Using CRM Software Effectively

By Matthew J. Boyle

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Although most CPA firms use Microsoft Outlook to manage their contacts, Outlook lacks the capability to use the stored information for business growth. When employees manage their own contact information and share it unsystematically, data-quality issues proliferate, and compiling and sorting correct, current information becomes an immense task. This can result in a firm that functions, from a marketing perspective, like several different small practices under one roof instead of a cohesive whole.

Properly managed, raw data can be pulled together using customer relationship management (CRM) software and turned into cohesive intelligence that can then be analyzed to—

  • forecast trends and firm revenue;
  • find growth opportunities within the firm;
  • make key management decisions; and
  • justify expenditures for marketing resources.

An essential element of any CRM software is ease of use. End users are often of different ages, backgrounds, and skill levels with technology. The CRM software chosen must be user-friendly yet flexible enough to be customized for the firm’s long-range plans. It should also have the flexibility to sync with and build on information already stored in Microsoft Outlook.

The CRM software must be able to track current clients, future prospects, and referral sources, as well as make that data accessible company-wide with appropriate security safeguards.

Creating Leverage for Growth

CRM software should be more than an electronic address book. A good CRM platform is the central point for leveraging the relationship intelligence possessed by all members of a firm. In addition to storing contact information, some CRM packages, such as ContactEase by Cole Valley (www.colevalley.com), track myriad details to help increase business and revenue while reducing time spent on marketing endeavors.

There are two avenues to pursue when using CRM software to grow a firm: increasing business from current clients, and obtaining new clients. The first step is to understand the firm’s current clients; their additional needs, and how their satisfaction and service can be improved. Once input is complete, the firm can evaluate the type and volume of work done for any given client—a snapshot of current and prior work. That information can then be analyzed to determine options for providing additional services.

Personal information about clients and prospects should be tracked as well, including clients’ interests and hobbies. Keeping track of birthdays, expectant mothers, and who is caring for an elderly parent helps staff remember to make appropriate inquiries of interest about personal situations when speaking or meeting with that client.

When all contact with clients is tracked in the database, a tab or section will show a user what everyone in the firm has done regarding a specific client. If a holiday card was sent, that should be noted. If a survey was sent, responses should be tracked. If a partner has had lunch with that client, that should be tracked as well. The text of e-mail sent to a client should be accessible through the CRM file, and so on.

A CRM system can provide accurate background information to facilitate account-staff turnovers and other transitions. When bringing a staff accountant up to date, tracking the entire history of the client is vital. Any staff member can be brought up to speed without a briefing from those who have previously assisted that customer.

Second, CRM software can help the marketing department track metrics on all aspects of the individuals and companies in the database. For example, running analysis on a client’s geographical location can pinpoint areas to pursue. Entire marketing strategies can be defined through the metrics extrapolated by the software.

CRM can lead to increased efficiency, effectiveness, and reliability of information when sending out newsletters, tax alerts, and other mailings. Instead of needing weeks to prepare for a prospect mailing, CRM software can compile and track all mailing lists, saving time and money. Following through by tracking potential leads or new business resulting from mailings in the database provides an advantage to the firm on competitive intelligence and gives guidance for the next round of marketing.

Information about new business that results from a referral should be tracked as well. The entire firm then knows not only which client is affiliated with which partner, but also which banker or which attorney. The firm should also track incoming recommendations, so that business can be referred back and the firm can maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with other professionals.

Flexible CRM software allows for modifications that will enhance the pursuit of business. The firm’s IT specialists should modify the software or create new processes for updating information in the database. For example, e-mail requests that include a link to the CRM database can be sent out to clients, allowing the recipient to type in responses to questions correlating to certain information in their files, essentially updating their own information. This improves data quality because it limits the chance of errors on the part of the firm.


Matthew J. Boyle is director of marketing at Moody, Famiglietti & Andronico, LLP (www.mfa-cpa.com), a regional accounting and consulting firm based in North Andover, Mass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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