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Check the sentiment not the system

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It’s your first day at a new firm and you’ve been hired to run its CRM system. So what do you do? Start reviewing the solution to see what it does and doesn’t do? Begin by analysing the data to see if it is clean and complete? Look at the reports that are available? These are all important, but not where I’d start!

The fact is that whether a CRM system succeeds or fails depends on the value it adds to fee earners, secretaries, business development managers and partners. So the first thing I would do is talk to these stakeholders about their perception of the system.

Meet with business development to find out whether they are using the system, how well it meets their needs and what changes they would like to see. Are there initiatives they are working on that they would like the system to support? Survey the fee earners. Ask their opinion of the system, what they use it for, what they would like to use it for and listen to any frustrations.

Talk to the secretaries. They are the ‘army’ of any law firm and key influencers, so you need to understand how they perceive the system, whether they know how to use it, and how well they think it supports their fee earners.

Seek out the senior partners to understand the firm’s future business and client development strategy and how CRM can support it. And don’t forget the IT department. Getting its view is vital as the IT personnel will be the ones who will help you maintain and update the system. Armed with the information from all these conversations, you can move to the next stage – i.e. prepare a strategy document which sets out the improvements that are needed to align the CRM system with the firm’s strategy, business development initiatives and the needs of all those in the practice that use it.

Communicating the strategy

But that isn’t the end of it! Now your new role starts in earnest. The strategy must be agreed with the senior partners. You need to meet with fee earner groups and business development managers to explain how you intend to use the system to support their initiatives and the part they will need to play to make sure it does.

You need to get the secretary base on side too. Secretaries are fiercely loyal to their fee earners. So if you can show how the system can make fee earners more successful – as well as how it can make secretaries’ jobs easier - you’ve got a winning formula.

Make sure IT is aware of what you are doing, to keep the priority of the system high in the department’s mind and ensure focus on it isn’t overshadowed by other applications within the practice.

Above all, ensure all of these stakeholders have bought into your vision, objectives and goals with developing the firm’s CRM ideology and system. You need their support as much as they need yours.

Finally, you need to keep the communication going, showing how the system is helping the company be more successful – for example by sharing success stories or establishing a steering committee that meets to discuss developments and results.

The bottom line is that the success of the CRM system not only depends on how well it supports the business, but how well it is ‘perceived’ as supporting the business. And, ultimately, that hinges on the relationships you build with all the stakeholders in the company.

So, when you start a new job, begin by building those relationships. It will pay off handsomely in the end.

Tags: InterAction

About the Author:


Tennille has worked in marketing for professional service organisations for over 12 years in various roles, including event management, digital communications and operations. For the last eight years, she has focused specifically on InterAction, working with business development executives to align the database to business planning, key account programmes and marketing strategies.

Tennille also specialises in repositioning misunderstood (or failed) systems with business development teams and partnerships. At Lexis Nexis, she works with business development teams to adopt marketing and client relationship management techniques managed centrally through InterAction, to support the growth of professional service firms from domestic, office centric environments to connected global organisations. Her aim is to help streamline your processes and successfully report client growth, value add and return on investment back to the business.

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