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.

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