Richard Karpinski writing
for InternetWeek points out the things that make CRM in professional services--such as law firms, accounting firms, and consulting firms--different from CRM in product-based businesses. Key characteristics of professional services include the lack of formal sales organization or call centers, partners doing their own selling, and sales opportunities being highly episodic. Here it is truly intelligence about the client relationship that must be maintained and not just the pipeline of sales opportunities. Ultimately, CRM should allow such firms to leverage existing relationships throughout the organization while respecting the professional's need to keep some client information confidential.
Karpinski identifies Interface Software
as one vendor that offers CRM specifically for professional service firms. Its product, Interaction 5, focuses on four key CRM business processes: relationship discovery
(seeing and leveraging existing relationships), relationship management
(tools to maintain client data), client services automation
(creating relationship-based marketing programs), and knowledge delivery
(interfacing with existing systems and information channels). Some interesting features include watch lists, whereby a professional can track all activities or changes taking place for key contacts, and relationship maps with "who-knows-whom" features to help professionals discover not-so-obvious opportunities to leverage relationships.