Putting the ‘relationship’ in CRM
SWIRSDING’S GEN X VIEWPOINT
The need for client relationship management
is significant. It can mean the difference between retaining and losing a client and/or a
prospect. Combining old-fashioned relationship-building with current trends in technology can provide new perspectives regarding
what you know and, more important, what
you don’t know about your clients.
I am fortunate to be a part of a firm that
sees the value of embracing new ideas and processes to change the
game in how we relate to our clients and exceed their needs. Our CRM
is strategic in our effort to deliver “raving fan” client service, which
often leads to new business opportunities.
Client relationship management is more advanced than just inputting data; it’s interpreting that data and connecting the dots that make
it a success. When it comes to my clients, I don’t want to be on the
outside looking in. I want to know them intimately enough to make a
real difference in their businesses and lives. Documenting the details
of our interactions with clients, including how often we meet or talk,
what we discussed, and any new information, is key. Strategic client
or target planning sessions, when combined with CRM data, allow us
to keep tabs on areas of opportunity, as well as potential trouble spots.
There is no doubt that it’s much easier to create new opportunities
with existing clients when you are tracking your interactions via a CRM
system. You must also take the time to identify those relationships that
may be trending toward potential trouble.
With any new process, there are going to be challenges. A big part
of a CRM’s success is having individuals who accept responsibility for
and lead the culture change involved. The system is only as good as the
data within it and those who use it. Passion for relationship-building
and information management must be a part of the firm culture for
it to be successful.
ParenteBeard understands that our people and the relationships
we have with our clients are our most valuable assets. The impact
that new technology has on business is ever-changing, and we have
chosen to embrace those changes. Client relationship management
is and should be a key part of a firm’s strategic vision.
Being a service provider requires us to be
technically competent, and for most CPAs
that is a given. But what helps us retain our
clients is the strength of our relationships.
Whether we are using them as a reference,
benefiting from having the client as a referral
source, or resolving a service issue, it’s the relationship itself that will carry the day. Adopting a formal CRM strategy is necessary, but we can never lose sight of
the importance of true one-on-one relationship building.
Most Baby Boomers are well-established in our careers. A primary
reason for our success is the strength of the client relationships we’ve
built. Relationship-building requires a focused, concerted effort. It’s
how we distinguish ourselves from our competitors. We can utilize
advertising and promotional campaigns, but building and maintaining strong, direct relationships is much more valuable. Clients will
long remember the personal contact that you had with them over a
Most of us will stub our toe from time to time with a client. Having
a strong personal relationship will allow us to overcome issues as they
arise. It will also help us transition new associates into the engagement
as we undertake other responsibilities, or as we retire.
While a CRM tool is extremely useful in identifying new business
opportunities, the time and effort to secure a new client hinges on the
time and cost you spend to develop a solid relationship with an existing client. Our clients are our best advocates and referral sources. Why
not take the time to develop a relationship with someone we already
know, someone we already have a “leg up on” with our competition and someone who will help us sustain our practice? I personally
choose to spend more of my time developing these relationships than
managing their data in a CRM system.
Technology has improved the way we manage our relationships, but
it cannot replace the benefit of developing personal bonds. Showing
a client that you have a sincere interest in them outside of just being
a service provider demonstrates that they are important to you. That’s
when you know you’re more than just their CPA. AT
By Jennifer Wilson and Krista remer
this issue of Generational Viewpoints features two individuals from ParenteBeard llC (www.
parentebeard.com), a multi-state firm headquartered in Philadelphia, with over 1,100 professionals and ranked in the top 25 of U.s. accounting firms. Generation X audit and accounting services partner John swirsding, born in 1972, and Baby Boomer tax partner merle dunkelberger, born
in 1955, shared their responses to the following question:
“What role does — or should — customer relationship management software play in your firm?”
Firms need CRM solutions — but can’t forget the human touch
This column is facilitated and edited by Krista Remer, the Generation X consultant, and Jennifer Wilson, the Baby Boomer co-founder and
partner of ConvergenceCoaching LLC ( www.convergencecoaching.com), a leadership and marketing coaching and training and development firm that specializes in helping CPA and IT firms achieve success. To have your firm’s generational viewpoints considered for a future
Accounting Tomorrow column, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
When Facebook converted all brand
pages to the timeline format at the end
of March, I was tasked with filling in important milestones in Accounting Today’s
history, which dates back to our very first
issue on Oct. 12, 1987.
And when I say “tasked,” I really mean
“jumped at the chance.” For example,
that first issue? Featured a drawing
of the then-chairman of the American
Institute of CPAs, whose laid-back “So
what?” pose contradicted the headline
of “Accounting Confronts Change” — all
under a logo reminiscent of a 1980s Sega
videogame title screen.
This is what makes nostalgia fun: hindsight and the ability to laugh at antiquated design (and fashion) choices.
When Accounting Today asked, in
1995, “Will the Internet affect accounting
firms?” there wasn’t exactly a crystal ball
projecting the fundamental role of our
technology editor, or even the emergence of all this social media business.
And even if there was, it was probably
running on DOS. The question might
seem silly now, but that same year we
introduced The Electronic Accountant, a
CD-ROM precursor to today’s Web site.
Don’t say we weren’t on the cutting edge
of the AOL era!
The same is true for the turn of the
century, when Accounting Today preceded the majority of the media hype
by exploring the encroaching Y2K
problem back in 1996. And it wasn’t the
only thing we were on top of: Over that
earlier chairman’s shoulder was another
headline: “Uncertainties Cloud AICPA’s
Celebration.” That’s right: we were talking about the cloud back in ‘87.
As we add more milestones to our
page, we want
to hear from you!
When did you start
What are some
of your favorite
was your AOL
Tweet me! @atomorrow.
— Danielle Lee