Your loyal customers are looking for more from you. They welcome your experience and perspective, because they appreciate their value. They look for sound advice and guidance that help them make the right financial decisions. Most likely, they are also hoping that you could be so good at what you do that you can remain a valuable resource throughout their lives. If you handle these customer relationships wisely, everybody wins.
In this ebook, we discuss financial-industry challenges Sikich has observed and how modern CRM technology built for financial services companies can help you overcome them. We have worked with wealth managers and registered investment advisors; insurance carriers and brokers; banks and credit unions; private equity firms; investment banks; hedge funds; and lenders. Collectively, we refer to these businesses as financial-services companies
The financial services industry revolves around conditions, events, services, and products that, for most people, are intangible and complex. Consumers may be aware of changes in the value of stocks and bonds, or how fluctuating demand causes the prices of certain materials to increase or manufacturers to add production lines. But it takes specialized expertise to help untrained customers understand how industry and market trends impact the value of their investment accounts or other assets. Thus, investment advisors, bankers, wealth managers, and other experienced professionals are at the forefront of translating complex, global events into recommendations and strategies that benefit their clients’ financial well-being and help them manage their lives.
Because of the abstract, complicated nature of the world of finance and the need for sophisticated experts to navigate it, the relationships between clients and their financial consultants and service providers are a business-critical element for the industry. Their quality depends to a high degree on the level of trust clients experience. Outside of personal chemistry, certain conditions need to be in place for trust to grow. Clients need to receive credible, actionable information and guidance that help them prosper and make the right decisions. It is also important for them to feel that their financial advisors understand their situation and are fully informed regarding their objectives and their histories with the financial institution or service provider they chose.
Financial-services businesses are aware of the unique, important role they play for their clients and the strategic importance of client relationships. They hire and train the best people they can find to take care of customers. They have also made inroads in adopting modern technologies to help them manage the informational and operational areas of their business as well as their client relationships.
Because financial-services providers are highly dependent on reliable, current data from multiple sources, their business roles and activities are typically a great fit for modern digital tools. To serve clients well and manage their business effectively, many financial services firms have implemented customer relationship management (CRM) software tools. Some of these are specifically designed for the industry, such as Salesforce Financial Services Cloud (FSC). Adopting CRM with the help of an implementation partner that has a mature financial practice can give a financial services firm an edge in superior client management and competitive differentiation.
Coinciding with this, industrywide many consumers and other financialservices clients have in recent years learned how to use digital tools and resources to their benefit. Many of them also realized that digital tools and data can reduce the role of human error in making decisions and recommendations. In banking and other areas of financial services, personal and business clients are embracing automated, efficient interactions and next-step recommendations generated by artificial intelligence (AI)—as long as they fit their specific situations and make their finance management easier.
Several other financial-services industry trends and conditions continue to have a bearing on customer relationships. Companies need to consider these when they design their technology strategies and think about CRM software tools:
When financial-services companies call on Sikich, we often recognize the gaps in their understanding of customers or their ability to serve them, because they are not uncommon in the industry.
Most frequently, we find that some banks and other financial-services companies do not know their customers well. This is a source of dissatisfaction for customers, who may feel that they are not understood or appreciated and that advice they receive may be poorly considered. It’s also a sore point for financial-services firms which stake their reputation and success on their ability to serve customers.
Outside of the senior service experts and advisors who work individually with clients, some organizations may have only a rudimentary understanding of customers. In consequence, they present them with blanket marketing messages that will make sense only to a subset of their clients. They may invest in financial services and products without being confident that these are what customers and prospects are looking for. They also may approach their clients and prospects in channels: websites, social media, email, digital kiosks, online events—where they do not primarily engage, while overlooking others which they may prefer.
In addition to misspent budgets and operational waste, lacking customer closeness comes with opportunity costs for financial-services companies. When financial firms are unable to identify and approach customers who may be at a crossroads that requires them to make investment and financial decisions, they may even lose more than a one-time opportunity to provide valuable services and grow their business. Customers’ connections to financial services companies may erode until they are ready to consider the competition. Most clients do not change their financial-services providers lightly or frequently, and it may be challenging to regain their loyalty and trust once they are at that point.
When multiple applications provide data and management capabilities inconsistently across a company, various groups may experience differing degrees of awareness when it comes to customers, marketing, or business development. As happens in some financial-services firms, a call-center team or a sales organization may be fully informed regarding customers’ histories, use of financial solutions, upcoming decisions, and known preferences. However, without the right tools it may be more difficult for them to assess market and industry trends and relate them to with customers’ interests.
Other business groups—executives, for instance—may entirely lack first-hand customer insight, but have a good sense of the company’s performance toward its goals, or its overall return on marketing spending. The disjointed systems used in many firms make it almost impossible for individuals on different teams to exchange information and align their approach to serving clients without spending time on redundant data entry or navigating specialty applications with poor usability.
