You probably thought, after implementing your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, that it would be the solution to all the problems in your practice – but the reality is that you’re facing more challenges than ever. It is a waste of time and money
Here is how to turn your situation around so that your PMS was the best investment you ever made.
Implementing a new CRM is a brave step in the direction of progress, particularly when you might be facing senior partners only months from retirement who prefer the less costly ‘old ways’. It is a technology that promises you a consistent view of your clients, their activities and billing history in one place, and enable your Practice to serve your evermore discerning and fickle clients transparently and cost-effectively.
But rarely does a new IT system, in its own right, solve a business problem – it’s just a tool, after all.
What’s more, the supplier of your CRM is there to sell software, and won’t always be tied to (or interested in) how well their solution solves the original business problem.
This is because a change in CRM is a seismic shift in not just how a Practice is tooled up, but it also requires a Practice-wide, top-to-bottom change in business practices, culture and staff mind-set. Something your supplier won’t talk to you about in fear of putting you off the purchase of their software (but perhaps sell you training in the hope that you think this is all the ‘Change Management’ you need to invest in.) Wrong.
Without taking a holistic view of change to your Practice (the people, your processes and the technology), your CRM becomes an expensive way of doing what you have always done, but using a new toolset, which few of your staff know how to operate. You’ll observe a drop in productivity, customer complaints, and despondent staff.
And without the ‘know-how’ in creating positive, strategic change across your Practice, this situation will only get worse over time as you try and patch the problems piecemeal.
Have you have wasted your money?
It COULD be the Best Investment You Ever Made
To make your investment in CRM the one of the best business decisions you ever made for your Practice, you will need to plan and execute changes to your whole organisation, involving your staff throughout. Your CRM opens up new opportunities to improve your modus operandi – the way you work. It can speed up and/or automate tasks and processes, but only if these tasks and processes are robust. So to make them robust, you have to take out (as much as possible) the causes of error and exceptions. It can be your single repository for client data, but only if you don’t keep on printing it out and using ‘wet’ signatures. Your staff must become satisfied with reading on a screen (so you might need to invest in bigger screens with greater resolution.)
You will be asking your staff to change the way they work, probably against well-established routines and behaviours. And your new CRM, at this time, won’t be optimally aligned to how your staff want your Practice to be run. Success is critically dependent on your workforce embracing the change, contributing to shaping it, and accepting that it won’t be a great experience first time around.
In our experience, there are six steps which will guide you through this:
- Communicate to staff a convincing motive to change – the business reasons why the current status quo means your Practice can’t achieve its goals
- Share an inspiring vision of how your Practice could be – paint a picture of what it will be like to work in your Practice in the future, which each and every staff member can visualise
- Create a Plan of manageable actions – build a roadmap which shows how you will get there, in manageable steps and short-term goals. It is critical to include reviews of business process according to how you want them to be, and also show how the PMS is central to the delivery of this Plan
- Create a ‘safe’ environment for trial and error – your staff will go through fear and anxiety of your new CRM. Fact. This will be exacerbated if staff are nervous about making a mistake that has commercial or compliance consequences. But to encourage staff to adopt the new system, they must be allowed to be courageous and use the new system without fear of reprisal for genuine mistakes
- Set standards of behaviour, and enforce them – create policies that describe how staff need to operate in this new world, and gradually enforce them over the course of the Plan
- Remove all barriers to adoption – where reasonably possible, remove issues that cause inertia in adopting the new system. For example, upgrade desktop infrastructure (like PCs, screens, mice and keyboards), as the cost of resolving these issues will be insignificant when compared to the gains, even in the short term
Ultimately, what makes or breaks your investment in a CRM is how your staff embrace it and use it as a vehicle for business transformation and optimisation. To get there, your staff have to believe in it, be willing to participate in its implementation, trial it and eventually adjust their routines. The pain in getting there can be considerable, but the long-term benefits are potentially immense.
Simon Stapleton is a strategist and owner of Applied Change (appliedchange.co.uk )