A recent article in the ABA Journal proclaimed, “Boom years for law firms were an aberration.” The article quotes information from a 2013 Client Advisory report from Hildebrandt Consulting and Citi Private Bank which predicts that the double-digit rate increases that occurred from 2001 to 2007 are over.
As proof, the article summarized information in the report confirming that “productivity is down among income and equity partners, expenses are up, clients are demanding and getting discounts.” As a result the prediction is that future law firm success will be measured by “profit growth in the single digits.”
To succeed going forward,
I recently heard someone comment that CRM is a journey, not a trip. Truer words were never spoken. As many of my clients will tell you, I am fond of saying that CRM is not a project, an initiative or a rollout – it’s a fundamental change in the way that your firm manages and leverages it relationships. And these relationships are essential to the success of the firm. This therefore makes CRM essential to the success of the firm. That’s a pretty thought provoking syllogism… well, almost.
This also means that you can’t think of CRM as something that will ever really ‘end.’ It will be a necessary and even essential element of firm growth.
Many people who are recognized as leaders in their sport, field or occupation often attribute a significant portion of their current success to a trainer or coach of some type who helped them achieve more than they ever thought they could. And plenty of couch potatoes can attest that the only thing that finally motivated them to achieve the results they said they wanted was a trainer who pushed them and held them accountable.
A CRM Expert “Trainer” To Lend a Helping Hand
This trainer may be a mentor, trusted advisor or expert who shares knowledge and information and helps to avoid challenges and missteps.
A question that seems to keep coming up more frequently in discussions with firms about their CRM strategy is whether success would be easier to achieve with a CRM system that was ‘in the cloud.’ ‘The cloud’ is a fluffy euphemism for hosting the firm’s CRM software and data on a server somewhere outside the firm. While this may have become the standard in other industries, and while a case can even be made that external hosting in a professional facility is actually more secure, most firms have not been willing to allow their sensitive client and contact data to reside outside their firewall.
Have you ever heard the saying that you have to walk before you can run? It’s usually being spouted off by one of those really annoying self-important know-it-alls with all of their clever little sayings. You know, the ones who are usually all talk. Anyway, I’ve heard them say this about CRM too, but I disagree. Instead, I would say that CRM rollout is more like a triathlon: you have to swim before you can run (ok, a triathlon without the biking – and after swimming and running, most of us would be too tired to care about the biking anyway).
While a CRM checkup may be the best preventative medicine, sometimes we just don’t want to get diagnosed. We put it off because we get busy or because we figure if we ignore the problem long enough, maybe it will go away on its own. But if you neglect your minor CRM problems or aches and pains for too long, you may find your overall CRM health to be deteriorating. At that point, you need to analyze just what the problem seems to be… where does it hurt?
Analyze CRM Problems and Seek Treatment
Are your clients and prospects having a reaction to the number of irrelevant communications the firm has been sending?
It’s always nice when something we say is reinforced by really smart people like the folks at McKinsey & Company. One of their articles about change management suggests that there are four basic conditions that must be met before people will change their behavior in the workplace:
- A compelling story: They must see the point of change and agree with it, at least enough to give it a try.
- Role modeling: Admired and/or respected colleagues must be seen modeling the desired behavior.
- Reinforcement systems: Surrounding structures, systems, processes and incentives must be in tune with the new behavior.
When you first begin a CRM rollout in your firm, it’s easy to get carried away and want to really take off right out of the gate. It’s perfectly understandable that you might get excited about the potential of CRM to help the firm solve problems and automate processes. You know how effective CRM can be in improving communication, coordination and client service – so it’s tempting to run around telling everyone what it can do.
Can it fix the mailing lists? Absolutely. Support the firm’s Client teams? Of course. Allow tracking of referrals and opportunities? Sure. But realistically,
Nothing can be more frustrating than dealing with CRM data quality. But when it comes to CRM success, there are few things that are more important. While data quality tasks can seem monotonous and mundane, left ‘untreated’, a CRM database can rapidly deteriorate into a disaster, causing end users to doubt and distrust the data and refuse to use the system – and causing you to pull your hair out.
The First Step
The first step is admitting you have a problem – or lots of them. Your end users are out of control.