Global CRM solution helps Grant Thornton member firms foster collaboration, drive sales, and deliver better value to clients

To distinguish Grant Thornton International Ltd (GTIL) from its larger competitors, its member firms must maintain closer relationships with—and deliver personalized attention to—their clients. The independent member firms of GTIL are deploying Microsoft Dynamics CRM to facilitate collaboration around sales, marketing, and customer service. The solution has driven an increase in the number and size of sales wins, while helping the firms offer better value to clients and maintain consistency in a complex environment.

In an industry that has long been dominated by the Big Four, the Grant Thornton organization is under constant pressure to differentiate itself from its larger, better-known competitors. To do this, Grant Thornton member firms, which operate in more than 130 countries, offer their clients something the competition cannot: personalized service and closer relationships.

“We are not, nor do we want to be, the biggest accounting organization,” explains Rick Stow, head of Client Relationship Management. “We compete with four much larger firms, so we differentiate by having closer relationships to earn credibility and increase value. We choose to be much more connected to our clients. We need to have a good presence in our local markets if we're going to compete.”

Grant Thornton LLP, which operates in more than 56 offices in the United States, maintained various customer management solutions (including SalesLogix); they lacked visibility into contacts, accounts, and influencers across all employees and practice areas. This sometimes led to duplication of effort and missed opportunities. Further, because account teams were not aware of all interactions with a specific customer, it was difficult to gauge the strength or extent of the relationship. With no way to identify opportunities for cross-selling services, the member firms’ ability to grow the business was limited.

With a single standardized solution, Grant Thornton LLP aims to ensure that the firm—rather than individual employees—maintains the relationship with each contact.

Going mobile

Grant Thornton member firms in the United States, Canada, and Germany currently use Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and on-premises for sales force automation, marketing management, and comprehensive account planning functionality built using the xRM extensibility capabilities of Microsoft Dynamics. In addition, two add-on solutions augment Grant Thornton LLP’s account and customer data with third-party research, including data from InsideView and LinkedIn. Future plans include adding social listening capabilities that will capture additional information from public sources.

The upgrade to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 will also allow Grant Thornton LLP to fully exploit the mobile capabilities of the Microsoft Dynamics solution. Today, a handful of people access the system on Windows 8 Surface devices, but because most employees spend a majority of their time outside the office, making functionality available on virtually any device or platform will be key to successful, widespread adoption.

“More and more people are asking for a true ‘app’ experience,” explains Stow. “One of the most appealing aspects of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online is the ability to deliver the same experience across multiple platforms. Whether you’re opening a form from within Outlook, from a browser, or on a mobile device, you have access to the information and full functionality.”

Fostering collaboration

Finding ways to foster collaboration among accounting and advisory professionals is key to Grant Thornton LLP’s continued success. “Relationships are everything,” says Stow. “So people are very protective of their relationships. But to understand the full scope of a client relationship, we need to overcome that individual mindset and find ways to collaborate effectively.”

In addition to establishing Microsoft Dynamics CRM as a standardized solution for CRM, Grant Thornton LLP has found that other technologies have been key to helping employees share information and work better together across member firms. A large-scale SharePoint deployment includes more than 50,000 unique sites where employees share documents and collaborate on accounts and initiatives. Communications and enterprise social media tools, including Lync and Yammer, provide voice, instant messaging and conferencing capabilities — and connect to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online to facilitate communication around client and account activities.

As a result, the employees in Grant Thornton LLP can depend on one another and deliver more comprehensive service to clients. “It’s not just about using the technology,” says Stow. “Our workforce today is more connected — and more productive. People see the interactions and work more efficiently, and that ultimately allows us to serve our clients better.”

Enhancing sales processes

Microsoft Dynamics provides Grant Thornton LLP with a process-driven CRM solution that accommodates different sales processes and regional requirements. For existing accounts, the connection capabilities of the solution allow each member firm to build virtual account teams that include all employees and partners involved in a particular relationship, who can collaborate on a plan to nurture and proactively drive the relationship forward.

Using the collected data in the CRM solution, account managers see strengths, weaknesses, and threats related to a particular relationship or opportunity. They identify competitors that might be serving the client — in addition to potential partners in other advisory roles who might influence sales — and collaboratively develop a plan to pursue the opportunity.

Since deploying Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Grant Thornton LLP has experienced a 450 percent jump in the number of opportunities it is tracking, a 36 percent increase in average win value, and a 700 percent rise in the number of contacts in the system. In addition, by tracking employee behaviors in the system, Grant Thornton LLP correlates factors such as sales activities and frequency of client contacts to win rate and revenue generation so as to further refine the sales process through insights.

Delivering better client service

Stow is quick to point out that the benefits of the CRM solution extend beyond sales. “Our goal for the solution is not to push additional services on our clients, but to better serve our clients,” he says. “The enhanced planning and collaboration tools enable us to respond to clients more effectively and in a more timely fashion.”

In particular, he points to the ability to conduct proactive planning using custom account plans developed in Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The tool helps Grant Thornton LLP identify priority accounts and includes a complete history of account activity and plans for nurture or contact efforts. Connections to partners and other service providers enable Grant Thornton LLP to identify partners who might enhance the value proposition through collaboration.

Using data to drive value

The value proposition of Grant Thornton LLP is also enhanced by the analytical capabilities of the CRM solution. Using CRM in conjunction with business intelligence tools such as Power BI, Grant Thornton LLP can identify trends or issues affecting a particular class or segment of clients and then reach out proactively to other clients in that segment to address these issues.

The development of new services is also driven by analytics, which provide insights into client demand based on service line, service type, revenue, and other factors — which makes their very smart people even smarter from a sales, marketing, and business development standpoint.

“The solution enables us to be much more focused,” says Stow. “We can use data to make data-driven decisions and communicate to our teams using actual data. Everyone here is very smart, but the additional insights — based on a single shared version of the truth — make us all smarter.”

Read customer success stories to learn how Managed Solution helps businesses implement technology productivity solutions.

For information on Microsoft Dynamics CRM, please call us at 800-257-0691.

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