A few weeks back I published an article on the role of workflow automation in future advice businesses that really struck a chord with readers. This time around, I’m looking at CRM. These three simple letters attract a lot of attention and a huge amount of investment, so there’s got to be something to them Right?
Given the prevalence of acronyms in the industry, and the frequency of confusion around them, I’m defining CRM as – Customer Relationship Management. Seems obvious I know, but you’d be surprised how often I get asked what it stands for.
If you listen to the hype generated by major global players in the CRM space, you’d be excused for thinking that implementing their off-the-shelf products will instantly cause money to flow freely from the sky. Such is the power of their platforms to any business, or so they’d have you believe.
Each platform has strengths and weaknesses, and all require substantial configuration and customisation before they’re of any use in an advice business.
So, what is the actual value these platforms bring? Let’s get the obvious out of the way first.
Having a list of your customers and their basic details is always a good idea. So too, is having details of when you last interacted with them. This is the type of generic functionality you’d expect from any CRM platform. It’s also akin to what is offered by the CRM modules in most advice ‘product’ systems.
Thankfully, dedicated CRM platforms like Microsoft Dynamics, SugarCRM & Salesforce.com offer more. These systems have generic out-of-the-box features to handle sales pipeline management, management reporting and strong interfaces (APIs) for integrating with other systems.
Each of these platforms has strengths and weaknesses, and all require substantial configuration and customisation before they’re of any use in an advice business. Every major independent software review awards Salesforce.com the gong as the strongest CRM platform. They also make it clear that it is not an easy road to implement any of these tools in their native form.
Beyond the majors, there’s a plethora of locally built options that extend beyond the generic CRM features of the behemoths to create a more industry focused offering.
Worth considering are Xeppo & FinPal on the Microsoft Dynamics platform, WorkSorted & Adviser Intelligence in a self-built code environment, and PractiFI on the Salesforce platform.
Of this group PractiFI is the stand-out because the full feature-set also caters to brokers, accountants, superannuation funds and just about any other professional services function, in a shared environment to create a genuine, single view of customer.
PractiFI is also the only one of these systems to combine the much lauded Salesforce.com platform with a deep, industry-focused, set of features and integrations.
The value of CRM in the financial advice business of the future is clear, but it takes much more than the heavily marketed, generic offerings of the global majors to make a meaningful difference. CRM is another important component of the technology landscape but is certainly not the entire game.
CRM is another important component of the technology landscape but is certainly not the entire game.
Business owners need a fully featured business management platform capable of delivering their automated workflow, CRM, management reporting, and integration needs.
They need it to be as close as possible to ‘turn-key’ and they need to be certain that the provider is evolving in the same direction, and at the same pace, as they are.
Next in the series I’m going to look at affordable eMarketing platforms.
Adrian Johnstone is Managing Partner Sequential and is often called upon to consult on the application of contemporary technologies in the wealth industry. He is also co-founder of PractiFI.