Best Practices in Implementing CRM Solutions

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1 Best Practices in Implementing CRM Solutions By Sanjeev Kumar, The Athene Group, LLC Reprint from September 2013 The focus on CRM solutions for the industry is higher than ever before. The evolution of affordable, pre-configured and well integrated cloud-based CRM solutions has made it easier for advisors to buy, implement and leverage CRM products today. Custodians are offering and continuously enhancing prebuilt platform integrations as well as price discounts for the advisors. Product vendors are introducing integrations between CRM systems and their own offerings, out of the box. Most of these solutions already offer far more functionality than what a typical advisor needs. And these developments have led to CRM platforms quickly shaping up to be the hub of advisor technologies. There is a spectrum of excellent product options and overlays available for the advisors today. And most product companies have an eco-system of partners that can assist in implementations. We often find that advisors feel their way through their product selection and implementation processes. Here is a list of best practices we have put together, which can help in reducing overall time and costs involved in selecting and implementing CRM solutions for your firm. Cloud vs. In-house Cloud-based CRM solutions have grown to be extremely popular over the last few years. These are offered based on a monthly fee, and let you not worry about procuring and maintaining hardware and software to support your CRM needs. Solutions in this category have implemented top-notch security standards to assure the data you store with them is as secure as practically possible today. Unless you run a large organization with rigid needs for data to be stored in-house, cloud-based solutions are highly recommended. Volume XI, Issue 9, September 2013 (C) Copyright Virtual Office News LLC

2 Industry Editions It is rare to find a CRM product company that does not offer an edition for the wealth management industry today. Some of them also have partners that have enriched these editions further, by adding industry-specific functionality. You may have to pay an additional fee for such overlays, including recurring fees, depending on the type of features offered. Either way, these end up being less expensive than trying to develop and customize your CRM solution based on a vanilla edition. Most overlays also receive frequent upgrades to stay on top of the latest industry/technology trends. Choose an Integrated Product Development of custom integrations is very expensive for a typical advisor. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you select a product that offers a platform/marketplace where you can obtain prebuilt integrations with other products you regularly use. These could be simple integrations with products like your typical programs, or they could be complex integrations with products for financial planning, electronic forms, electronic signatures, portfolio management, performance reporting, custodians, data aggregators, etc. Custodian Versions Most custodians offer a pre-configured version of leading CRM products. At the least, integrations and/or feeds are offered for the CRM products. Some of the custodians also offer free consultation to help you choose the right product. It is worth discussing your needs with your top custodian. Their teams typically have the experience of having worked with many organizations in your shoes. It is very likely they can save you time in your research process. Extensibility Over time, the functionality you require from your CRM system will most likely change. It is important to make sure you choose a product that can be easily configured and extended. While you may depend on an implementation partner to get the initial work completed, you should select a product that does not require advanced technical skills to configure. Doing so will enable a super user within your team to maintain it on an ongoing basis. Implementation Partners You have an extremely large set of implementation partners to choose from. And it is important to choose a partner, instead of trying to implement the solution yourself. Look for someone who has done it before, with your selected product, to help you get things started in the right way. Irrespective of how small or big your implementation is, a combination of your product vendor and your top custodian can help you select the right partner for your practice. Some of the factors to consider while selecting the partner are: Geographical location of the partner/resources and the face time Knowledge of the industry, CRM product, your custodian(s) and the other products you use Track record and references Hourly rate and the ability to provide fixed price estimates Define Overall Goals You have made your product selection, and you have chosen your implementation partner. Now make sure you get your team together to define the overall goals for your CRM solution. It is very important to make sure you define the goals, and that all the users of the CRM system understand these goals. Keep in mind that a clear definition of your overall goals will significantly lower your cost of implementing a CRM solution.

3 Marketing, Sales and Service CRM products typically offer features to support three key areas Marketing, Sales (Relationship Management) and Customer Service. While vendors are broadening their products to offer other related features, these three are the core of any CRM product today. You will benefit from analyzing these three areas in your business and defining your goals and requirements for each of them. Keep it Simple In most cases, you are introducing a change in your organization by asking your team to utilize a CRM solution. While you may understand that it will help the organization (and the users) in the longer run, it is still a change for your team and often a big change. User adoption is perhaps the single most important factor that will make or break your CRM initiative. Starting out in a simplified manner will make it easier for users to begin using the system and will increase overall user adoption. Try to analyze what you get out of the box in the CRM solution (and the overlay, if applicable). See if you can use just those features to get started. While cosmetic configurations may help you please the users, try to stay away from complex customizations at least for the launch. Involving your end users as early as possible will go a long way toward user adoption and a successful implementation. Crawl, Walk and Run The most successful CRM implementations are implemented in phases. Advisors maximize their return on investment by starting simply and continuing to add features as their users absorb the new system. Here are common goals, listed in the order of overall CRM maturity level: Set up a central repository of all Clients/Accounts/Activities data Easily find information about all activities via reports Increase productivity through reports, workflows Monitor KPIs via dashboards Achieve ease of access to information across multiple systems via integrations Focus on Data The data in your CRM system is as important as the system itself. A great solution with bad data will result in a system that is not usable and will not be embraced by the users. Make sure to follow the steps below: Understand the configured data structure in your CRM system. This specifically relates to how Prospects, Households, Clients, Accounts, Cases/Services Requests, Opportunities and Activities are organized in the system Organize your data in alignment with the configured structure Eliminate duplicates Repair bad data Limit the amount of historical data you bring into the new system. If the data will not be useful to your users, do not bring it into the new system Automation of Processes CRM products offer workflow capabilities to automate processes and promote timely collaboration within your teams. Leveraging these capabilities can really help you maximize your ROI on the solution. A few simple examples where you should consider workflows are: Client Onboarding Tasks involved in Planning Processes, Portfolio Reviews, etc. Approval Processes

