Working in the architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) industry means dealing with different clients that each have completely unique needs and preferences. For a person in AEC, doing a job effectively and serving the needs of those people and businesses requires that he or she keeps all that information straight and readily accessible. Doing so helps them manage the system of workers, schedules and regulations, as well as suppliers, contractors and accounts so that they can meet their deadlines and stay under budget. An AEC company might also gain new clients from doing all these things successfully. After all, word of an AEC firm coming in on time and under budget tends to get noticed.
However, keeping track of customer data is often easier said than done. Writing everything down only goes so far. AEC companies need a system in place to handle everything. Enter Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. It can streamline this process while making customer information easily accessible to all parties, opening up lines of communication and encouraging collaboration throughout AEC projects.
Consolidate Client Data to One Place
Client data is more than an email address and phone number. It includes everything from birthdays and work histories with the company to their resumes and email exchanges. Having all of this in one place presents clear advantages to staying informed - such as a one-stop place to ensure accuracy - but actually accomplishing this is a challenge for most AEC companies. In addition to issues surrounding the simple consolidation of this information, it often happens that some data is stuck under a single person's purview, such as email.
Potential project parameters are a perfect example. These may need to be updated periodically, sometimes several times a day, and there are lots of people involved, such as field workers, who need to be certain they have the most current information available. At the same time, emails are being exchanged between contractors, clients and suppliers continuously, and sometimes parameters get shifted for one reason or another. When a client changes project parameters, the company needs to have a virtual paper trail documenting those changes and treating emails as records. A good CRM will make sure that these emails are available at the click of a button so that no one needs to go hunting for documentation when proof is requested. Accessibility and transparency to these details save time, show accountability, and highlight progress, and help avoid the lack thereof.
Drive Adoption and Buy in By All
CRMs can also drive communication and collaboration because this type of data management solution requires that all parties adopt the same systems and follow them religiously. In this sense, customer relationship management software is a unifier. While system users may be able to customize the system to display personalized information and the most relevant performance indicators or deadlines up front, the CRM acts as a sort of higher authority. If the information is not contained in the system, the mentality should be that it didn't happen.
Be Empowered with the Data
Having everything in one place makes it easier for Principals to track performance and stay abreast of costs. Business data and analytics can be seen in real time and resource scheduling can be streamlined. It also gives the company using the CRM feedback on how it could improve operations. The company could then use that data to introduce contests or gamification into certain metrics. On the sales side of operations, a customer relationship management solution organizes leads and prospects so that staff can follow up with them regularly and keep track of any requests.
Ultimately, these benefits invoke accountability in a way that separate systems just can't replicate. Companies can present findings from the CRM to the entire company and quantify performance bonuses. Business development metrics paint a clear picture about who is the most effective salesperson and which account managers are bringing in the highest volumes of business. Plus, they make it easy to identify which metrics need to see the most improvement. AEC companies can also use data from their customer relationship management software to quantify big decisions, determine the best areas for investment, forecast project costs more effectively, manage costs and improve marketing across the board. It all starts with data.
Use CRM Everywhere
Finally, CRM can improve communication and collaboration because the system makes mobility a non-issue. Cloud-based solutions allow CRM users to access and update data on the go - from scanning a business card to collect prospect information to updating project parameters or point persons from out in the field. In addition, using a CRM means that company staff, be it sales people or architects, can use a mobile device when traveling, letting them check in with local clients and oversee projects more effectively.
It is also easier to win business on-the-go when company salespeople have historical projects at their fingertips and a wealth of information about project costs just a click away. This can help them give more informed advice about AEC project fees and supply costs, but it also provides statistics that can be useful in closing a bid, such as the percentage of projects over budget, the average time length to complete a project and the average costs for a specific class of project.
That’s four, but there are plenty other beneficial aspects a CRM can bring to an AEC firm such as time savings when generating proposals, NPS, data insurance and much more. To dig a little deeper, and to help justify the ROI of investing in a CRM, we’ve published a white paper outlining what to expect, and how to quantify the ROI. We’d love your feedback. What do you use and what benefits of a CRM have you experienced?