Roger Strain from Liquid Thought offers some ideas on how financial services companies could attract and retain customers.

Here’s a dream scenario for any customer of a financial services company: you’re browsing their website and spot something you’d like to know more about. You click the “I’m interested” button, give some basic personal details and quickly get an SMS confirming that someone will call you within an hour or two. Before the hour is up, you’re called by a well-informed consultant who can answer all your questions and act on all your requests. At the end of the conversation you get an e-mailed document detailing exactly how the portfolio you discussed can meet your needs.
When you next call the company, even though you speak to a different person in a different department, you don’t have to repeat a single piece of information. Everyone you speak to knows your entire history with the company, nobody ever gives you the run-around and everything you ask for gets done quickly – even after you’ve signed on the dotted line and they have your money. You feel like royalty.
Sound like a fairytale? It’s not – and financial services providers who take advantage of already available technology to create experiences like this are going to have the edge in an increasingly crowded marketplace. It’s no longer enough to have good products and deliver adequate service – successful marketing today is all about creating and sustaining a customer experience that people want to come back for.
To do that, you need good systems, including customer relationship management software. Before you roll your eyes too energetically – yes, a lot of CRM systems have failed to live up to their promises, and yes, you can’t fix an attitude problem with software. But assuming the attitude is right, good software makes all the difference.
A whole new wave of cost-effective, user-friendly, highly adaptable CRM products is hitting the market. These systems not only integrate well with other data systems in the business but also extract maximum value from work that people are already doing anyway.
To make the benefits clear, imagine the impact of one of your star business development people leaving the firm – taking with him not only all the deals he’s currently negotiating but also all the client relationships he’s spent years nurturing.
That couldn’t happen if there was a good CRM system in place to ensure that relationships are never the property of a single individual, but rather of the entire firm, with its knowledge of each client growing over time instead of needing to be built afresh whenever there’s a change of personnel.
CRM aims to reduce the firm’s reliance on stars as much as possible. When it works as it should, the system should embed best practice within the organisation so that everyone can perform at the highest level. It’s not a magic wand – and it will never work without the magic ingredient of genuine commitment to your customers, by all your employees – but it is an essential support for truly customer-oriented processes.
How does it provide that support? Firstly, by helping to ensure that marketing delivers real results. It delivers always-accurate customer information, the ability to measure the results of marketing efforts and the ability to generate leads by accurately analysing existing trends.
Secondly, CRM systems can help to automate the sales process by, for example, accurately capturing queries, tracking opportunities as they move between individuals and departments and monitoring close rates. Ideally, no opportunity should ever fall between the cracks.
Finally, good CRM helps to deliver a superb customer experience, cost effectively, by ensuring that information about each client’s history and preferences is never lost.
One of the critical benefits of new-wave CRM is that it can achieve all this without adding to anyone’s administrative burden. Instead of asking staff constantly to update a database they wouldn’t use otherwise, you make what they’re doing every day anyway – like sending emails or updating contacts in Outlook – build your customer data.
CRM systems are also now cost-effective for just about any business – our clients range in size from three to 3 000 users.
Good CRM is about collecting and organising all the information you have about your customers, then making it available to everyone in useful, value-creating ways. If you’re using CRM like this and not dramatically increasing your business, then software is not your problem.