Just to preface this upcoming viewpoint, I in no way am endorsing or have been funded by a particular product vendor, but there comes a time when you can sit on the sidelines only so long without stating the obvious.

CPA firms; it’s time to get CRM off the back burner.

For years, the concept of installing a customer (or in this case, client) relationship management system was not only seen as a costly endeavor, but one that CPA firms simply could not wrap their minds around at their offices. In truth, CRM was always something for the enterprises; big companies with massive sales forces that needed to quantify everything they did and access layers and layers of data to justify their existence.

Well, this is no more.

Sure, five to 10 years ago when firms were looking at CRM projects, they were big and expensive and gave any firm pause. Many firms didn’t even quite know what the initials stood for, or why they needed to care.

The reason why CRM is needed now is there are far fewer excuses than there once were.

Gone are the days when companies like Siebel, SAP and Oracle defined what CRM is, which at the time meant a logistical and costly nightmare. One of the most notable statistics comes from Gartner, which in 2003 estimated that more than $1 billion had been spent on software that was not being used.

These days, the availability of low-cost, user friendly CRM systems is broad and this goes for on-premise as well as cloud or hosted versions, so nothing ever has to be installed.

Some products are available from very familiar names in the accounting world. These include offerings from Sage, Microsoft and the ever popular Salesforce.com, which despite its name, is not simply designed for sales-based organizations.

And if you were to dig around just a bit, you will find you need to look no further than a local accounting or CRM VAR, many of which have CPAs and CITPs on staff, who are ready and willing to work with your firm to educate and get you up and running on a CRM system that is right for you. It may be that you even have some tools already, like your own Outlook and contact spreadsheets that can get you on your way.

The need for client retention is extremely high these days, and the lengths to which firms ranging from sole practitioner to large regionals will expound on how they need to market their services is growing ever longer. This is what CRM does, and has always done: allow firms to use the client information you already have, maximize contact with their client base, and reminding them of their value offerings at the right time. Why wouldn’t they want to make that investment?

Just take a moment before this busy tax season and look at the tradeoff of gains in efficiency as an organization. If a firm is to survive and thrive, it’s the firm that has the ability to embrace technology in a way that makes them better. So many firms talk about non-value-related things and how it’s just not fun anymore.

If you go down the path of doing simple, small things to free people’s time, you will add value. This is where CRM fits right in.

You don’t have to know everything, but the firm that keeps going down the path of doing things the way they have always been done is not the firm of the future, and had better think of a way they can thrive or exit.

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