. It's like, but where are you going to allocate that to? And it tends to be in the bigger organizations, but that they can move things around a little bit more. But I think that's a valid and valuable thing that a bookkeeper's understanding could bring. 

AM: 18:49 You ever been asked that question? I know. I don't even remember what question you asked. I, we telepathically had that conversation and, and it happened because it's bang on and it's a very interesting conversation that we don't have probably enough, which is if we think of any team or, or function, right? There's every system has different pieces and parts that have to make it all work. And all of those pieces and parts are extremely important. You pull one away and it no longer works, right? If you take the spokes out of the wheel, we got problems. Okay. But the thing to do is to make sure that you're in, in collaboration with the other parts and pieces. So with the bookkeeper, you know, that traditionally would be putting them on all of those things in the places that they need to be. They have an appreciation for what the accountants doing, have an appreciation for where the entrepreneur is and what, what they need in the struggles and, and an understanding of what's happening in the system and process. 

MP: 19:49 Right? So it's, it's just knowing your job extremely well. My Dad used to always say, always know your job and everyone that you work with their job as best you can so that you are a valuable asset to everyone and yourself. And so it's a very similar concept. It's knowing your job, know what you're really great at, what you're doing, but also understand what's what it is they're doing and appreciation of what they're doing so that you can be a contributor to what they're doing. And I think that was the essence that I got from you. You, your comment. And uh, I think it's, it's, it's extremely valuable. 

AM: 20:22 I just thought as something that we've cut, we've come up against a couple of times that I'd really love to bring up here and it does have to do with entering things accurately and in a meaningful way. We have a customer in Oakville, we've just done some custom, um, profit and loss statements for them. And we did them and they worked until they started running it, the new fiscal year, the new calendar year. And they're like, well, the numbers aren't working. I'm like, well, let's have a look. And what we discovered was that this person who I'm working with now is new. He's taken over the role from another person and what that other person had done in the past, he, she didn't enter things on a monthly timely basis. She did GL entries later to catch things up and so the dates never fell into the periods where the uh, expense or the transaction actually occurred. 

AM: 21:19 And so the monthly reports would never reflect things. So now this guy has to take what we've done for him cause the new stuff is accurate, the current year is accurate, but he has to go and kind of fix the numbers manually every month until this year is over until they have a full complete year to look back on. I'm like please don't ever do that. If I was ever going to ask anything of bookkeepers, please don't do the shortcut. It doesn't serve anyone in the long run because what you enter is really critical, valuable data that is decisions get made on a GL entry. Just doesn't cut it. I, that my previous bookkeeper was entering my credit card statements as GL, as GL entries. And I didn't know that until I tried to do reporting on it. And of course, it's not there that the data just doesn't exist in the same way. 

AM: 22:09 So just know that the data, the transactions that get entered, they lead to something else and they're really valuable and they're, they're kind of like gold and you can, you've got to mind that gold, but it's gotta be there to mind in the first place. So if I was ever to have a wish for, for waves, for bookkeepers to think of what they do, and I know many of you do, I, they, of course, it's kind of why you like what you do. You love to check things off and do them right. Um, but it's the shortcuts that get us all into trouble. So I hope you don't mind if you just can say that and shared that, but that would be my dream request of them. 

MP: 22:48 Bookkeepers in the world. I think Debbie or my, my partner in in Australia, Debbie Roberts, who's the co-author of EMF, if bookkeeper would be smiling down there in Australia in terms of, you know, doing it right and having a process and system in place to make sure that it can be done right because it doesn't serve anybody to not do it. Right. And this goes back to what we were talking about in terms of knowing where we're going. Okay. It's like this data is important. We need it for reporting. If, if the bookkeeper had understood what the owner, what answers the owner was trying to get to and had that acumen to know, hey, we better do it this way, otherwise there's going to be problems. So understand where everybody's trying to get to. When you do that, you become a valuable asset in the whole process in the system and you're considered a valuable player on the team. And those players typically stay longer. They typically get paid more and they typically have a lot more fun being there. 

MP: 23:45 Having said that, I'm gonna make a rec of recommendation is my sense is most bookkeepers have a sort of um, a producer kind of personality. Like you like to get things done, check them off the list, do them right, kind of your get things done kind of person. And that kind of personality tends not to make the owners or the, you know, the people in charge, aware of the good work that you've done. So and maybe against your general kind of approach in life, but keep a track of the good things that you do for that customer in a way that you can share with them so that they understand your value. Because if you don't, it just becomes something they can take for granted and you need to make sure they know what it is that you do for them. Time is gold. Gold. 

