Sixty two per cent of client CEOs say that the impression of being a well-managed advisory firm is an essential pre-condition of selection of a professional services organisation, according to a recent Financial Times report entitled ‘Effective Client-Advisor Relationships’. The only way to be perceived as being well managed is to actually ‘be’ a well-managed advisory. In fact, aside from helping firms to be selected by prospective customers, being well-managed aids profitability and client retention too.
It is not often recognised, but the discipline of customer relationship management (CRM) can assist firms in becoming well managed organisations.
Demonstrating commercial nous
Due to reduced budgets, globalisation and a risky business environment, clients are demanding more of their advisors at every level, to help them overcome their business challenges. So, professional services firms must have insight into the commercial landscape of their customers – even in areas that fall outside their individual professional specialisms. CRM provides a mechanism whereby information on all aspects of the client’s business environment can be collated and accessed in real time, going beyond simply providing insight into ‘who knows whom’. It can help advisors to better understand their clients and their markets and enable them to develop a methodical construction of entire lifecycle of relationships, both for the client organisations and the individuals that work within them.
Offering depth of service
Offering a holistic set of services shows that professional advisors can become a fundamental part of the customer’s journey, as it endeavours to achieve its strategic goals. In addition, the ability to proactively offer new services is attractive to clients and shows that their long term professional services needs are being constantly evaluated and planned for. To do this, firms must be aware of developments taking place in their clients’ market and react suitably. For instance, news that its customer is merging with another organisation may be an opportunity for a law firm to offer employment law; and on searching the CRM system the firm might find that in fact expertise already exists in-house with a lawyer, who has practiced in that area of law before.
Evidence of efficiency
Demonstrating high level of control through effective use of resources sends a clear message that efficiency is a key business objective for the firm and that the cost benefits of the approach will accrue to clients. By fully integrating CRM into their operation, firms can have client-related financial information at the tips of their fingers. To illustrate, lawyers and accountants can view client records to understand the size of the client, billing to-date, over-spend or under-spend and ensure that all related information is accurately reported to clients. By closely monitoring budgets and having information regarding the different types of financial arrangements in place with clients, teams can ensure that the firm’s resources are appropriately allocated to client matters.
Exhibiting agility and flexibility
As “trusted advisors” professional services firms must develop the ability to predict upcoming business trends, client requirements and new areas of service; and simultaneously cater for those developments to support customers. Well-executed CRM enables firms to analyse data related to its own sphere of influence as a business as well as that of its entire client base, giving detailed information that can be broken by sector, industry, and practice and business area. Firms can then identify internal skills gap and proactively take measures to forecast, recruit and manage staffing requirements to meet future customer needs. Similarly, tracking tenders won and lost through the CRM system can enable firms to identify the organisation’s strengths and weaknesses and use the information for competitive advantage.
Underpinning the business with a CRM technology platform that can truly facilitate customer engagement in a compelling manner, instilling confidence in clients that the professional services firm is capable of meeting its current and future business needs in the most effective and efficient manner.