A great deal has been written over the years about how to implement CRM systems successfully in a professional services firm but the problem is that CRM systems have been living in their own silo for too long and that it’s time to break out and see what’s going on in the rest of the firm.

In this the first of our Director’s Briefing Room blogs we’re going to summarise the series of articles that we’ve published recently on strategies for integrating CRM systems across the business.

We can all identify those things that ensure that we’re successful with CRM:

  • Make sure you have senior management buy-in
  • Be really clear what it is your trying to achieve with your CRM system
  • Don’t underestimate the training and communication challenges
  • Don’t forget to clean up your data.

But in an increasingly competitive and internationalized global market, is this enough? When only one thing is really certain, change.  Only those firms that can respond to change will survive.   One change that is likely to become increasingly common is firm mergers.

But as attitudes, laws and technology move on, do we need to completely re-invent the wheel or actually should we be increasingly relying on the principles of good business development and client communication?

Surely CRM is merely an extension of your firm’s overall business development strategy.

Good CRM technology deployment can be a critical factor in helping firms rise to the challenges of a rapidly changing world, for example, consider these questions and ask yourself if you’re ready if your firm were to merge:

  • Will international professional services firms still refer work to the national arm of one of its major global competitors, as opposed to an independent local market specialist?
  • What are the implications of global versus local branding and client relationship management – who will own the new multi-jurisdictional relationships?
  • What is your system strategy for identifying and managing these relationships across international borders?
  • What sort of combination is in place, if your firm is merging,  The Swiss Verien model places restrictions on the sharing of client information which can make working out a strategy for how to conduct CRM for the combined firm even more complicated
  • Where is the system going to be located?
  • What are the data protection implications in allowing non EU users access to our data?
  • Which marketing lists will need to be reviewed and rationalised?
  • What is the process for sending out “joint” campaigns?
  • Will the firm need to revisit its definitions for its key audiences?

The critical point to make when it comes to managing the huge complexities of firm mergers is that the board will have a great many other things that they have to worry about:  due diligence; the vesting of the new entity; achieving partner buy-in.  The last thing that they are going to be thinking about is how well will Business Development rise to the challenges of managing client facing systems and processes, but in many respects, it’s actually one of the most important things to get right.

Irrespective of what the future holds for your firm the fundamental principles of good client relationship management should always apply.

  • Be clear about the key audiences with which you communicate
  • Understand what their requirements are and how the firm proposes to deliver them
  • Have a clear definition of how your CRM system can specifically support the firm’s client relationship objectives
  • Focus your data management processes on those things that genuinely add value
  • Understand the flow of information throughout the firm, not just within the confines of the CRM system
  • Keep it simple – if something appears to be too complicated to be worth the effort then it probably isn’t worth the effort!
  • Have you got a list of your top clients!!

In summary my point is that whilst you can’t predict the future, you shouldn’t wait for a crisis to happen before working out what your crisis management policies are.