(by Michael Warren, Founder, Stanton Allen from his keynote presentation at the PSMG Seminar, London, 23rd March 2012)

In this blog we’ll look at CRM in professional services firms in a different way to see if we can identify the lessons we can learn from firms who have been successful.

Most people are familiar with the acronym for CRM.  But what does that really mean? 

Can relationships really be managed, and if so by whom and how?

And knowing that someone knows somebody might be interesting,  but what are we going to DO with that information?

Most professional services thrive on referrals so it’s not just about clients either.

My impression is that management indicates that we’re trying to control something static,  and of course relationships change all the time.

We don’t just want to manage information we want to USE IT –  so we have to constantly re-evaluate our CRM and data strategy.

So let’s take a  look at CRM systems differently to see if we develop appropriate strategies based on the purpose of the system, the processes it is aiming to support and the people who’ll be using the system.

I look at CRM in these terms.  It’s all about

  • How do you Capture the data
  • Working out the most appropriate Repository in which to store your data
  • Then working out how you will use it, so that it becomes self Maintaining

Firstly CAPTURE.  Most firms really only think about this in depth, all the training and communications around CRM seem to be about:

  • How do you add a contact?
  • How do you record an activity?
  • How do you add a relationship?

That’s great.  But if 90% of the time fee earners are never actually going to add this information themselves, then what’s the point of training them how to do it?  

My experience is that even if you give a fee earner the simplest system in the world, most of them won’t use it.

Why?  Firstly because no-one actually goes out of their way to voluntarily do data entry do they?    Unless you’re sad like us data geeks at Stanton Allen.

Secondly, and more importantly, because the emphasis of the system has been so INPUT focused no-one sold the benefits of the system and therefore the fee earner is left wondering “what’s in it for me”?

So in terms of CAPTURE we need to think about is WHO is actually adding what data, and not just WHO, but WHAT and WHERE i.e. WHAT processes already capture this data? WHERE can I get this piece of information from without the need to enter it through the front end.?

So CAPTURE – is about developing intelligent and efficient methods to get data into your CRM system. 

We live in a world of single purpose APPS, where each APP does one thing really well, we demand that it’s instant and easy to use.    Those of your with iPhones, know what I’m talking about!

Well if you think about it that couldn’t be more different to the approach we’ve been taking for the last 10 years when it comes to CRM– which has been to sledgehammer everything into one system.

We’ve been doing this for the most noble of objectives – to create a “one stop shop” because busy professionals don’t want to go to different systems to get information about clients and contacts.

However, whilst CRM Systems are good at managing certain things – complex billing information, for example,  is NOT one of them. 

So in terms of REPOSITORY what I’m trying to say here is that we need to think of where is the most appropriate place to hold information and the truth is it MIGHT NOT be the CRM system.

However don’t panic, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t form part of the picture of the information that people in the CRM field might want to know – it’s just that we might NOT actually put it in CRM.

Finally MAINTAIN.  How are you going to use the information,  because through use it becomes self maintaining. 

So we need to think about what reports users are going to need, from where they are going to want to access them, how often etc. 

If you think about it, there are very different decisions that need to be made in each of these areas and it’s important not to think about the CRM system as a whole without considering each of these elements in turn.

In a future blog we’ll break this down further and look at each of these elements in turn.  This was the topic of our recent presentation for the PSMG and Part 2 of our presentation is scheduled to take place later in the year.  Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get more information.