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The Power of “Internal People” in CRM for Professional Services

There are plenty of posts and articles detailing the importance of the 360 degree view of a customer as a foundational element when managing relationships. In a professional services firm, a good chunk of the 360 degree view of a client includes details that relate to the internal people within the firm.

So really, this should be easy for every major out of the box CRM, right? It can be…if everyone in the firm uses the CRM system. In this case you can leverage the “User” entity pretty easily. But what happens (in the very common situation) when not everyone in the firm is a licensed CRM user? Without a good strategy here, the answer can become squishy, so below let’s explore this in more detail.

Why not simply add everyone as a CRM User?

License Cost: One of the first things that comes to mind is the cost of licensing each person as a user. Whether paying monthly/annually in a subscription model or investing in a traditional license, there is a real cost associated with each incremental user.

Time Costs/ROI: Time is money—especially when talking about resources that are directly billable. That time adds up and there needs to be a return on investment to both individuals and leaders.

Danger of “just another system”:Would everyone in the firm get value out of the CRM? Successful implementations of any client relationship management system hinge on the value it brings to its users. Assuming a one-size-fits-all-roles will mean varying success when it comes to users getting meaningful value and adoption.

What is the better option?

Remember before when the answer became “squishy”, so I’ll first say that there is not a surefire solution that will work with every organization. Instead, the solution described sets a foundation based on where we see success with our clients.

Instead of relying on the User entity in CRM, instead we leverage a configuration of an alternative entity that I’ll call “Internal People”. The idea of Internal People is that it’s meant to specifically represent those folks internal to the firm. Thought of another way, we’re tracking “Employees” except these individuals may be employees, be temporary staff, or perhaps partners, each of which carries a distinction and the phrase “Employee” is a bit limiting.

When it comes to the types of detail that are stored, there’s quite a bit of potential. To list a few:

  • Role/Level/Title
  • Office
  • Email address
  • Specialty
  • Skills
  • Manager or team leader

This basic detail helps enable workflow automation, reporting, and segmentation within the firm. Often, this information is pushed to CRM from a human resources platform. With this basic information in place, the stage is now set to build out more substance to these profiles (either through workflow, integration, or user interaction). This includes:

  • Business development activity
  • Association with projects
  • Industry expertise
  • Previous employment
  • Association & organization involvement
  • Forecasted work plan/utilization

The list of possibilities can easily grow here—resisting the urge to include everything and the kitchen sink carries its own risk of feeling complex when people actually leverage these details. As with many things in CRM, a clearly communicated and iterative approach can pay off in spades when it comes to user adoption. Some key functionality becomes low-hanging-fruit by taking this approach, including:

Searching for someone with relevant experience/availability: Using a search that provides a way to filter based on a skillset, project experience, office/location, or role type.

Including non-CRM users in automation: Leverage internal people as part of a CRM workflow, such as an upcoming proposal due date notification or weekly summary of activity.

Identifying firm relationships: Stop sending out requests to find out “who knows who” when trying to build a better relationship.

Final Thoughts

This approach is valuable to organizations beyond PSOs. Other services industries such as architecture, engineering, and construction firms use and benefit from this same approach. Is this part of your 360 degree client view, and what is the most valuable detail you get through CRM? Sound off in the comments.