Customer Relationship Management systems have the potential to give firms a huge competitive advantage – but all too often they don’t because the data being entered is partial, patchy or out of date. Firms have a lot to gain if they can raise the consistency and quality of data entry, argues Adam Michie. The trick lies in utilising software that makes it a painless process.
It’s all too easy for CRM systems to get a bad name with lawyers. And when that happens it can trigger a vicious cycle. After all, lawyers are being asked to take time out of their busy days to input data into the CRM system. They may do so diligently and regularly at first – only to find that their colleagues aren’t doing the same. And as soon as a lawyer gets embarrassed by not spelling the client’s name correctly; or not knowing there’s a new CEO; or not knowing the precise status of a potential client’s relationship with the firm the inaccurate or out-of-date information in the CRM discredits the whole system in their eyes.
It is at this point that a lawyer may decide, on some level, not to be so diligent any more. Not to waste time on a CRM system that’s giving limited value back. And so the vicious circle begins. As fewer and fewer lawyers put accurate, current and comprehensive data into the system, the quality of the information it generates begins to degrade. Over time the system becomes less and less useful.
It’s tempting at this point to just give up on the whole thing as a bad idea. But don’t – for two good reasons. One is that the potential value that a CRM can deliver has never been so high. The second is that it’s now much easier to get data into the system without causing pain to lawyers.
Why CRM matters so much
I’m not making it up when I say that the biggest challenge faced by firms in relation to CRM systems is getting people – and by that I particularly mean lawyers – to enter data. Recent research  shows that:
- 88% of CRM users admit to entering incomplete contact information
- 69% of firms have out-of-date information in their CRM
- 63% have duplicate contacts in the CRM
- 62% of CRM users admit to not logging all activities
The problem is that this makes CRM systems weak. And that’s an important problem and one that prevents many firms even starting to implement such a system.
Right now, as you know, the legal arena has never been more competitive. New business models are emerging; more and more firms are getting eaten alive in consolidations; clients increasingly don’t like hourly fees; and they’ve never been more discerning, cost-sensitive and disloyal.
At the same time, because of the world we live in, a firm’s reputation matters more than ever. It plays an increasingly large part in why potential clients choose one firm over another. And reputations aren’t based on what firms says about themselves, but rather on what their clients say about the firm. Clients therefore need more love than ever, so firms need to get better at nurturing client relationships. QED: Customer Relationship Management systems matter more now than they ever have.
Why quality counts
What’s more, I have to emphasise that it matters how good a CRM system is. A poorly performing CRM is a positive hazard. It cost you money to buy and install it in the first place. Potentially it will continue to cost you money if people are wasting their time entering data that no one looks at or trusts. Needless to add, contacting clients with flawed, inaccurate data could be disastrous to the client relationship and ultimately very costly indeed.
Conversely, a high-performing CRM delivers all kinds of benefits. People can find reliable contact details and client information quickly because they trust what they have to hand on the system. And the firm will always be more efficient if client data is consolidated.
At the same time, it makes a difference if you’re getting people’s names and job titles right, and are able to contact the right people, at the right moment in the sales cycle, with the right offer. You can be sensitive to who they are and what they care about. You can demonstrate better internal collaboration on key accounts. You can more easily make “warm” as opposed to stone cold introductions. From the client’s, or the potential client’s perspective, your firm looks coordinated, sharp and in control. It all enables the firm to generate new business more cost effectively and quickly. And to keep track of current clients, understand their pain points and act to ensure they’re retained.
With so much to gain from a strong CRM system, and so much to lose from a weak one – it’s an area firms really should tackle. The good news is that they can make their CRMs much more effective and valuable in two steps without even having to change system. This is how.
Taking care of attitude
The success of a CRM system hinges partly on the system, partly on people’s attitude to the system and partly on what can be done to make the system work more effectively for all concerned. Assuming you already have a system in place, and that there are no radical modifications you can make to its usability at this point, let’s leave that one alone.
As for people’s attitude towards the system – this is to do with the culture within the firm and the training and support people get with using the CRM. A way forward on culture is to communicate a clear understanding of the value of the CRM. Of course lawyers need to earn revenue in the here and now. But they also need to be clear about the importance of investing time in ensuring future work. In other words, if you never look to the horizon, the danger is that you walk off a cliff. Firms need to make sure that inductions, on-going training and regular communications set clear goals as to how the CRM is used, and a clear rationale as to why it matters.
Letting technology take the strain
That is not to say that technology doesn’t play a huge part. At Tikit we focus our offerings around four ecosystems. An ecosystem is an integrated suite of software, consisting of Tikit own products together with selected partner offerings, which work efficiently together to support key processes within a law firm. Our Marketing and Business Development Ecosystem has been constructed to eliminate some of the key challenges that traditionally prevent CRM being fully adopted.
One of the important ways we achieve this is to leverage technology to simply remove the need to manually enter data. The bonus here is that it not only saves time, it also eliminates the errors that can creep in when it’s up to humans to do the keying. This starts right at the beginning of the process with initial data capture. The solution scans interactions through Outlook, including emails, contacts and calendars. When it picks up a mention of a contact that is not in the CRM system, it will research the contact to present as complete a record as possible and send the user an email asking for permission to synchronise the data into the CRM system. All the CRM user or lawyer has to do is click to accept the new data. It constitutes an extraordinarily painless way to update client and contact records in the CRM. And because of its sheer simplicity it ensures that the CRM is much better informed and up to date than before.
Similarly, from the marketing side, data flows seamlessly between the CRM database and the e-marketing activity to allow full exposure of activity against the contact record. Lawyers can see who has received a mailing, opened it, read an article, been invited to an event, accepted an invitation and whether they actually attended.
The aim of the system is that every crumb of information is captured, building a comprehensive, accurate and current view of the contact. Further, the system proactively feeds this information to the lawyer just when they need it. The system can see from a lawyer’s calendar when they have a meeting scheduled, and can automatically prepare and send an email briefing on that client a day before the meeting. The briefing can contain pretty much any information held about the client in any system – this can include recent marketing activity, recent meetings, who else in the firm knows the contact, billing information and news from external sources.
Better still, after the meeting has happened it sends an email asking for an update. The lawyer simply replies to the email and the update makes its way automatically into the CRM.
The lesson is that firms should neither abandon nor despair of a CRM system which isn’t performing at its optimum potential because it lacks good, accurate, up-to-date data. The introduction of a data entry system will not only claw back the time that lawyers and others spend on updating the current system (quite a significant amount of time, by the way). It can also radically improve the depth and quality of data that the CRM system has to work with. This can make a real difference to the firm’s client knowledge, and it can stop lawyers hating CRM.
For more information on the subject please join us for a free webinar on December 12: