CRM Implementation Best Practices – Part 3, Implementation

Last week we shared CRM Implementation Best Practices – Part 2, Planning and Budgeting. This is our CRM five part series:  1) Getting Buy-In, 2) Planning and Budgeting, 3) Implementation, 4) Data Management, and 5) Impact and ROI.

Part 3 – Implementation

This is where the rubber meets the road. How you go about implementing your CRM system can determine whether it is successful, as well as whether you maximize the benefits you get from it. Here are some things the panelists suggest to do or keep in mind as you put CRM to work for your firm.

View More: http://benjamindavidphotography.pass.us/foster-headshotsKim Hafley comments:

For me, the key to implementing CRM is figuring out your main goal, identifying a champion and getting feedback from staff. So if your culture is the type where your people have input into the process, they are much more likely to follow and use a system that they feel they are a part of creating.

“When you’re thinking about implementation, think about training the end users and realize that the needs of different users are probably going to be different.”  — Kim Hafley

While it’s easy to get excited about all the bells and whistles a CRM system has, it’s important and easier to be successful if you pick one feature as a goal, implement it, and then track the metrics involved that prove you were successful in realizing benefits. Then you can go on to phase two and phase three.

When you’re thinking about implementation, think about training the end users and realize that the needs of different users are probably going to be different. In our focus groups with support staff, we were able to get a good handle on what the secretaries needed to feel successful using CRM, what the paralegals needed, and what they thought the attorneys needed. This led to our doing a lot of one-on-one training. You may
think that’s not very efficient. But it turned out to be incredibly efficient for our culture because we were able to go through a checklist and make sure everyone had a core competency.

We were also able to ask how firm members thought CRM  might benefit them, or what immediate benefit they saw, whether it was being able to see what other newsletters a client might be receiving or who else in the firm might know the client. This made the training personal, so people felt more responsible for the system, and it really helped us in keeping the data clean over the long haul, because people realized how important that is.

In the focus groups we also looked at the data fields. Everybody’s got a preferred way of entering data; for example, whether they use titles or put nicknames in the name field. We told the groups that we can have only one way to enter data, and we’re not going to be able to accommodate everything. Instead, we need to find a common denominator and agree upon a standard. This exercise helped immensely, because we had dialogue and people felt involved. So if a field wasn’t what they preferred, they understood the reasoning behind it.

The other thing that helped was to appoint a data steward who enters the data not only for the marketing system but also for the accounting system, so it’s the same person. That suggestion came out of our focus groups. Implementing it made the staff feel that their concerns and ideas are listened to. So they are very “bought into” the system and continue to come up with great suggestions.

Joseph_Barb_PP (1)Barbara Joseph comments:
The one aspect of implementation I did not appreciate enough, but certainly do now, is the different levels of what I’ll call “housekeeping” that people do for their Outlook contacts. I just didn’t realize how bad some of the attorneys’ housekeeping was. One had the same person in his contacts seven times at seven different jobs. As the person changed jobs, the attorney just kept putting in a new record and never took out the obsolete entries. Even though we were very clear in our request on what we wanted people to do and share, they took the easy route sometimes.

“It really helped to be able to get on the phone with Cole Valley and ask what I should do. They had done so many implementations that I never threw anything at them they hadn’t already encountered.” — Barbara Joseph

Also, we initially felt that more was better and encouraged people to add in all of their contacts and relationships. But a lot of the older contacts were not current. That muddied up our data.

We’re more watchful now as data comes in. That’s one of the reasons we slowed down the implementation and brought in smaller groups of attorneys at a time. That helped us control the data.

As analytical as I thought I was and as much homework as I did on CRM, many times I hit a fork in the road during implementation and would have to make a decision about something I hadn’t considered. It really helped to be able to get on the phone with Cole Valley and ask what I should do. They had done so many implementations that I never threw anything at them they hadn’t already encountered. That kept me from taking the wrong fork or just being paralyzed, not sure which way to go.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJoy Long comments:

The first time I rolled out a CRM system, I rolled out everything at once. The problem wasn’t that firm members didn’t like CRM or that it didn’t eventually succeed, but that it was too much all at once. The main thing I’ve learned is to phase in CRM. This keeps it exciting and new, rather than giving so much information at once that people’s heads are going to explode.

