CRM Helps Professional Services Firms Obey the Law

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When businesses retain the services of legal, financial, consulting, and other professional services groups, they are paying for specific expertise, including a thorough knowledge of legal regulations relating to or governing that service. So when professional services firms purchase CRM systems, they want those systems up-to-date in terms of compliance and the flexibility to conform to future laws and regulations. "Vendors need to alter the customer interaction to deal with these issues. There needs to be built-in flexibility," says Bruce Culbert, senior vice president and general manager of global services at Salesforce.com. According to Culbert, whether the compliance relates to personal privacy issues, spam, homeland security, federal, state, and local laws, healthcare, or securities, CRM solutions providers need to be aware of the issues: "Compliance is a major issue. It's the new CRM reality." For example, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires company CEOs and CFOs to sign off on the results of financial reports; those reports have a heavy reliance on income statements that come out of the sales process. That means that sales and marketing rules and processes need to take the specifics of the law into consideration. Enterprise software vendors have not focused much marketing on Sarbanes-Oxley, but that doesn't mean there's not a market out there, according to Bob Blumstein, an analyst with IDC. The recently passed do-not-call legislation has a huge impact on telemarketers, and the ability to comply with the law needs to be built into CRM marketing products. Denis Pombriant, managing principal of Beagle Research Group, says that in some ways compliance is getting easier, because much of the new legislation is at the federal, rather than state, level: "Having federal standards for safeguarding individual persons' data, whether its for medical or financial, makes it easier for vendors to provide CRM solutions to more than one market." Currently, most professional services firms turn to specialized software providers for CRM products, but traditional CRM providers like Siebel Systems and SAP AG have vertical versions of their products aimed at specific industries. To date nearly 50 percent of all financial and professional services companies in North America have deployed or are rolling out applications that help better manage the interactions they have with their customers, according to a report from Forrester Research. According to the Forrester report, 89 percent of all financial service firms without CRM have plans for implementing CRM. However, the majority of even the slowest movers are either considering or piloting CRM projects.
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