As defined by Wikipedia, CRM (a.k.a., customer relationship management) is “a widely implemented model for managing a company’s interactions with customers and prospects. It involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize business processes—principally sales activities, but also those for marketing, customer service, and technical support. The overall goals are to find, attract, and win new clients, service and retain those the company already has, entice former clients to return, and reduce the costs of marketing and client service.”
But asking what CRM is really almost borders on the philosophical, and the Wikipedia definition doesn’t truly define what CRM means. In a traditional sense, CRM is often defined as “rolodex and workflow” (e.g., activities, tasks, calendar events). And if we stick to that definition, CRM can stay relatively simple. Yet we do not live in a simple black-and-white world, and the definition of CRM isn’t black and white either.
Where CRM starts and ends should be defined by what information is needed where and when; in other words, data and functionality are where they need to be in the time you’d expect them to be there. A simple example in the financial services industry would be opening accounts for a new client, where an advisor should be able to take the rolodex data from the traditional CRM system and populate that information into the forms that they are reviewing. For an existing client, however, that same advisor should be able to take rolodex information from a traditional CRM system, as well as books and records information (e.g., beneficiary or suitability info) stored on other accounts, to prepopulate those forms.
Below is a list of some information that advisors would want to know about a client when looking at any given client’s record:
You hear the term integration all the time. In our industry, almost every advertisement boasts technology tools that are “fully integrated,” allowing users to have a “seamless experience.” But what does that truly mean?
First off, we need to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to marketing; just saying something is true doesn’t make it so. What’s known as the “hotel swimming pool” concept comes into play here. That is, there are certain features you just have to list in your marketing materials, even though most people will never use them, like a hotel swimming pool. True integration is different in that advisors will—and want to—benefit from it.
These days, open architecture is the phrase du jour mentioned by broker/dealers and custodians alike. The concept itself is a thing of beauty, best described via an example. Envision five doors, each with a certain software function behind it. In our industry, the five doors might be labeled as follows:
In theory, each of these doors or functions could have 5 software vendors behind it (25 total), all of which would work “seamlessly” with each other. But this is where theory and practice begin to diverge. And that’s where my vision of a truly integrated technology world for financial advisors comes in. That vision is defined as follows: