by Tony Vidler
What makes it even more difficult for many is they struggle to define what is “right”. As with most things in business, one should begin the decision making journey with a clear view of what you are trying to achieve. Begin with the end in mind.
I believe that Peter Drucker summed up the importance of the client database best when he said: “Knowledge has become the key economic resource and the dominant, if not the only, source of competitive advantage.”
We (and our clients) are drowning in information….but knowledge is a very different thing. Information is cheap, knowledge is valuable. The systematic collection and organisation of the knowledge of our clients is where the real capital value lies within an advice business.
Some of the issues I have run into in considering CRM systems have been:
One would expect any decent CRM system to provide basic features such as the ability to categorize and segment client bases, be able to personalize customer data fields to suit the individual adviser business, and to be able to record critical policy or product information in a meaningful (and searchable) format, so I have largely ignored such issues here.
One thing which may seem inconsequential but will matter enormously to your use of a CRM is the ability to change terminology on product or policy information. To be blunt, the product terminology used in the USA is not the same as the terminology used in NZ or Australia. In fact, the terminology in Australia and NZ is not the same…which downgrades the effectiveness of a CRM if it is providing reports to clients with jargon that nobody understands.
In a similar vein, my own unfortunate experience has been that when allowing multiple product suppliers to download data into my CRM each of them created mayhem by continually replicating records or over-writing other data. The expectation was that we would be configured to meet their system requirements…but of course once we had begun personalizing data fields we didn’t match their systems. So each download would create new client records in our CRM when there was a mismatch, resulting in a single client having multiple corrupted records… .and if you add in data downloads from half a dozen other suppliers it becomes totally chaotic. We simply switched off policy data downloads from suppliers in pretty quick time….partly because of the mess, and partly because of the privacy concerns.
I am by no means an expert on CRM solutions….or even an expert on technology issues. I am an avid user of technology and software for business efficiency however and I do know what has frustrated me and rendered some whizz-bang products to being something rather ho-hum as far as my business is concerned. These have been the big ones for me, and the ones that I would be asking a lot of questions about when considering any changes to a CRM system in the future.
How an advice business collects, stores and uses it’s customer information is where it has the greatest opportunity is to leverage knowledge.
Take a lesson from the banks, as that is what they have done better than anyone. They have mastered the collection and use of customer knowledge.
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