This time I was able to break down the implementation process and focus on what the new users absolutely needed to know and do. Going one step at a time starts to embed the system into people’s everyday activities and teaches them something that’s simple yet helpful.  Then you can build on that.  Being realistic is key.

Stay tuned for next week’s article – CRM Implementation Best Practices – Part 4, Data Management. For the full whitepaper visit our website – http://colevalley.com/Resources.aspx

 

CRM Implementation Best Practices – Part 2, Planning and Budgeting

Last week we shared CRM Implementation Best Practices – Part 1, Getting Buy-In. This is our CRM five part series:  1) Getting Buy-In, 2) Planning and Budgeting, 3) Implementation, 4) Data Management, and 5) Impact and ROI.

Part 2 – Planning and Budgeting

Since CRM software enables you to not only manage client contact information and mailing lists easily and efficiently, but also to integrate contact information with your time and billing system, Outlook, and VoIP phone system, as well as to schedule events and identify cross-sell opportunities, it can be very powerful.

But to get the most out of it, you can’t just plug and go. You need to determine what you want to do with CRM, budget for it, and then allow time for planning and preparation. Here’s what the panelists had to say about that.

View More: http://benjamindavidphotography.pass.us/foster-headshotsKim Hafley comments:
There’s a lot of baby steps involved in implementing CRM. We broke the process down into a couple of key projects so we could show what the current situation was and how CRM would make it better. We had hoped to get CRM going the same year we started, but because we moved slowly and methodically, it spread out over two budget years. It was about 10 months between when we started looking at systems and when we kicked off CRM with a firm-wide meeting.

Joseph_Barb_PP (1)Barbara Joseph comments:
We split our CRM startup, as well as the budget for it, over two years. Because of the recession when we started in 2009, and the fact that CRM would be a major purchase, it was about 14 months from the time we started the RFP process until we implemented the system.

Because our database was so bad, I started by doing an audit of our attorneys to find out how many contacts they had and how they were managing them. It ran the gamut from business cards, Rolodex, and Word document to Excel spreadsheet and Outlook. But we were pleased to find that 60% of our attorneys were using Outlook contacts, which showed they could use a system like ContactEase that integrates with Outlook.

 “By doing the cost-benefit analysis, I was able to show how we could reallocate personnel time, save money, and expand our benefits. For me, that was the most persuasive argument for investing in CRM. ”  — Joy Long

We then looked at a lot of different products and talked to a lot of people. Also, we did focus groups internally to find out what we would want besides basic contact information so we could categorize contacts. Then I wrote a detailed RFP that covered all the different items we were looking at and their costs. I was willing to push for CRM because I believed that once people could see the system in motion, they would support it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJoy Long comments:
Two months after the botched mailing I mentioned, the word came down that we were going to move forward. We purchased CRM a few months later, and then it took about two more months to get ready and start implementation.

One thing I’ve learned from doing three CRM implementations is that you need to keep your plan simple. You see so many bells and whistles and possibilities when you’re trying to buy a CRM. But when you get down to brass tacks, what do you really need?

Cole Valley was great about providing us with an implementation plan that gave us a base for developing one tailored to our firm. This is where you have to be absolutely realistic. I’m not saying to under promise and over deliver, but to be realistic about what your staffing is and what you can do and accomplish, knowing what your company’s needs are.

Another thing I’ve learned is to never say: “Let’s just get the product and I’ll worry about how to keep it running correctly later.” For me it’s important to have a full-time data steward, someone who is in charge of the database and has primary responsibility for data cleanup. This is something you have to think of when you’re budgeting for CRM. If you’re not looking at how you’re going to keep the data clean, I don’t know how CRM is not going to fail.

