Going Independent: Tech Series (Part 3) – CRM

ball-563972_1920In part 3 of this 6 part series, we’ll take a look at what, in most cases, should be the central component of your technology environment – the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Let’s first take a look at the three components of these powerful databases.

C – Customer

CRM systems were initially built to support the sales cycle but have grown to do much more as you will see from this blog. But at the center of any CRM is the customer, specifically the data you capture about your customers or clients. In its basic form, a CRM is like an electronic Rolodex – a central place to store addresses, phone numbers and other contact information. In its electronic form, you have the ability to store so much more, however. Birth dates, hobbies, interests, last contact date – really, anything you can think of that relates to your client.

R – Relationship

The relationships you build with your prospective and active clients are the central service you provide. You want your clients to think of you any time they have finance related questions or issues. You do that by building a relationship through repeated contacts over time. CRM systems support that in several ways.

Relationships in database terms means something special and CRMs are very powerful because of them. For instance, you can relate your client’s data to their spouses data. Or, you can keep a list of related notes from client meetings associated with your main client record. This allows for very powerful reporting and dashboards (which we’ll cover in the next section). In addition, you can quickly prepare for your next meeting by viewing your client’s record and all its associated records in one concise view.

CRMs usually contain features that allow you to build and foster your relationships like mass email, web-based forms, integration with electronic signature systems, automated responses and reminders. They also allow you to create task reminders (manually or automatically) so important events are not missed. All this builds confidence in your clients that you are attentive to their needs.

telephone-586268_1920With cloud-based CRM solutions, you get the added benefit of being able to access your data anywhere, anytime, from any device. This mobility of data allows you to tap into the information you’ve already collected on the fly, or add additional information instantly making your CRM more and more valuable.

M – Management

Managing client relationships throughout the entire lifecycle of your services is the key to enhancing them and retaining clients throughout the ups and downs. CRMs manage the relationship from the prospecting (or lead) phase through their onboarding with you as an active client and then as you begin to develop their wealth through planning and execution. CRM systems allow you to see where your clients are in that cycle at any time.

They also allow you to segment your clients in order to provide varying levels of service based on their assets under management, for example. They also provide features for building repeatable processes for all your clients. As an example, the system can automatically remind you of your clients’ birthdays so you never miss an important date. These regular interactions above and beyond client meetings are so important to reinforcing these relationships.

Still Using Outlook as Your CRM?

Now, imagine getting the same support mentioned above from your Outlook contacts list. Sure you can create tasks in Outlook, manually. You can store basic information about your clients but even Outlook has size limits on things like the notes field. Using Outlook as your CRM is a good start but you’ll soon run into limitations and lack the ability to use your data in other ways.

Integration and Why It’s Important

The word “integration” seems like another example of techno-babble but it is one of the key benefits of using a modern, cloud-based CRM. Having your data centralized so you have one “system of truth” that can provide key process indicators (KPIs) for your practice is important for running any successful business – Peter Drucker was right: “If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”

But having your data centralized also allows you to leverage that data in ways you might never have thought possible in a decentralized environment (i.e. everyone has their own version of the master spreadsheet). The power comes from integrating your database or your CRM with other powerful tools such as your financial planning software to increase the efficiency of your workflows.

Here are just some of the important integrations you’ll want to focus on as you implement your CRM as the hub of your technology environment:

  • Email – relate and store emails sent from Outlook automatically with your client records
  • Financial Planning – automatically create client records from fact-finding forms so you don’t have to enter data more than once
  • Portfolio Management & Reporting – update key account balances in your CRM periodically so you always have up to date AUM values in your reports and dashboards
  • Document Storage – automatically store client agreements and communications in compliance approved storage and access those documents directly from your CRM
  • Speech to Text – create electronic copies of your client notes by speaking into  your smartphone and have them automatically related to your client records
  • Electronic Signature – initiate and store signed documents directly from your CRM and prepopulate forms from the data you already have stored

The Magic of Workflows

mark-995567_1920You’ve implemented a robust CRM, migrated your data and integrated it with the tools you use to run your business. Now, the real magic can happen by automating your repeatable processes with workflows.

Scalable Processes

Because you’ve chosen a robust, cloud-based CRM system, you’ve impressed your clients and referrals are coming in quickly. You’ve gained a reputation for being tech-savvy and providing exceptional service which has put you way ahead of your competition. Your business grows quickly and your staff head count has stayed static. Your CRM is cloud-based so it’s highly “scalable” or able to grow with your business without the need for re-architecting or migrating data again. It’s time to set up automated workflows so your processes can scale with your business without the need for additional staff.

Free Your Staff from Mundane Processes

Mapping your processes to automated workflows can be time-consuming but it’s an amazingly valuable practice. Cloud PM recommends you document and revisit your main process flows at least annually. Once in place, you can begin to identify portions of the flow that can be automated. For instance, you may mandate that all email communications are personalized for each client – that can’t possibly be automated, right? Wrong, modern CRM systems allow the ability to automatically generate email communications that include data specific to the recipient. You simply define some rules for:

  1. When should the email be sent – five days before a client’s birthday
  2. To whom it should be sent – the client and their spouse
  3. What should the email contain – a happy birthday message and a special, personalized note pulled from a field in their record.

The system will generate the email automatically based on these rules and will free up your staff to concentrate on processes that are difficult or unnecessary to automate (making phone calls, for instance).  Be sure to read our blog on Email to understand the compliance considerations as well.

Leverage a 3rd Party to Help Define Processes

It’s recommended to use an outside, third-party to help you understand both your current and optimal processes. Using internal resources for this exercise introduces a few issues including:

  • Bandwidth – current staff may not have time to lead the discovery sessions necessary to document your current and future state processes
  • Blind Spots – when we ask people who are actually performing the current process to define what they do, it is often difficult for them to drill down to specifics. “I don’t know, I just do it” comes up a lot.
  • Experience – your staff may not have been asked to document processes in the past which will make defining them much less efficient than using an outside consulting firm

Cloud PM has experience defining and implementing automated processes for financial services firms and understands the importance of this exercise. We can help.

The Magic of Apps

icon-1915378_1920In addition to the efficiencies you can gain by automating your processes with your CRM, an entire world of possibilities is opened by the introduction of 3rd party apps built specifically for your CRM platform.  Developers have done the heavy lifting of building products and services to make your data come alive. Cloud PM specializes in Salesforce.com CRM implementations and below is a list of our favorite apps from their AppExchange:

  • Sycamore – a full featured app native to Salesforce for financial services supporting multiple lines of business including Investment, Advisory and Insurance
  • Geopointe – see  your data on an interactive map including complex routing and analytics features
  • DocuSign – initiate and store signed documents through this impressive integration
  • Payment360 – the Salesforce integration for the popular Stripe payment system
  • CopyTalk – speech to text service that can sync your notes to your CRM automatically

Be aware that these apps usually charge an additional subscription fee above the licenses you purchased for your CRM. Other CRM providers like Redtail, Microsoft Dynamix, Oranj, Wealthbox, etc. may have similar applications available.

Conclusion

A CRM’s ability to grow with your business and connect to the tools you already use is why it should be considered the hub of your technology stack. There are, in fact, hundreds of cloud-based CRM providers. Cloud PM can help you define your technology road map and help you implement the systems that make sense for your practice. CRMs are certainly not one-size-fits-all and there are many technical considerations to understand before signing a long-term contract with any vendor. We can be your technology advocate and help you make the, perhaps, most important technology decision you’ll have to make for your practice.

Contact us today to learn how we can help.

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