By Tony Vidler
Sitting at the heart of the business value of a professional services firm is its CRM system. It is the primary store of existing and future opportunities, and it is where genuine intellectual property most often is built and utilised.
It is a continual surprise to find that so many firms have a poor grasp of how they could, or should, be using a CRM. All too often it is treated as a plan or policy reference centre. Heavy on policy information and analysis and facts and figures, but light on the “relationship management” part.
To be blunt, policy or specific investment product information will always be out of date, or about to be out of date, iun an advisers CRM unless there is a continual data stream being delivered multiple times per day updating unit price movements, price adjustments and so on. So why bother trying to store that stuff when it is so accessible and current via the product suppliers systems? All we need are reference points so we know what particular products we need to get updated information for, and from whom. For example; all we need is the basic policy benefits types that are held with a particular insurer, and the policy or client number on our CRM system. The policy or benefit types is actually the most useful information for us as practitioners, as that highlights areas of opportunity or service that we might need to act upon quickly. A case in point might be when there has been a change in taxation treatment of one type of income protection cover and we want to rapidly identify all clients who happen to have that type of cover. In this particular example, the actual amounts of cover or premiums are almost a moot point.
There are 3 big “must have’s” from a CRM if we want to run a client-centric system that we can act upon quickly to deliver timely, relevant and personalised advice.
The primary purpose of the CRM in my mind is to be an efficient platform for recognising opportunities and maintaining engagement in an efficient manner with a large number of prospects and clients.
The critical fields are all relationship or needs based, such as:
Key Personal/Contact data: Clients; Prospects; COI’s; referrers; names; addresses; social media accounts; key account contact; and;
Being a relationship hub we definitely need to capture clients interests; essential demographics; relationships; known (but not advised upon) business or assets; associations and links to business or estate planning entities.
As a marketing platform I would ideally like it to have the ability to integrate with at least:
In a perfect world it would also support or work with other communications platforms such as blog and website, as potential communication mediums with clients.
The primary objective of any system is to create efficiency in the business. That often is determined by what costs it saves, but I am a lot more interested in what time it saves and what reliability it delivers in terms of consistent client experience and communications. In a similar vein, the ease and speed with which we can use the system to communicate in a personalised way with clients helps determine our relevance to the clients. If we are honest, clients do not really value a communique from an adviser a week after it something has been headline news everywhere else. We need to be able to be the first relevant voice in the client’s ear when big news happens.
Obviously we do look for the CRM to work in a cost effective way when it comes to communicating though – digital delivery wherever possible of course. But digital delivery these days doesn’t just mean email – it means social channels too.
In the efficiency realm I am interested in how the CRM platform can work in with other efficiency drivers, such as voice dictation software, and whether it can capture and deliver meaningful management information. There is the potential in a good CRM for it to be a source of wonderful intelligence for the practice managers, or owners, in terms of being able to understand workflows, financial impacts, activity focus and reporting, and service or acquisition costs across groups of clients.
The final of the big 3 is a system which supports, if not dictates, a compliant workflow in any given client record. Obviously being able to load it with my own templated advice documents matters, but just as importantly I want to be able to set up the workflows that might be unique to my practice. For example, one of my workflow steps might be connecting with business clients on LinkedIn – I want to make sure that is built into our process and happens every single time.
Another significant aspect of the compliance considerations is whether content of records is searchable. Any CRM can (I think) search for file names, but that can have limited value. If I am having a “he said, she said” issue and need to rapidly find a critical record it would be useful to run a keyword search on the contents of files – that is a lot more useful and valuable than opening and closing multiple files until I find the appropriate item.
Elements such as having a clear audit trail on any amendments to documents being date and time stamped, and clearly indicating which system user has made the entry all matter from a compliance perspective too, as does being able to assign roles and personnel to different parts of the workflow.
The perfect CRM system for me is the one that ticks all of these boxes…but that is perfect world stuff. Isn’t it? Or is it?
You may also find this post useful: What is the point of an expensive CRM system?0