Technology can not only help with efficiency and reducing pain points in your practice (the two topics we addressed previously in this series), it can also boost employee retention and client relationships. And you know what happy employees and clients mean? Additional profit!
Reduce annoyances and increase retention
If there are tasks employees complain about repeatedly, even the seemingly simple ones, I say it’s ok to make a mountain out of that molehill! If it is within your power as a firm leader to implement technology that reduces or eliminates employee frustration, it is worth it in the big picture to stop and reassess the way things are getting done.
One thing that seems to be universally annoying is filling out time sheets and charging time to projects. We implemented a relatively low tech solution that got high praise from employees – a time tracker app with an API (application programming interface) connection to QuickBooks Online (QBO). Our old way was for each person to enter time in a spreadsheet, and then transfer those entries into QBO. Now we use the online application to enter time into set categories per our client contracts. The app is easily accessible via the web, via smartphone, and of course by desktop at the office. With the API connection to QuickBooks, employees enter time once then run a quick download, and all the time is quickly transferred and ready for billing. This saves employees time and my time when reviewing. It also helps with consistency of information because employees select from a set list of time categories; if they don’t see the category needed, it’s a quick question to me or the PM.
Employee buy-in is employee empowerment
Small firms don’t have the time to research all the available tech tools that might be beneficial for our operations. But it is a useful habit to continually be in the awareness mindset about different types of applications that can increase efficiency in our firms. Having someone in your office be the champion, who’s interested in learning about new software and their features, and sharing what might be beneficial has been effective for us. As mentioned in Part II of this series, especially when you realize there is a pain point, one thing you may look at is what your different team members are using to do something. This is the time to enlist everyone’s input, because each person won’t necessarily know about the other applications or have access to them, especially if everyone has been doing their own thing. In our case, it was digital finish boards. Everyone was creating in different platforms – PowerPoint, Word, InDesign, Publisher, and Canva! Together we looked at all these different options and the pros and cons of each, why people liked one over another, and cost for each.
We landed on Canva and agreed that everyone would try it for digital finish boards. Well, once we started using that tool, again we dug into other applications we’re already using, and questioned what else can we do with Canva. We are now looking at converting all our marketing templates into Canva, so everyone has access to them. This makes it easy for anyone to switch out a project picture or edit the text and then send out a tailored marketing piece, rather than having to wait on the marketing team to put something together. Ultimately, having the internal discussion and agreeing on an option that is affordable, easy to use, and accessible to all goes a long way to creating a positive environment. Add in Increased efficiency profitability, and it this approach wins the trifecta!
Keeping the client contact pipeline full
We use a CRM (customer relationship management) system for our contact database. We use it to send out our monthly e-newsletter, and we can also create and automate e-mail marketing campaigns in it. We can target a certain category of our contacts such as property managers or construction managers, and then send specific information to our different client types. One thing I really like is the system’s ability to automatically send out birthday e-mails for those contacts who share that info; we have a fun graphic of a cupcake or a cake that’s kind of architectural, and we send out an e-mail to each contact on their birthday. The cool thing about a CRM that is automated is that you can set up individual auto-sends; when a contact has a birthday in the system, they get a birthday card each year unless they opt out. Set it and forget it! I get a lot of responses back saying, “oh thanks for thinking of me on my birthday.” It’s a nice and easy way to have a more personal connection with our contacts, because responses to the automated emails come back to me, giving me another opportunity to connect with that contact. We pay a monthly subscription for the basic service, and it can be tailored with a variety of additional features. I may add an automated feature once every six months, when I have time to experiment with the feature. Recognize that when the workload is light, all of the sudden you have the time to experiment and create new, automated client outreach. Use that time to set up a marketing or communications campaign, and then it’s active and on-going when you get busy with projects again. The campaign remains in the system and can be easily updated and revised to use again in the future, without the need to go back to the drawing board for content.
Hopefully this series has provided some insight and maybe even inspiration to think about how technology can benefit your firm. Look for ways to:
• Automate repetitive tasks, especially the small ones
• Generate project templates
• Auto-populate information for one project across multiple documents
• Look at pain points as opportunities to adopt a technology solution
• Reduce annoyances
• Increase employee satisfaction through engagement
• Connect more frequently and personally with clients and prospects
Change can be hard and cause anxiety. But don’t let fear of technology limit progress and opportunities within your firm.