Digitisation is helping every industry improve its processes, eliminate time-consuming manual processes and work smarter. The accountancy and bookkeeping sectors are no different, and there are a range of specialised solutions out there to choose from. One of the most important is which customer relationship management (CRM) system you select for your firm. It will help you keep track of potential clients and ensure existing ones are always kept happy.
Accountants and bookkeepers have been working in analogue for thousands of years. But not any longer. In the last two decades there has been an explosion in the number of software tools to help accountants provide the best possible service to their clients and speed up the once manual processes of bookkeeping.
A business needs three things to succeed – expertise, clients and the right tools. That is why your choice of software is not one to be taken lightly. And the same goes for your customer relationship management (CRM) system. Here is a guide to the best CRM tools out there right now.
A CRM system helps you manage your customer data. It provides a central place to store information on existing, past and potential clients. Your CRM provides you with an easily accessible log of every interaction, question, service request and completed project for every client you’ve worked with.
Most systems operate in a similar way. By tracking your phone calls, emails, meetings and presentations, you’ll be able to add notes, schedule meetings and set the next steps. CRMs are not just stores of information but tools that help you organise, prioritise and effectively interact with clients.
Without a CRM, an accountant or bookkeeper will have to store all of their customer information in some other way. This may mean hunting for contact details in a huge spreadsheet, which opens up the possibility of details being lost and next steps being forgotten about. And this can harm your relationship with clients.
Even more importantly, what if someone leaves your firm? Without a CRM in place, they will likely take a lot of key customer information with them unless you are able to get them to provide it all. CRMs are usually cloud-based, meaning that you can access the information and insights from anywhere and on any connected device. This can help you be more responsive to client requests or questions.
While bookkeepers and accountants perform different roles for companies, they both rely on keeping their clients happy and securing repeat business. CRM systems are a really important way of helping them do this.
Here are some of the best ones on the market right now.
This is a ‘forever-free’ CRM solution that lets you plug into a range of other accounting and bookkeeping applications such as Sage Accounting or Xero. While you may be able to get everything you need in the free plan, you will have to upgrade to access its more advanced features.
If you do want to upgrade, you only have to pay for users that need to use the more advanced features
Multi-currency sales tools
Free invoice template generator
The extra cost associated with accessing additional marketing, sales and customer service tools can be high
Integrations with some applications require an extra fee
Paid plans have a pre-set number of users – which can make them expensive for firms with smaller numbers of employees
This CRM offers tools for accountants and bookkeeping professionals, as well as sales management and intelligence tools. These can provide useful insight into the cost of customer acquisition while analytics reports help you see trends and forecast revenues. With so many features, it can be quite complex and requires training to use it effectively.
You can phone, message, live chat and contact clients on social media from the CRM
A high level of features and tools mean it is highly flexible
Quotes and invoices can be created from within the CRM itself
Paid plans have a limit on the number of users
Dashboard can be complex to use and understand so onboarding may take longer
Online storage capacity is limited when compared to some other competitors
Capsule is all about simplicity. It is easy to use and integrates with lots of the most popular accounting software. It lets you gather information from spreadsheets and apps automatically so manual entry becomes a thing of the past. The focus on simplicity does come at a price though. Certain features like invoice generation are not included and require a third-party integration.
Free plan allows for free integrations with over 1,000 apps
Really easy to use
High level of user permissions for added security
No invoicing or quote generation feature included
There is a limit of two users on the free plan
Workbooks is designed to help firms deliver the right kind of marketing messages to the right people at the right time. This is a good, cost-effective option for firms that are really looking to grow. Intelligent reporting and information management all help to identify cross- and up-selling opportunities and cultivate a more engaged client base.
Really good reporting and analytics features for faster insights
Task and territory management functionality included
Cloud only – there is no on-premise option
The mobile app can be difficult to use
This solution has been created solely for the accounting industry and is designed to streamline every aspect of a firm’s operation. Another unique feature is that this CRM covers the entire client journey – from proposals and engagement letters all the way to referrals. This does make it primarily suited to medium-sized firms as opposed to smaller operations.
Leading cyber-security features
Integrations with MailChimp, GoToWebinar and Campaign Monitor can help power better marketing campaigns
Not really suited for smaller firms – is only available for top 100 firms in the UK
There are a few things that you need to consider closely when looking to implement a CRM:
A CRM is often a significant investment, especially if you require several licences for multiple team members. It is essential to consider the annual cost.
CRM systems are designed to be easy to use, but this doesn’t mean that you will necessarily be able to just plug in and get started. You and your team may need to set time aside to go through some onboarding and training. Next, consider asking around about a provider’s customer service reputation – you don’t want to have your operations disrupted because you can’t get the help you need.
People can be resistant to change, so implementing a potentially complex new tool needs to be managed carefully to ensure full buy-in from colleagues. Providing training and listening to feedback will help you make sure the transition is as seamless as possible.
At Unbiased, we have launched our new Zapier integration tool for CRM systems. It’s designed to help accountants and bookkeepers make the most of their software by simplifying the process of automatically transferring data between different tools.
It currently supports over 3,000 apps and requires no coding experience to use. In fact, you could be creating your own automation workflows in minutes. So, no matter which platforms you choose, you can integrate your Unbiased leads seamlessly with Zapier and manage all your clients in one place.