(April 2006)Two of your clients called last month, concerned that they haven't heard from you in over a year. Has it really been that long? You inquire about the health of one of your best clients, after he had surgery. "I mentioned to your assistant last week that he had a relapse," his wife said. "I thought you would know." You used to keep client details in your head, but with a growing practice and team it's no longer possible.
Many advisors find that by using their customer/client relationship management (CRM) software to automate a few processes, client service is better organized, teams are more productive and fewer things fall through the cracks. The key is not to invent new processes but instead let technology take over some of the tasks that have been done manually. Doing so will allow you and your team to manage client data and communication more efficiently and effectively.
Jeff Chown, President of SuccessTech Inc., a Toronto-based firm that helps advisors choose and utilize their CRM software says that it can be used to greatly enhance productivity and client communications by automating repetitive tasks and tracking specialized information unique to each client.
For example, one of his clients was using an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of their client list. Every six weeks this advisor would manually update and segment the list, then link it to a Microsoft Word file to create a mail-merge newsletter. Jeff helped his client import the Excel data into a CRM software database, create user-defined fields to incorporate segmentation data and create and use a mail-merge template for printing both the newsletters and mailing labels.
What had been a highly manual and repetitive process that previously took two hours, was now highly automated and took a mere 15 minutes. The revised procedure was more efficient with less chance of human error. It allowed the advisor to gather important marketing data regarding the effectiveness of the newsletter by tracking responses in custom fields in their database.
Below are a number of ways you can utilize your CRM software to simplify and improve some of your existing processes.
Manage and track communication
- Input short notes each time you communicate with a client. Include notes about conversations, trading instructions and when sending or receiving information. You'll know what's going on in your clients' lives and you'll be protected if a compliance issue arises. Every team member must get into the habit of doing this in order to be effective. To ensure you know who entered each note, have the team member who recorded the information initial after the entry
- When sending e-mails have your system automatically include your name, title, e-mail address and phone number. This will allow the recipient to respond easily.
- Develop a coding system to rate clients, and then create a call rotation schedule. This allows you to create a systematic approach to contacting clients quarterly or semi-annually, throughout the year to accommodate the schedules of you and your clients.
Personalize your service
Most systems have an area where you can customize and record key client information. Use it to keep track of the unique qualities and preferences of each client, so you can ensure they feel special.
- Advisor Impact recently published research that says "only 17% of clients say they prefer to receive written communications from their advisor via e-mail. Another 23% have no preference and 60% still prefer the old-fashioned approach." By noting their preferred method of contact in your CRM software, you can ensure you correspond with clients in the way that works best for them.
- By noting preferences for new stock issues, research, or client hobbies, you can quickly identify your primary contact list for specific subjects with the click of a mouse.
- Note your client's favourite beverage in a "preferences" tab. Having that beverage ready when the client arrives is a nice touch.
Prioritize and organize
- Use the calendar feature to schedule meetings and block out personal time. By accessing the calendar, other team members can schedule your client meetings and allow you uninterrupted time to research and plan marketing activities.
- Most CRM software has a Task List feature where you can record "to dos" and stroke them out when they've been completed. You won't have to worry about losing a handwritten list.
- Some advisors organize COIs, prospects, clients who provide referrals and key head office staff into groups. When you want to make a call or set up a meeting, it's easy to identify and contact participants in the group.
Choosing the right system
What if you are concerned that the CRM software provided by your firm doesn't adequately address your needs? Some advisors sink thousands of dollars into new CRM software, but don't take the time to learn how to use the system or educate new team members.
If you are considering replacing your existing CRM software, keep the following in mind:
- The vast majority of the advisor teams we work with use their firm's system. Experienced administrative or head office technical wizards can often teach you how to use the system and work around its limitations. For the price of a few lunches, you may save yourself a lot of money.
- If you're researching a new system, Maximizer, Goldmine and ACT! are the most popular. Each has its own strengths and some link with other electronic devices such as your BlackBerry and Palm.
- Accept the fact that you'll likely use only 20-50% of a system's capabilities, unless you are a real "techie." However, consistently using even just a few features to make meaningful improvements in the way you manage client communication will pay off in the long run.
Get your client relationship management software to work for you. By automating a few of the tasks you are now doing manually, you can take the next step to better managing your practice, creating delighted clients and ensuring more productive and satisfied team members.
Patty O'Connor is an associate with Advisor Pathways, a consulting and coaching firm that helps financial advisors manage their businesses and their teams better. Patty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jeff Chown can be contacted at email@example.com.
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