From the February 2007 issue of Boomer Market Advisor • Subscribe!

Beyond birthdays: know your CRM priorities

Provide your clients with more meaningful communication -- Affluent boomers seek out friendly, honest relationships with their financial professionals and consequently share a large amount information. As your firm grows, keeping tabs on each client becomes increasingly difficult. By gathering data in one location, CRM solutions promise to be your photographic memory, allowing you to support a larger number of clients without sacrificing your firm's personal feel.

CRM applications typically are depicted as tracking data such as the names of family members, birthdays and anniversaries, and personal preferences. But, taken too far, these features can miss the point. Advisors may find themselves asking, "Do I really need to know my client's favorite flavor of ice cream?"

Focus instead on keeping detailed records of calls and meetings. These notes will prove invaluable by allowing you to pick up a months-old discussion at a moment's notice. Instead of rehashing previous conversations in order to get caught up, you can move forward at the start -- a demonstration of respect for your clients and an opportunity to accomplish more in less time.

Use call tracking and task lists to identify and correct problems in your front office -- Are the bulk of incoming client requests for a specific type of support? Do tasks get passed from employee to employee? Does your team close the communications loop after a client request? Your CRM application should be able to generate reports by client or staff member, detailing the number and type of incoming calls as well as how tasks are assigned and completed.

Use the data from these reports to shine a spotlight on unproductive processes, service deficiencies and highlight staff training opportunities. Shared task reports will point out requests that are reassigned between employees and may represent client requests that aren't being immediately routed to the right team member. Reports on incomplete tasks will catch client requests that have fallen through the cracks.

Staff buy-in can make or break a CRM implementation, especially for call tracking and task lists. While this new bank of information is valuable to you, your staff may see the data entry as adding to their workload without benefiting them. In order to encourage use of the system, consider implementing the following practices:

  • Empower your team to seek out redundant or manual processes, as each process automated or eliminated by technology will reduce their workload.
  • Use a printout of the shared task list as the agenda for your weekly staff meeting.
  • Establish a reward program for your staff based on the completeness of client records or the number of tasks completed in a month.

The hidden benefit in implementing a CRM solution is that by defining workflow, task lists and data fields within the software, you will have essentially designed and documented your firm's sales and operations processes. These processes act as a formula for your firm, enabling you to deliver a consistent level of service and operational efficiency. In addition, they can help you evenly distribute workloads and recover from staff turnover.

Ultimately, using CRM to implement business processes and create comprehensive client records can maximize the value of your business upon your exit. Rather than simply selling your book of clients, you will be selling a business with proven formulas for gathering and retaining assets and an exhaustive compilation of your clients' goals, history and characteristics.

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