Commercial and Marketing Director at Tikit
Effective data entry and good client relationship management have never been as important as they are to businesses today. Why? Well, you can’t have a data-based discussion these days, it seems, without bringing up the relevance of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is now less than two months away.
Compliance with new regulation like this will be a key player in how law firms will continue to interact with clients and win new ones – and firms need to have systems and procedures in place to prepare themselves for whatever lies ahead.
“If you exist in a world where you are spreadsheet and MailChimp-bound, GDPR will only slow your business when it comes to efficiency and communication,” says Simon Elven, commercial and marketing director at Tikit.
The ability to capture and learn from information gained during conversations with clients will become ever more difficult if firms don’t have suitably connected systems and a single point of entry, he adds.
The Tikit Connect system, for example, provides firms with an overview of client information, not just from a marketing and business development perspective, but also with case, matter and financial points of view. And, as it exists entirely in Outlook – familiar and something used every day – crucially, it means that firms don’t have to look outside of their normal systems to enter data for the first time. “But you can only get a fully rounded picture if you successfully integrate your systems,” Elven says.
Business relationships go through the same steps as our most treasured personal relationships. You want to develop your relationship to the point where you can seal the deal – but there are many stages in getting to that point, Elven says.
These days it most likely starts with having an online profile. For firms, it’s their website and marketing presence. “Then there’s reputation (reviews and news) – questions such as where you met, if you met in person, whether you send emails or talk over the phone, whether you really engage with what I send you. And the big question – are we really just friends or can this develop into a closer client relationship?”
It sounds cheesy, he says, but it’s all ‘business’. “All these areas need to be pursued, but without a system to support them, it’ll be relatively difficult to do. In business this means
monitoring how a relationship changes over time. And we implement systems in law firms that enable them to develop relationships just as in those personal relationships.”
Of course, it’s harder to stay close friends when you’ve left for pastures new. Similarly, maintaining client relationships can be particularly tricky for businesses when a partner retires, or leaves for another firm. As it’s the individual who cements a relationship, when they leave, so may the clients. Elven says: “If you don’t have a central system for gathering all of that information together, it becomes very difficult to defend against. But there’s a lot of risk associated with the movement of partners, therefore firms need to be especially resilient in relationship management at times like this.
“You could imagine the world of pain you’d experience if you inherited a load of clients from an outgoing partner, but they forgot to write down key information in the handover notes.”
By contrast, if firms have a central system, where staff can see progress on different relationships, and the gaps, right across the firm, they can start to do more efficient business
development activity than would be the case if they tried to go it alone.
“If a prospect becomes a client, their details might start out in the Tikit Connect part of the system. And to move that contact to the CRM all that needs to change is the status of that profile – and because Tikit Connect is linked to the CRM/ PMS it means that all of the past information is already there.”
This way, Elven explains, information around likes and dislikes, events they’ve attended and other points of engagement, will enable the firm to work with the client without misreading the signals.
But an extra complexity is that building these robust relationships means you’ll inevitably come away with personal information in different forms and across multiple systems. This is where GDPR compliance enters the challenging picture.
Elven says it will be an even bigger issue to deal with if firms also have a lot of disconnected systems. Personal data will get into systems in certain places, and firms need to be ready to extract and destroy that data if necessary.
“Firms obviously need a mechanism to surface and control personal data. If I have a new business card and I email that person, effectively I’ve now entered data into the firm’s database. Realistically, what I should now do is immediately ask for consent to hold that data.”
This isn’t just a duty for the data protection officer or person responsible for data at the firm – but in fact, technology can be the one to step in and save the firm from a personal information problem.
Elven explains: “There needs to be an easy process by which contact information from Outlook moves into a system with more control like a CRM. With Tikit Connect, when that data is synced across the exchange into a CRM or PMS, then it can be exposed immediately to the compliance process built into our products.
“We also put automatic stops in place so the firm doesn’t need to worry about mitigating the risk of emailing people without consent. Together with Tikit eMarketing, because of the way the systems are tied together, marketing preferences are translated so that the right information is going to the people who ask for it.”
Tikit also provides firms with an electronic form for clients, Elven says, so that if a client has issued a data request then the ‘GDPR block field’ is ticked and an automatic process begins – the data controller is alerted so that the person’s information can be sourced and destroyed.
Integrated systems and a single point of entry mean better control over personal data, and ultimately the course of some of law firms’ most important relationships.
Commercial and Marketing Director at Tikit