How solid is your CRM foundation? Once you have a concrete strategy and have formed a plan, you need to build a solid CRM foundation to ensure long term success. Doing this type of ‘groundwork’ will ensure that your CRM implementation and structure will stand the test of time.
During your CRM assessment you should have identified the core needs that the CRM can help to fill and problems it can help to solve — the concrete system value (aka, what’s in it for them). That value should form the cornerstone of everything you do moving forward to a build a solid base of support from your stakeholders and users.
CRM adoption has the greatest potential for a wreck. Having worked with almost a hundred firms to help them achieve and enhance CRM success over the last eight years, the biggest challenge we always seem to run into is CRM adoption. Firms consistently tell us that their CRM system is literally a ‘wreck’ due, in large part, to poor participation.
These firms frequently say that in the beginning of the CRM deployment, everything seemed to be running fine. They purchased the right system and implemented it without a hitch. The system was firing on all cylinders,
Herding your CRM users or “cats” toward full participation is a challenge. The beauty of a CRM system is that by gathering and maintaining the collective information of all CRM users, contacts can be kept updated across the organization. If an attorney receives updated information for his contact but simply modifies the contact information in Outlook, the new information doesn’t flow to everyone who shares that contact. If that attorney updates the information in the CRM, everyone receives the new information and everyone wins. That is, everyone who participates….
CRM Users Win with Full Participation, Contact and Relationship Sharing,
If this all sounds a bit overwhelming, don’t worry. Few people have the extensive experience to successfully deploy a CRM system by themselves. Still fewer are excited about expending the effort to get this experience. Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone. You can reach out to CRM providers for assistance, engage experienced consultants or, even better, ask for advice from Legal Marketing Association (LMA) colleagues. The willingness to share knowledge is what makes the LMA community such a valuable resource.
Too often, firms are willing to spend money on a system but don’t budget for other essential resources. More important than the investment in the technology can be the time and human resources required for success. Dedicated CRM staffing is not only necessary, it is essential.
Data Quality Must Be Managed
For all firms, a CRM project manager will be beneficial during the rollout. Larger firms may also need a dedicated full- or part-time CRM manager for ongoing success. Data quality resources are also imperative, especially during the rollout when shared attorneys’ contacts flow into the system creating a significant number of duplicates.
Customize Training for CRM User Groups
It’s important to develop training plans and materials targeted to the needs of key groups. Assistants should attend classes customized to their work routines, while training for attorneys should focus on business processes, not buttons to push. To really enhance attorney engagement, training should take place in their offices and should take no more than 30 minutes.
This training is often most effective when it’s done by someone who can communicate CRM benefits,
Once you have selected your system, you can begin planning for the CRM rollout. Don’t make the mistake of attempting a “boil the ocean” implementation, deploying too many features to too many people in too big a hurry. Firm wide rollouts are usually a bad idea because without taking the time to properly test the system, any problems or missteps you run into can be amplified exponentially.
Enroll a Pilot Group for CRM Rollout
Instead, begin with a pilot group of attorneys and assistants who have an interest in participating, are invested in system success and have time to provide the critical feedback that is needed to improve the rollout for the rest of the firm.
Engage CRM Stakeholders: Assistants, Attorneys & Firm Leadership
Special attention should be paid to the assistants because often they are expected to do a lot of the ‘heavy lifting’ in terms of contact entry and maintenance. If you want their participation, make them feel like part of the process. To get the attorneys to buy in, find ways to make their lives easier. Additionally, CRM won’t succeed without another key group: firm leadership.
Yes, you read that title right. The words ‘CRM’ and ‘success’ were just used together. That’s because whether you are rolling out a new CRM system for the first time at your firm or trying to enhance adoption of an existing system, CRM success is possible!
CRM Success Makes Business Development Easier
But that doesn’t mean CRM success is simple. You can’t just install the system and expect clients to line up at the office door with bags of money. In fact, compared to other technology implementations, CRM can actually require extra effort because (ideally) the attorneys actually use the system.
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.
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.
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.
Everyone has heard the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. OK, now I know some of you are wondering what the heck that has to do with CRM success.
Sometimes it is the little things you do each day that really contribute to CRM success: taking a half hour to train new users at their desks, working with an assistant on formatting a letter, attending a practice group meeting to better understand how CRM could help the attorneys achieve their business development goals, communicating small wins to the entire firm. These little things really do add up.
While focusing on your ultimate CRM destination is, of course, important, it can also be beneficial to check out the scenery along the way. In your CRM planning, recognize that you need to take a little time to smell the CRM ‘roses’ and relish your successes to ensure the journey is sweet.
Mark the Milestones in Your CRM Planning
There are a lot of points of interest that can be…well, interesting. You may even want to plan in advance what sights you want to see. Think about what made you want to embark on the CRM journey in the first place.
Sometimes when you are on your CRM journey, you may get turned around. You may even feel like you have lost sight of your destination. It can seem as though you’ve passed the same landmarks over and over again without making any real progress. You may even get so dizzy or disoriented that you don’t know which way to go next.
At times like these, one of the things that can really help you stay on the right path is a good compass. By this I mean someone who you can turn to for guidance along the way.