It’s time to take control of your client data
Roland Rawicz-Szczerbo, sales director of Time4Advice, outlines the advantages of using an integrated CRM and back-office system within the modern adviser business
The transition from a transactional business model focused on selling products and chasing new business, to a service-led business model that requires the nurturing of long-term client relationships, has fundamentally altered the way advisers must structure and operate their businesses, in particular, the ways they can best serve their new and their existing clients.
The traditional advice model has often led adviser firms to be very reactive to clients needs as opposed to pro-active and forward thinking.
Under RDR adviser businesses need to be much more aligned to professional services such as accountants and solicitors, where they have clearly defined service propositions and, importantly, where those propositions are mapped to their clients as well as their remuneration channels.
But to work effectively in the new service-led market advisers need to have clean, up-to-date client data and a system that can seamlessly incorporate all their data and client communications needs within one integrated process. Core to this has to be a client relationship management (CRM) system.
Many firms that we are speaking to are beginning to recognise that their current back-office systems, which have been built on the old transactional model, don’t facilitate CRM at all well. As a result they are having to compensate by overlaying a CRM system in addition to their back office. This gives them two databases that probably don’t talk or integrate in any efficient manner.
In addition to this, their businesses are almost certainly using Microsoft Outlook for their client communications and possibly a marketing platform too, potentially giving them four sources of client data to update and maintain in sync.
In fact trying to keep all four systems in sync when they are being operated by different people in different parts of the business, is often proving at best, time consuming and at worst, impossible. The inefficiencies in this cobbling together of systems are obvious; especially to those having to use them every day to try to deliver service that their clients will not only value but also be willing to pay for.
And then, of course, there is the duplication of costs in using the various different systems.
CRM as business backbone
This is where using CRM as the backbone application enabling the synchronisation of client data input, client communications and prospect marketing, integrated with adviser back-office functionality, can offer a far more efficient and cost effective system.
The advantage of using CRM is that it allows the user to obtain a 360-degree view of their clients’ affairs whenever they are needed. The business can see everything it needs to know about each client – from current holdings to hobbies and anniversaries – and importantly, in relation to a particular group of clients, all in one place.
Different clients will have different needs and CRM allows the business to segment its client base so it can target the right service at the right group of clients. In a service-led proposition this is invaluable. For example, the user can drill down into the client data and create multiple segments based around key searches and triggers – this can be by service proposition, by interest or by any other piece of data. The benefit of this is that any communication can be targeted to the right group, ensuring firms are communicating relevant information to receptive clients, as well as marketing to only the kind of clients who are aligned to the firm’s business model.
Efficient use of resources in this way will produce highly targeted communications that are far more likely to achieve a positive response than an uninformed scattergun approach.
First steps to using CRM
The starting point in using a CRM system efficiently is to understand your business, what it does and where you, as the principal or directors, want it to go. This includes the clients you have, the clients you would like to attract, as well as the service they will be suited to; which enables you to segment your client bank.
The next step is to organise your business in order to support your service proposition and in so doing to streamline the business processes. This means structuring it so that the right people are doing the right things all of the time. For example, you as principal/director should spend 80% of your time with clients and introducers of clients and developing the business, the rest of the advisers advise, the paraplanners research and create reports, the administrators deliver on the processing of the new business, and the financial control and compliance roles ensure the business is operating appropriately, with everything being focused on providing the best service to the client.
It is important to map your processes. Few businesses have really documented their processes end to end but once that is done, you can take advantage of workflow systems to translate manual processes into largely automated processes in CRM.
Business management information completes the circle. There should be a clear connection between everyone in the business that is translatable into a monthly report showing how the business is doing and any issues that have arisen. This discipline allows the business to be continually finessed and refined based on inefficiencies that will inevitable come to the fore. Finally, everything must be accountable back to the client, so the firm is able to assess business profitability as time spent and money earned.
Once the business is fully and properly aligned with a service-led proposition then CRM can be implemented to really start working for the firm.
Using a CRM system clearly makes sense but what if you could have a CRM system that is fully and seamlessly integrated with a built-for-purpose adviser back-office system, so that all your data and communications are managed in one place? This is exactly what we have developed at Time4Advice. Curo is built on the Microsoft Dynamics xRM platform and delivers for the first time a fully integrated CRM/back-office system for the UK financial advice market. Importantly the system is offered on the Software as a Service (SaaS) model, meaning it is online but, most importantly, is delivered as part of Microsoft Outlook. This means there is one source of data on which everyone in the firm is working, avoiding the business inefficiencies from trying to maintain multiple systems.
The advantage of using Microsoft dynamics, which is a client relationship management system benefiting from $billions of investment spend every year, is that it can fully integrate with all the other principal lines-of-business applications, such as Outlook and Microsoft Office. This means all emails and communications can be captured and tracked back to the client record. So the business doesn’t have to waste more time copying letters and emails into the back-office system, it’s an automated process.
Further, since Microsoft Dynamics is built on Microsoft’s Workflow Foundation, Curo allows you to create your own business processes within the system, thus facilitating business process automation via workflows and dialogue processes. The Dynamics platform is truly scalable and is in use by over four million enterprises globally.
This also means there are a lot of people writing code to support this platform and as a result it is able to integrate with other mission-critical tools to further enhance business information reporting and business efficiencies through the sharing of data with third party applications.
It just makes sense
It is our belief that CRM is now fundamental for any service–focused adviser business. It gives visibility of your clients via dashboards and prompts you to take action based on your service promise. You can see what you need to do for each client, or different groups of clients, today, tomorrow and in the months ahead. It pre-filters all of your activities based around your service offering and it allows you to fulfill those obligations in a fully auditable way, so you can demonstrate categorically that you have delivered the service promised to the client.
There is no doubt that the businesses that will succeed in the new service-led market are those that are able to use this technology to take control of their client data, to truly know their clients and deliver proactive, client-centric, RDR compliant propositions.