Path to a better future: CRM
By Ed Morrow
Intl. Assoc. of Registered Financial Consultants
Customer relationship management can make a world of difference when it comes to making sure your clients get the best possible service. The trick is getting the most benefit from whichever CRM you choose to adapt without overwhelming yourself or your staff with unnecessary time and attention.
There is nothing so important to your practice as maintaining a relationship with all your clients, and gradually and consistently harvesting high caliber prospects to continually build your practice.
This will not happen by accident. You must have a commitment, a system and the determination to implement a plan.
Customer relationship management can make a world of difference when it comes to making sure your clients get the best possible service. You can use many tools ranging from glorified address books to complex systems that track every single customer interaction. The trick, though, is getting the most benefit from whichever CRM tool you choose to adapt without overwhelming yourself or your staff with unnecessary time and attention.
Building your system
The first step every practitioner or business needs to take is actually making use of a CRM system after installation and set-up. Often this simple implementation will be difficult and it will take more time and effort — not less.
Then, as you grow with your system, you’ll populate the data further. When you start employing the various functions, these steps will become easier and more efficient. Your unique experience with the chosen CRM will prompt you for more ways to customize how you use your system for the unique market you serve and your personnel.
The greatest benefit from any system will depend upon your input. Initially, you must populate any CRM with what you already know: names, contact information dates, products, etc. Then you must continually mine for new data to expand the data resources you will want to use. For example, you will want to include birth facts because you will seldom want to target 60-year-olds with the same message you send to young professionals starting their practice.
At the same time, you must start using the system to track all the client and prospect interactions you have. Tracking all the information represents a major commitment, especially if your interactions with customers take place over the phone or face-to-face. Many systems can automate this collection when you are communicating online. You may have to insert new or revised information manually after a meeting — a daunting prospect even if you are only thinking about a few clients. On top of that, you need to go back and use the information you have compiled. It's important to build the habit of both recording data and accessing it from within your CRM system — for both you and your employees.
Automation = efficiency
It is important to investigate fully the capabilities of your CRM tools as well. The options are becoming more robust every day, building in new features that — depending on your industry and your target audience — can help you stay more closely in contact with both potential and existing clients.
For example, it is now possible to locate automatically the social media profile of anyone you add to your contacts. When you pull up information on an individual, you can see what they have recently posted to Twitter or Facebook. Of course, that is only helpful if you're working with clients who are active on social networking sites and if your broker-dealer allows you to use social media in your marketing. However, there are plenty of CRM tools customized to different industries, and it's useful to have one with features that really match up with how you do business.
Make use of information
If you're in the habit of checking up on a customer's profile every time you interact with him, which enables you to have a more personal conversation, you can make sure that you're providing better service for his needs. You may be able to see at a glance what products or services held the most appeal in the past, what purposes purchases may have been allocated to and even if a lot of customer service has been needed.
That sort of information makes it much easier to up-sell a customer on new fee-based services or additional financial products, or a premium version of a past purchase such as converting a term policy.
Frequent quality contact
Gathering information is only the first step you can take. If, for instance, you know that customers who buy a certain product from you are typically interested in a follow-up product six months later, a good CRM software can remind you to contact customers six months after their purchase or even spit out an email based on their purchasing history at just the right time. The deciding factor may simply be the number of customers you need to contact.
Some CRM software packages offer the ability to analyze certain information about your customers as well, making it much easier to target the prospective clients who are most likely to buy from you. This helps you to evolve new services or presentations that make it easier for customers to come back and buy from you multiple times.
In financial services, most advisers or consultants already know what type of clients generate the most earnings. Once you have a clear picture of your clients, you'll be able to do a lot with your information. Follow-up personalized letters and even very short personal note cards will cement the client relationship.
Simplify data collection
The biggest barrier to using your CRM tool effectively and to the maximum benefit is collecting enough information to make it truly effective. The level of difficulty depends quite a bit on your business model.
If financial advisers work one-on-one with clients, collecting a lot of information is just a natural part of being able to help them choose the right product or service. In your information collection process, you should be capturing financial data as well as soft data about their goals, objectives and risk temperament. In this scenario, getting the details you need to be able to better serve your customers can be relatively easy.
However, a firm dealing with customers in a retail setting deals with persons making what is, in their minds, a quick purchase. Convincing them to provide even an email address for follow-up can be a very tough sell. Many buyers don't want to offer any information about themselves. You have to overcome those concerns, as well as understand them.
To make sure you're getting full value for your CRM tools, you need to make sure that you're collecting the information you need, preferably in a way that doesn't involve you tracking down each detail and entering it yourself.
A customer survey, for instance, can help you get some of the information you need, especially if you can make it worth your customers' while to fill out their own information. Having a good reason that your customers would want you to follow up with them can also be useful. If you offer some sort of support, you can ask your clients for a little information, if only to make sure you know who is now considering what product or service. A customer survey can also indicate their economic concerns and what financial steps they are already evaluating.
Acquire better habits
You must build the habit of using your CRM tools and analyzing the information you have about your customers on a regular basis. You can find ideas for suggesting additional or new products, improve client retention and generally do a better job of helping your clients solve their problems just from the information you have in your CRM software. You have the tools to better understand your customers and their needs at your disposal, so why not make full use of them?
CRM and referrals
There are five aspects of a referral-based professional practice:
- Getting the names
- Processing the names
- Securing the appointment
- Closing the engagement
- Reinforcing the new relationship
Good client retention is a science, creating a professional bond is an art. CRM will support and enhance both the science and art of financial services relationships.