Accounting firms are not merely number-crunching entities. They are service-oriented businesses, seeking to build and sustain long-term relationships with their clients. As such, managing client relationships is a significant aspect of their business strategy. In this regard, a Client/Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system plays an indispensable role. It goes well beyond what any of the current practice management systems can do.
The CRM system provides a suite of tools designed to streamline the operations of a business in several ways, improving customer service, enhancing client retention, and ultimately driving growth. It has proven to be an invaluable tool for companies across various sectors, and accounting firms are no exception. And yet, so many firms do not have a proper CRM system.
Why/How an accounting firm would use a CRM tool/system
Although it is called a customer or client relationship management system there are actually three groups of people that a CRM is in my view designed to manage:
- Existing clients
- Potential clients
- Contacts, which can include referrers (everybody you know not in 1 or 2 above)
Ideally the CRM becomes the single source of truth in respect of each of these and captures all contact with each, whether that be via email, SMS, phone, or face to face, including individual meetings or attendance at firm events.
With help from Chat GPT I’ve outlined below some things you can expect with a good CRM implemented well.
- Centralized Client Data: With CRM systems, accounting firms can maintain a single, unified database of all their clients, containing everything from basic contact information to more detailed data, such as transaction history, communications, preferences, and more. This centralized data hub eliminates the need for searching through multiple databases or software platforms, increasing efficiency and enhancing service quality.
- Relationship Management: In the accounting industry, where long-term client relationships are paramount, a CRM system can prove to be a game-changer. By tracking all client interactions, CRM provides a comprehensive overview of each client’s history with the firm, enabling accountants to understand their clients better and serve them in a more personalized manner.
- Cross-Selling and Upselling: CRM systems can analyze client data to identify opportunities for cross-selling and upselling services. For example, if a client has only been using tax services, the CRM might flag them as a potential candidate for advisory services. Most firms tell me there are a lot of unmet needs in the existing client base and the CRM helps make these more visible.
- Task Automation: CRM systems can automate routine tasks such as scheduling meetings, sending reminders, allocating tasks and generating reports. This automation frees up valuable time for accountants, allowing them to focus more on strategic activities.
- Integration with Other Systems: To fully leverage the benefits of a CRM, accounting firms would integrate it with their other systems such as their accounting software, email system, and marketing software. This integration allows the CRM to pull in data from these sources, providing a complete picture of each client.
- Client Segmentation: Firms can use the data in the CRM to segment their clients based on various factors such as service usage, revenue generated, or potential business growth. This segmentation can then be used for targeted marketing campaigns or to provide tailored service offerings.
- Performance Tracking: CRM systems can generate detailed reports and dashboards, providing insights into business performance. Firms can track metrics such as client acquisition cost, client lifetime value, and customer satisfaction levels, helping them make informed business decisions.
- Marketing automation: Some CRM’s have quite sophisticated capability to automate steps in the marketing and sales cycles in a business. This can include things like automated emails depending on how a prospect or lead has responded to calls to action. This is a complex area but getting simpler because of the tools making it easier to set this up.
A CRM system has the potential to revolutionize the way an accounting firm operates. From improving efficiency to fostering better client relationships, the benefits are manifold. However, like any tool, its effectiveness depends on how well it’s used. Therefore, accounting firms must invest not just in the CRM software itself, but also in the training and processes required to fully leverage it. By doing so, they can truly transform their client management approach, leading to enhanced client satisfaction and ultimately, business growth.
I’ve not referred to any specific tools here but will do so in a future article. I think it’s fair to say there has not been a standout product in this space that has attracted a significant proportion of firms, unlike in a few other areas of a firm’s operation.
Thanks to Chat GPT for helping out with this article!
Helping you to write articles for your blog / newsletters is one really useful application for ChatGPT. Next month I’ll write more about the many and varied ways firms are already using it or might be soon.