Financial-services companies can turn these less than advantageous conditions around in a low-risk, predictable, goal-driven manner. Using readily available consulting expertise and modern software applications, they can achieve potentially transformative changes by implementing comparatively simple, proven measures:
The experience of customers is likely to improve when their financial-services provider implements CRM and uses it effectively. For instance, they can:
While clients stand to benefit when their financial-services providers deploy a modern CRM solution and connect their systems, the companies themselves can also experience advantages:
The sales organizations in financial-services companies comprise customer representatives and call-center teams, which are part of the company, and networks of independent affiliates, which are independent businesses that provide financial consulting to their clients. All financialservices firms that use independent affiliates or advisors have to share information with them regarding their products, services, payment structures, and incentives. Sometimes, they will also provide them with tools or guidance for managing key aspects of their business, such as leads, opportunities, or goals. Some finance companies provide their affiliates with complete management platforms, which they can adopt entirely or partially. Others engage in collaborative lead generation or sales campaigns, or share proprietary research and reporting with their affiliates.
Numerous handoffs need to happen when call centers, internal sales teams, customer-facing employees in branch offices, and affiliates need to exchange customer or opportunity information. When these transition points are not facilitated by business applications and infrastructures that are dependably available to users inside and outside of the organization, it’s easy for errors or delays to creep in, degrading the customer experience and the productivity of advisors and employees. Outside of customers, independent affiliates are probably the ones who suffer most from this because of their remoteness from corporate offices and data centers.
Engineered for the cloud and tailored to the financial-services industry, a mature, robust CRM solution like Salesforce FSC allows companies to close gaps in business enablement, communications, and information sharing. IT managers or trained users can ensure that contributors have access to just the data and functionality they require. At the same time, a cloud solution is practically endlessly scalable. Financial-services firms can onboard as many advisors as they wish and offer them professional development and reporting tools. Advisors and financial consultants can manage their customer relationships and communications in the cloud and on their preferred devices. That also will make it easier for companies to add a channel of independent advisors or affiliates to their existing avenues for customer engagement, or change their sales model if they choose.
From onboarding throughout their history with a financial-services provider, customers’ service experience can be consistently excellent when the people helping them are aligned on the same CRM platform. They don’t need to be concerned about possible differences in the relevance or validity of investment strategies and financial advice they may hear from a company employee or an independent advisor. Financial-service organizations can set up their CRM environment in such a way that workflows and communications involving customers and their independent or in-house consultants are transparent for managers and consistent with company policies and regulatory mandates.
For some financial-services companies it can be difficult to establish the exact outcomes of their investments in onboarding and supporting independent advisors. In addition, for both companies and affiliated advisors it may be challenging to assess their performance and their returns on marketing and sales campaigns accurately and in real time.
In a modern CRM environment, financial-services companies or their technology partners can create dashboards and use reporting tools that come with the solution to gain the visibility they need. Company executives can review the business outcomes of hiring or contracting with talented resources. Sales and marketing managers, as well as individual, independent affiliates running their own business, can track and improve the impact of their campaigns and the performance of their engagements with prospects and customers.
Sikich is a relationship-driven consultancy that delivers a unique portfolio of software solutions from leading vendors together with strategic consulting and IT managed services. From helping you define your technology strategy by collaborating with dedicated Sikich virtual CIO (vCIO), to supporting users that need to be proficient with their software tools, Sikich team members working with and for you share an unwavering commitment to your success. We also understand that CRM is not a project you complete and let go. Especially for financial services and other professional-services organizations, it’s a key practice that you can evolve as individuals and teams become ever more effective at understanding and serving customers.
On the Sikich financial-services team, you meet professionals who have spent their careers in the industry. They were consultants and business managers in successful organizations before they joined us. We have assisted many financial-services clients in achieving smooth, low-risk, nondisruptive CRM deployments. We are proud of all our clients and their successes, and particularly enjoy helping mid-market and smaller organizations benefit from enterprise-level technology and strategies within their budgets and in sync with business cultures that may have taken decades to create.
Many of Sikich’s financial-services clients have done well in adopting Salesforce Financial Services Cloud with our assistance. For many reasons, Salesforce FSC is an industry favorite. It’s easy to implement, configure, and provision in the cloud, securely and targeted to the business roles that need functionality and data. The solution’s architecture and interfaces allow less-technical, but business-savvy users to configure and adjust a wealth of powerful capabilities to fit their company’s people and clients.
Compared to other software products that are designed for the financialservices industry, Salesforce FSC is more robust, scalable, and secure, and it is more flexible in supporting growing, changing companies. In their range and power, many Salesforce FSC features, such as household mapping, financial account consolidation, reciprocal roles, opportunity management, workflow automation, service levels, or chatter, are of great practical value and make both customers’ and consultants’ lives easier and more productive.