AM: 24:42 I'm a bit of a producer as well. I'll just go and do things and I won't tell anybody about it. I just get it done and it just all works out. And if the opinions of others, if I worked for somebody else, that's not a good thing. You need to, it's like, Hey, what do you do around here? It's like, well I do a lot of things around here, right? You don't want that question being asked. And so it is a bit of self-promotion, self-marketing and it's very important. I'm glad you brought it up and we're tackling like getting some goals here. Uh, in terms of this conversation for sure, 

AM: 25:14 where people can think, how do you think bookkeepers can do this? Well, I think to make a list of where you've kind of gone above and beyond normal data entry where you've had to really investigate something, keeping up, keeping track of that on a monthly basis and say, and then sending a, oh, just an email. It doesn't have to be in person. Just say, I just wanted you to know that here's what we've accomplished this month. Yet we entered the data, but here's what we resolved. Here's this question that this puzzle that we, you know, dug into and here's how it affects you. That's pretty simple, but I've never received anything quite like that from a bookkeeper. But I do that kind of thing as a consultant because that's more, it's a more consultative kind of thing to do. But if you think of yourself in that kind of as a consultant in a role like that, then your, your customer does tend to think, wow, that's something I'm really, I'm glad I paid for that. I'm glad I exchanged my resources for that kind of help. 

MP: 26:23 I love that. I think that's something every single listener can take on is just bringing people up to speed as to what's going on, where you're at. And a probably there's hesitancy because bookkeepers get behind, right? There are data things to catch up and let's listen. They're not the entrepreneurs are not the, uh, the innocent ones here either. They cause a lot of problems in terms of getting, you know, getting things back and understanding where it's all going. So then they've got a tough job and in many cases of keeping the business owner in the business systems moving forward, but yet don't let that get in your way. Even though it's going to get in your way. Uh, listen to what Angela is saying, and literally, if you're behind, just let them know we're behind. We're getting your caught up. We're doing it right. You know, it's important to do it this way. Otherwise, dip, dip, dip, dip, dip. Just like we've talked about. Understand where they want to get to so that you can say, I know we're trying to get you here and here's where we are. A that is valuable. 

AM: 27:20 Well, not only that, if you see there's a recurring pattern to some, the way the data comes to you, the transactions, the receipts, the invoices, whatever it is. And you can see what perhaps what the source of that is. Maybe it's an individual, maybe it's a missing system. Maybe it's just somebody hates numbers and they just don't bother because they don't get it. Um, find out if there's a, a, a way to automate that so that they don't have to work so hard so they don't have to Labor to get you what you need. 

MP: 27:49 Help them help themselves by improving the system and process that they have going on. And that's a lot of what we talk about on this podcast is business systems and the myth bookkeeper, if you haven't read that book yet, listener, it's an excellent book around building a system-dependent business and how to make a small business work and how to make it profitable without pulling your hair out. Because when you put, just like Angela said, it's like you've identified something's not working, the key is to fix it and put up, put it, put a measure in place or a system in place to ensure that it doesn't break again in that it's, it's efficient, that it's some way efficient and we're lucky living in this day and age in terms of all the apps and technology and things that are happening that can help us take care of these small little bits of pieces that then allows us to send out emails as you've just talked about or uh, have conversations that we talked about in terms of understanding where the owner's going. 

AM: 28:46 Huh. I'm going to look like I'm going to have to read that book too.

MP: 28:55 Well you absolutely, definitely. Most definitely should. It will be a, we'll send you a copy. How about that? Uh, Angela, this, this has been great. We've gone off as we said, I am, before we had this conversation, I said, you know, we've got a roadmap, but I'm a, an off-road vehicle so we may leave the road and take some journeys and wow. What, what a great, uh, conversation this has been to get off the beaten track and talk about, uh, your business and what you see for our listeners and just absolute gold that we've gotten today. While totally a pleasure, Michael, it's great to talk to you as always. Absolutely. And now, Angela, let, let everybody know how they can get in touch with you, learn more about you and uh, and get some of the great work that you're doing over at your organization. 

AM: 29:38 Great. So it's really easy to find me. And Datisfy. Datisfy is like satisfy with a d satisfied with your data. I know. Clever plan words. I love how you can, you can find us on LinkedIn. You can find us at Datisfy.com and you can email me at Angela@datisfy.com we, uh, we work exclusively with QuickBooks desktop. So obviously it's not an, it's not a fit if your customers don't use that. But if they do, then chances are we can provide some really valuable help. And the other thing is, because we specialize in reporting for QuickBooks and that is all we do. We get in and out really fast, but we leave a lot of value in our week and it's something that you don't have to learn how to do cause specialization is really where your profitability is going to weigh. Lie, lay even one more split. Yeah. To let you know, let the specialist a delivered their specialty and you focus on what you do the best and then everybody wins. That's my view. 

MP: 30:45 Beautiful. Awesome. I completely, um, enjoyed this conversation and I think our listeners are going to be coming to your website and getting in touch with you and having conversations and connecting with you on a, I invite you to join the successful bookkeeper Facebook private group where you can, uh, help answer some of those questions. I love that you're so specialized in a specific part of the business. It enables you to be awesome at it and a, I think you're a valuable asset to the community. So it's been great having you, and until next time, we'll, uh, we'll keep the conversation going.

AM: 31:10 Thank you so much, Michael. All the best.

MP: 31:20 You Bet. That wraps another episode of The Successful Bookkeeper podcast and what an episode. It was tons of gold to learn more about today's guests and they get access to all sorts of valuable free business-building resources. You can go to Thesuccessfulbookkeeper.com. Until next time, 

MP: 31:40 goodbye.