4 Life Event Reminders Event Management Reports The reports and dashboards in CRM systems should be designed to provide you with the KPIs that can help you monitor and drive your business forward. These will help you plan your schedule and proactively identify some of the tactical tasks for you and your team. Commonly used reports are: Top Customers Client Touch Point Analysis Overall AUM sliced and diced by different attributes Upcoming Marketing Events and Sign-Ups Pending Tasks Upcoming Birthdays Aging Service Requests/Cases Integrations The following is the list of common integrations seen in the industry. These integrations allow you to achieve higher productivity and provide easier access to the right information: Mail Merge between Microsoft Word and the CRM data Export reports data to Excel/PDF Outlook integration for s Synchronization of Contacts, Calendar and Tasks between CRM and Outlook Portfolio Management Systems Financial Planning Tools Custodian Platforms Data Aggregators Electronic Forms Products Electronic Signature Products Migration of Data Data migration is an expensive work item in the overall implementation. performing the following: You can reduce this cost by Review your existing data and identify what is absolutely needed to be migrated from a usage and regulatory compliance perspective. Often, it is a long and tedious process to extract data from your old CRM system. Some of the older products intentionally make it difficult to extract data, and you may have to procure tools and keys from the vendor to perform the extraction. Attachments and formatted s are often stored in a proprietary format in some of the older CRM products. Once exported, review the data carefully and clean it up. This includes elimination of duplicate records. You know your data better than your implementation partner. Asking your implementation partner to clean the data for you could significantly increase the overall costs, as they do not know your data as well as you do. Organize your data in separate worksheets. Use separate worksheets for Prospects, Clients, Households, Accounts, Opportunities, Activities, etc. Try to use unique record identifiers to link different records together. This makes it extremely easy for your implementation partner to import the data into the new system.

5 Ask your implementation partner to import sample records into the new system. Review these thoroughly to make sure that the import process is validated before the complete set of data is imported. Ask your implementation partner or your data aggregator if they have the ability to receive files from custodian(s) and load them into the CRM system. This can be an inexpensive option to get all your Clients and Accounts into the system. Mobility Mobile devices are increasingly being used today to access CRM systems. Understand your product s support for mobile devices. Some of the market-leading products not only allow you to configure the product for mobile access, but also provide a marketplace with third-party applications for mobile access. Make sure you identify your typical use cases from mobile devices and include them in your overall implementation. Social Media Social Media is being used today by organizations to market products and services. It is also being used to communicate with clients and offer customer service. Some of the CRM products offer prebuilt integrations with leading social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to accomplish the following, among other things: Identify prospects Promote products and services Obtain more information about individuals through their Social Media profiles and updates Listen to Social Media for customer complaints about your and your competitors products/services Answer customer queries using Social Media Monitoring overall sentiments about your brand in Social Media channels The wealth management industry is slow in leveraging Social Media, for a variety of valid reasons, including those related to regulatory compliance. While your current customer base may not have adopted Social Media channels, the next generation of your clients is very likely to prefer to communicate through them. You should keep Social Media on your horizon, as you finalize your overall goals. Training Effective training is an absolute necessity for the overall success of your CRM initiative. CRM product vendors offer a variety of webinars and training material on their websites. Identify the collateral that can help your team and make sure your users go through them. Your implementation partners can also help train your users. Create reusable training collateral for each role of users within your team. And make it mandatory for any new team member to go through this collateral before using the application. The training should also set common understanding across the entire team in relation to the quality and quantity of data to be entered into the system. Users typically enter different levels of details into the CRM system, which results in inconsistent reports and KPIs. Assure that you set the tone by creating a few initial records with appropriate levels of data. Ask users to follow such examples. Commitment to Implementation Be committed to the initiative and reflect this to your staff. Make sure that you participate in meetings and treat the implementation as a priority. Your participation can lead to a system that aligns with your vision. Your directives to your staff will help in getting them trained, and in making sure that the data entered into the system is trustworth

6 Periodic Reviews CRM needs change and mature over time. Users also tend to identify additional requirements as they use the system. In addition, product vendors introduce new features and functionality at a regular frequency. Because of these factors you should review your CRM implementation periodically with your implementation partner. There might be areas where technical tweaks would help your users. And as you starting accumulating more data, you should also start thinking about gathering the required KPIs from the system to help your business. ### Sanjeev Kumar is President and CEO of The Athene Group, LLC. The Athene Group was founded in 2001 by individuals with significant experience in the Technology Services industry, experience that includes a wide range of technologies, frameworks, and methodologies of Technology Services. Skience is a Books and Records Solution developed by The Athene Group for the Financial Services Industry. It is a cloud-based solution developed by functional and technology specialists with decades of experience in the industry. Athene is headquartered in Herndon, VA. Athene also has operations in UK and India. Learn more at

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