Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves…….Steve Jobs, Co-Founder, Apple Inc.

Client’s expectations from consultancy firms are growing on a daily basis. Delivering specific projects is no longer the only expectation. Understanding clients short, medium and long term requirements; partnering with them to achieve their future strategy and objectives; delivers true value adding client service. According to market research, approximately 81% of firms with a strong capability and competency for delivering excellent overall client service, outperform their competitors (Peppers and Rogers, Customer Experience Maturity Monitor). The global financial consulting market grew by more than 7% last year, to a value of nearly £16 billion, which amounts to almost 26% of the entire industry (Consultancy.uk). Within such a fierce market, firms must look for strategic solutions to ensure client’s expectations are managed successfully. Therefore having the right Client Relationship Management (CRM) strategy in place is critical.

A Client Relationship Management (CRM) strategy allows consultancy firms to provide bespoke client solutions ensuring true value adding client service. From presenting tailored pitches to delivering successful projects, end-to-end management of client’s expectations is vital. Professionally implemented CRM solutions might involve considerable time and expense, but by following the simple life-cycle in Figure 1 and utilizing CRM solutions to their full potential, clients are kept at the center throughout the engagement and relationship.pic

Understand:

CRM requires gathering information about clients to discover better ways to satisfy their needs. Focusing on client needs and requirements takes the relationship that one step further. Firms are able to demonstrate that they understand their client’s thereby reducing time and money spent in areas that benefit neither party. Recently, digital technology has played a key role in collating and maintaining client information in a fast moving market. With a perfect sync between CRM systems and communication platforms, such as Yammer, no leads are lost in translation and clients are never overwhelmed with purposeless marketing campaigns or sales calls.

Propose:

Customisation of marketing material and proposals better enables firms to present a service more closely aligned to each client’s needs and characteristics. Email chains, phone conversations, competitor knowledge and particular project requirements can be matched easily with specific resources to provide a competitive solution and bid for the clients. A proactive approach to sales rather than a reactive approach can grant client’s with the competitive edge they desire. Multi-channel integration between clients and consultancy firms enable swift negotiation of proposals.

Implement:

Clients can benefit from aconsultancy’s CRM capabilities. Such systems can help ensure the solution aligns with the client’s need while also simplifying the development and deployment cycle. In order for a firm to be more responsive to each client’s needs, CRM systems are used to bring in enhancement and functionality at a lower cost and quickly. Interactions captured by forms and / or paperwork can be virtualized and automated within a CRM solution. This process can save time and money spent on paper, along with ensuring both parties are more environmentally-friendly.

Some CRM systems offer the ability to generate business processes and methodology for client interaction whilst project implementation is still ongoing. For example, within the financial consultancy space, the utilization rate of its resources is of great concern. To maximize consultant utilization, CRM systems provide the use of trackers and produce useful metrics, ensuring clients receive the best value.

Maintain:

Maintaining a successful engagement means continued efforts to review requirements and approach clients for constructive feedback. By using CRM systems as a communication tool, email follow-ups and support for clients can be automated. With the implementation of a CRM System within firms, account managers are able to spend 15% more time maintaining client relationships, allowing them to ensure on-time delivery and fulfillment of all requirements. Data is stored in the cloud, guaranteeing safe storage of information, and is easy access on-the-go via mobile, tablet and phones.

By maintaining a repository of client profiles, client relationships are nourished individually, with the aim to increase client loyalty and coherently decrease client dissatisfaction. Such strategies enable consultancy firms to quickly and easily modify their level of service to each client as and when required.

Review:

A business with high service quality will satisfy client needs whilst still remaining economically competitive. CRM systems allow consultancy firms to receive and record client feedback for repeat business, ensuring all requirements are met and allow firms to resolve any concerns from previous projects. Client satisfaction is of foremost importance to consultancy firms. CRM systems allow users to produce and report on client satisfaction to improve the level of service provided for future business generation. Most systems also allow firms to create management information for effective review of client and project data. Client relationships reviewed on a regular basis ensure all clients are kept engaged and all leads are recorded appropriately.

CRM Systems can be an integral part of a business when used efficiently and proactively. High client churn, inefficient processes, poor lead conversion rates and unreliable reporting are just some of the reasons a company would choose to adopt a CRM strategy. With increased visibility into the most accurate client and project information, firms are able to engage intelligently and consistently with clients, which in turn allows for lasting relationships. Providing tailored solutions to clients is the first step in delivering successful projects. Think of a CRM System as a marriage counselor, recording all communications as well as reviewing and implementing the correct strategy in order to further strengthen the relationship between the two companies. The right CRM strategy and infrastructure fundamentally allows you to change the client experience, delivering truly value adding services. This will be the key differentiator in the increasing competitive world of consultancy.