CRM in Professional Services: Vertical Markets Spotlight

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Macroeconomic factors, like rising inflation and increasing global competition, led to trying times recently for professional service companies. As a result, many have been struggling to grow their business. and they now need more help than ever engaging and servicing customers. CRM systems provide a way to address such concerns.

2023 was a difficult year for U.S. businesses. Commercial Chapter 11 filings increased 72 percent to 6,569, up from the previous year’s total of 3,819, according to Epiq AACER, a leading provider of U.S. bankruptcy filing data.

Professional services is a wide, catch-all term referring to companies that provide special expertise, skills, and knowledge to organizations or individuals. Companies in this category include everything from lawyers to lawn care, consultants to construction contractors. Typically, such companies rely on a combination of intellectual expertise and manual prowess to serve their customers. Staff typically have advanced education, training, and experience in their fields. Many of these firms operate at the local level and fall into the small to midsized business classification.

Like just about every other business today, professional services companies rely on data to complete their work. As technology capabilities have increased, data volume swelled. Consequently, these companies find themselves with a number of data management problems.

These companies typically operate from a wide array of business systems, though a lot of the critical business information is also locked in the heads of the individual employees who regularly service the same accounts.

Where business applications are used, each one generates and stores a lot of data. However, these solutions seldom talk to one another, so information is scattered among them. Consequently, employees lack complete pictures of their clients and workflows. Often, they need to consolidate it themselves, which wastes time. Therefore, inefficiencies grow, and service is delivered in an inconsistent and scatter-shot manner.

Typically, professional services companies rely on employees to manually input data, like customer information, on site. Therefore, such details are stored in several places: business cards, notebooks, spreadsheets, and several legacy and mobile apps. Finding needed information becomes time-consuming and frustrating.

These same manual processes are also prone to errors. Later, either the same employee or someone in the office has to waste considerable amounts of time cleaning up the mess.

These companies also frequently find that sales leads and customer service requests fall through the cracks because data is so scattered. Inconsistent messaging creates customer frustration and makes the firm look unprofessional.


CRM systems offer these corporations a number of ways to address their inefficiencies. “Many professional service firms still rely on e-commerce, spreadsheets, email, and even sticky notes to track information,” says Tyler Garns, group product manager at Keap. “These systems do not talk to one another, leading to information that is not organized.” A CRM empowers them to bring the data into one place, which creates many benefits.

No one wants to receive generic sales pitches, so offering greater personalization capabilities has been at the top of professional services firms’ priority lists. Pipeline, which provides a CRM platform specifically for professional service firms, enables clients to group leads based on parameters, like job titles, and add notes such as unique customer pain points or the latest steps, like the proposal was sent, in turning leads into customers and then from one-time users to recurring customers on contract.

For these firms, a big benefit of CRM systems is their ability to smooth out data transfers.

“Once a deal is signed, professional services companies need to begin onboarding the client and generating project plans,” notes Chip House, chief marketing officer of Insightly, which has more than a million users worldwide. “Automated workflows streamline that process.”

Insightly’s CRM for professional services includes a proposal repository that houses current bids and integrates with Pandadoc and Docusign, solutions that offer virtual digital contract signing, speeding up workflows.

The Pipeline CRM for professional services seamlessly transfers communication history, deal details, and other related data to other teams. The system also establishes milestones for project deliverables.

Nowadays, professional services clients want to move fast and do not tolerate delays. In fact, Keap found that 44 percent of people do not hire service providers that are slow to follow up. Therefore, companies need to automate as much of their business processes as possible. Automatic notifications before meetings can ensure that staff are where they are supposed to be.

Artificial intelligence is becoming a bigger piece of these solutions. “AI is going to play a pivotal role in content generation,” Garns predicts. “When employees sit down to write a series of sales emails, a landing page, or other content, they often get stuck. Generative AI jumpstarts that process.”

Professional services is a highly competitive market that has been under tremendous pressure during the past few years. Therefore, these companies need to work more efficiently, and modern CRM systems can provide the capabilities to make that happen.


Law firms are a professional services subcategory that also experienced a rough year in 2023. For the first time since 2018, revenue at the highest-grossing 200 law firms in the world fell virtually flat—inching up by just 1 percent and reaching $188 billion, according to Law.com International. Meanwhile, net income, which had briskly increased the previous year, dropped by about 4 percent.

With revenue flattening and expenses rising, these companies need to find new ways to work more efficiently. Lawyers spend a lot of their day juggling cases moving to a resolution or getting ready to be tried in court; communicating with clients; researching previous cases and legal precedents; documenting their cases; and filling out needed internal paperwork.

CRM systems designed for law firms remove friction from the daily operations and workflow. Attorneys, paralegals, and administrative staff use these solutions to manage cases, communicate with clients, generate sales leads, conduct marketing campaigns, and track billing.

The law is a unique business, so law firms have special CRM system requirements that are not as common in other fields. These include the following:

  • Case management:CRM systems should collect details related to each case, such as the parties involved, case status, documents generated, and document filings.
  • Time tracking and billing and invoicing:CRM systems should be able to track billable hours and funnel the information into billing systems that create invoices.
  • Document management:Staff need to store, organize, and retrieve various legal documents quickly and easily.
  • Trust accounting:A legal requirement in many jurisdictions, lawyers often hold client funds in special escrow accounts during litigation and release them once a case closes.
  • Conflict checking:Before taking a case, lawyers must be sure there are no ethical conflicts in representing a client.
  • Client portal:Ideally, an intuitive solution that enables clients to communicate securely, view case progress, and access shared documents increases client satisfaction.
  • Integration with legal research tools:This capability streamlines the research process and enhances case preparation.

By centralizing all crucial information and automating repetitive tasks, CRM allows law firms to improve client service. Solutions help them organize and manage case and client information efficiently, with centralized databases of client details, communications, and case histories, making it easier to track and manage client interactions. They monitor emails, phone calls, meetings, and other correspondences and create interaction summaries, increasing the firm’s productivity and enabling more personalized service to clients.

Another plus is CRM systems include analytics and reporting tools that provide managers with new insights. Law firms can analyze client data, track performance metrics, and identify trends. This information can be valuable for making informed business decisions and improving overall workflows.

CRM technology advances seem to be delivering for law firms. Legal professionals on average today earn more than two and a half times more revenue for their firms than they did in 2016, according to Clio, a CRM systems supplier. Compared to 2016, on average, legal professionals are doing the following:

  • working more than 25 percent more cases;
  • logging 35 more more billable hours; and
  • earning 158 percent more for their firms.

Law firms, like many other organizations, understand that generative AI solutions, like ChatGPT, have the potential to be game-changing innovations that could let them reimagine a wide array of tasks. So interest is high: Sixty-three percent of all legal professionals want to learn more about AI. Broken down, this applies to 68 percent of lawyers, 54 percent of paralegals, and 48 percent of administrative staff, according to Clio’s 2023 Legal Trends Report.

However, genAI technology also faces challenges: 58 percent of legal professionals do not believe AI is advanced enough to be reliable, and 39 percent don’t trust it. Beyond that, 32 percent think AI can help reduce workloads, but 38 percent think that generating email responses with AI will lead to too much error, and 38 percent believe that letting an AI bot respond entirely on their behalf to a client query would be unethical. The mixed message illustrates the challenges that CRM suppliers face as they integrate AI into their products and that law firms face as they roll out technology to their employees. 

Paul Korzeniowski is a freelance writer who specializes in technology. He has been covering CRM issues for more than two decades, is based in Sudbury, Mass., and can be reached at paulkorzen@aol.com or on X at @PaulKorzeniowski.

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