More than 86 percent of CPA firms have yet to integrate a dedicated customer relationship management program into their organization, according to a new study.

Less than 3 percent of the CPA firms surveyed by accounting firm Templeton & Co. were using CRM systems that were categorized as leaders in the CRM market by Gartner in April 2009. Instead many firms are using practice management systems such as CCH ProSystem fx Practice Management, e-mail software such as Microsoft Outlook, and contact management programs like ACT! by Sage to do CRM.

According to Gartner, the overall CRM market grew 12.5 percent globally in 2008. The leaders were Microsoft’s CRM system, which grew 75 percent, and Salesforce.com, which grew 42.7 percent. Early CRM systems often lacked functionality, could not be tailored to meet unique business needs, and were difficult to integrate with other desktop software, but today’s generation of CRM software can be easily tailored to meet a firm’s needs and can be integrated with everyday office software, according to Templeton.

In many cases, the factors necessary for a successful CRM implementation, including user adoption and return on investment, have not been articulated properly by CRM vendors to meet the needs of an accounting firm, said the study. CRM efforts have failed in some companies by focusing exclusively on the technology, and not complementing it with enhanced processes that fit the business.

Templeton recommended that firms should be using CRM systems to report on business metrics that can be displayed as on-screen dashboards. Firms can avoid failures with clear executive sponsorship, a focus on improving processes around the technology, and the selection of a solution that integrates with the firm’s other systems. Accounting firms need a mandate from their partners to improve their client relationship management and revenue operations, the study argues, and CRM is the underlying catalyst that can enable an improved process and business results.

Templeton is a Microsoft Dynamics partner that has developed a version of Microsoft CRM  for its own CPA practice that it is now marketing to other firms. For more information, visit www.templetonco.com.


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