Stay tuned for next week’s article – CRM Implementation Best Practices – Part 3, Implementation. For the full whitepaper visit our website – http://colevalley.com/Resources.aspx

CRM Implementation Best Practices – Part 1, Getting Buy-In

Whitepaper on What 3 Leading Firms Did to Achieve Success

Customer relationship management (CRM) software gives accounting and law firms a proven way to boost productivity and revenue, save time, reduce marketing and administrative costs, and increase cross-selling and client retention. But many firms are still not using this powerful tool for developing and deepening client relationships because they don’t know how it works or how to get started.

To discover what goes into a successful CRM implementation, Cole Valley Software, makers of ContactEase CRM, convened a panel of marketing directors from two law firms and an accounting firm to share best practices learned in the process of identifying needs, getting buy-in, implementing a system and maximizing ROI:

  • Kimberly P. Hafley, Director of Marketing & Recruitment for Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith PC, a 95-attorney law firm based in Lansing, Michigan
  • Barbara Joseph, Marketing and Client Services Director at Bowles Rice, LLP, a 140-attorney law firm based in Charleston, West Virginia
  • Joy Long, Director of Marketing for Ostrow, Reisin, Berk & Abrams, Ltd. (ORBA), a full-service accounting and consulting firm in Chicago with 125 employees

This whitepaper presents highlights of their discussion during a webinar which was attended by representatives of 145 professional services firms.

Getting Buy-In

Most marketing and business development professionals know that their firms need and would benefit from a CRM system. But they often have difficulty getting buy-in from the management team and other firm members, usually for reasons having to do with cost and resistance to change. Therefore, identifying pain points and showing how CRM can address them is a critical first step in CRM implementation.

Here’s what the panelists said about getting buy-in from partners and firm leadership.

View More: http://benjamindavidphotography.pass.us/foster-headshotsKim Hafley comments:

Our first step was to identify what our staff members needed; the second, to give them some talking points so they could convince their attorneys that CRM would meet those needs. Also, we identified several attorneys to help champion the cause, and we hired a consultant who happened to be an attorney, which made it easier to sell CRM to our attorneys.

Doing all that made it much easier to then go to the management team and show how CRM could help us deliver better service and be better at business development. With that, we were able to get buy-in.

Joseph_Barb_PP (1)Barbara Joseph comments:

We had a database of 48,000 names that was glutted and full of inaccuracies. To show our management that we needed CRM, I printed out the 15,000 names in our database that no one owned. No one could verify them, yet 5,000 of those contacts were getting marketing materials from us.

Once the managing partner saw what was happening he said, “We have to change this.” This exercise led our management team to say “Yea, we need something different” and approved our getting CRM.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJoy Long comments:

I knew it would be important to understand my firm’s pain points and demonstrate how a CRM system could solve them. So I undertook an audit to figure out how things worked and learned that everything was going out hard copy and snail mail. The hope was to go electronic and expand our industry and practice-niche content and make sure it went to the right clients and prospects.

To that end, I developed a flow chart showing that our current inefficient process for delivering content to clients and prospects had 27 steps. I also did a cost-benefit analysis to show how automating the process with a CRM system could help us realize significant
efficiencies. We were using Excel spreadsheets for our database, and it took one or two days to pull and clean information for a single mailing. We were doing four or five mailings a month, so the hours involved were significant.

By doing the cost-benefit analysis, I was able to show how we could reallocate personnel time, save money, and expand our benefits. For me, that was the most persuasive argument for investing in CRM.

Plus, we had a “fortunate” disaster. When the data was pulled once for a general mailing to clients and prospects, the addresses somehow got disconnected from the names and moved down one person. So the mailing went to the right address but with the wrong name, and calls about the error started coming in. Buy-in for CRM became much stronger — and the sell much easier — after that.

Stay tuned for next week’s article – CRM Implementation Best Practices – Part 2, Planning and Budgeting. For the full whitepaper visit our website – http://colevalley.com/Resources.aspx

 

Are you asking CRM vendors the right questions?

Customer Relationship Management - puzzle 3d render illustration

CRM is a strategy, not a project.  Think of CRM as “your firm as it could be.” If you do not have a comprehensive plan to take you to that destination, perhaps your firm could benefit from one. And if you do have a plan but the destination remains elusive, now might be the time to review and refine your CRM strategy.

