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How to manage the cultural change a CRM system brings

So, your firm has made the big decision to invest and implement a customer relationship management system. Good for you. Now, it's time to make sure the transition goes as smooth as possible.

Communicate and educate. First things first, leadership must communicate this decision to the rest of the firm. This means conduct an educational campaign explaining to the professional staff the reasons for the CRM system, when the rollout will start and what goals are ultimately trying to be accomplished. This process will be easier if management gets buy-in from a cross-section of the firm prior to this educational campaign, where this groups helps and is involved with the system and vendor selection process. Also consider setting up a focus group that meets regularly for continued feedback and development improvements.

Recognize the change. Most firms know that once they implement a CRM their approach to business changes. Siloed practices - where each partner is responsible for their personal book of business - defines the structure of most CPA firms today. When a firm is invested and using a CRM system, that structure shifts, as individuals are able to have access to other people's information. This is a healthy thing for a firm and in some cases, reluctance to this change can expose those partners (or others) who might not seek the firm's best interests.

Be accountable. Management must use the CRM system and model its importance for the rest of the firm. This does not have to be done with a big stick or intimidation, but it is important to set a new precedence for the firm that includes using the system as a best practice. Use activity reports to follow up on what people say they are accomplishing.  Have conversations with your business development director regarding analytics on prospects and leads. When a client calls asking about a letter sent out weeks ago, anyone within the firm - from the front desk receptionist to a partner - has the ability to go into the system and find out what happened to that letter. As a result, consistent client service can improve.  One CRM user summarized the quickest way he got his sales team and partner group using CRM, by establishing the credo, "If it's not in CRM, it didn't happen."

Expect extra work. At first. Most employees look at a new system as if it's going to be extra work. A CRM implementation is no different.  CRM creates efficiencies by allowing you to put a process around what you are already doing. Automating processes should help you be more efficient, at a minimum, and should help you become more effective. And yes, the first big mailing the firm puts out with the system may be more work than usual, but as time goes on and the contact list gets more scrubbed up, more ease will come. Just think: those Christmas cards you send out every year that has your marketing team pulling their hair out? Piece of cake.

Change takes time and education, but don't be daunted by the process. Involve your firm and communicate your goals and your transition is bound to happen seamlessly.

More Stories By Sarah Parker

Sarah Templeton serves as the Director of Marketing and manages all aspects of Templeton's strategic marketing, public relations initiatives, as well as sponsorships and special events. Prior to joining Templeton, Sarah marketed professional services in the civil engineering and health care industries. Her work has included award-winning branding campaigns, marketing and recruiting strategies, complete collateral and website design and development.

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