Our goal as marketers and business development professionals is to have CRM help us acquire, grow and retain profitable customer relationships to create a sustainable competitive advantage. Which CRM system is right for a professional services firm can depend on several factors including the culture. Part of the CRM evaluation process is determining which type of CRM system meets the firm’s specific needs and provides the best CRM outcomes.

Steps to CRM Success:

Get sponsorship or buy-in from the management. If management doesn’t believe in the new approach to CRM, why should the employees? Implementing CRM requires working across organizational boundaries and breaking down long-term siloed behaviors and attitudes. You can’t do that by yourself! Many times the difference between a successful CRM strategy and a huge waste of money is backing from the management from the beginning.

Build a team. Prior to developing your CRM strategy or selecting your CRM software, form a CRM project team with representatives from each practice area to make sure colleagues’ needs and concerns are addressed. Too often companies neglect to include the correct stakeholders, and the initiative fails to meet the needs of those tied to its results. Pick your CRM team wisely – everyone will need to own the customer experience. Remember in forming the team, consider people, process, and technology. In addition to marketing include a marketing or managing partner, IT director, rainmaker partner and firm administration.

Define your business objectives? Your CRM strategy must be designed with your business objectives and marketing requirements in mind.

Automate processes. Identify processes that can be automated. What is the internal process for tracking pipeline opportunities, or how do you identify and track cross-selling opportunities? How are you tracking referrals sources, alumni, lost opportunities, and prospects? How do you create reports to share with management? More importantly if you were able to automate those manual processes, what impact would those increased efficiencies have on your team and the firm?

Manage Client communication. In the day of defined marketing segmentation, CRM is designed to ensure that you are sending out the right communications to the right contacts. CRM is a valuable tool in managing client communication: newsletters, alerts, announcements, event management, holiday cards/gifts, etc. CRM becomes your centralized communication center.

When buying any new CRM system, keep it simple. Don’t buy what you don’t need. The fewer bells and whistles, the less time and money you’ll need to devote to training. People don’t like change as it is; keeping things simple only makes the implementation that much easier. And training can be a challenge if the CRM system is too much for the firm and the culture.

Make sure that you are asking the right questions when researching a CRM system?

What should CRM do for your firm? Ultimately the right CRM will help a firm to acquire, grow and retain profitable customer relationships and create a sustainable competitive advantage. During the process of defining your requirements and vetting the multitude of CRM providers, here is a list of questions to consider asking vendors.  When you are in the process of researching a CRM system are you asking CRM vendors the right questions to insure that you match the CRM platform to the culture of your firm?

  • Of your current customers, what is the adoption success rate for using the CRM system?
  • Does your company provide help with implementation or do you utilize consultants or other third parties to do the work? What is your average implementation time?
  • As a vendor how would you define ease of use?
  • Do you provide best practices guidance and training specific to Professional Service Firms?
  • Are their additional fees to the original licenses? What are the renewal fees? Are there any hidden charges that are not mentioned during the review or proposal process? What are the price increases after the sale for each year?
  • What is the turnaround time for customer service related inquiries?
  • Who owns the data and where it is housed? Who controls the data?
  • If you should part ways with a vendor, what is the process for getting your data back?
  • Do you have referenceable Professional Service Firm customers?
  • How flexible is your platform? Can you integrate with other software programs (i.e Time & Billing)? If so, what are the costs associated with integration?
  • Does the system include a pipeline management process?
  • What industries do you focus on when selling the platform?
  • How recent was the technology created and/or updated? When was the last release?
  • Will the CRM system grow with the firm through mergers and acquisitions?
  • Ask every vendor – what CRM do you use to run your business?

With 25 years of experience in working with Professional Service Firms, ContactEase CRM has a 90% successful adoption rate in over 250 law and accounting firms, with 16,000+ users worldwide. For more about ContactEase CRM Made Easy, please call 1-800-447-1212 ext 2 or visit colevalley.com.