The Human Factor in Technology Implementation
Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.
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We recently invested in a new CRM system for our office. The process to create an RFP, identify the right vendors to participate and select the one that fit our firm was long and arduous. We know we need to be using the system for every touchpoint with a client. The problem is that many of our advisors are old-school. They keep paper folders with client information and have a lot of their follow-ups on a spreadsheet. The system we chose is user friendly and we’ve had two training sessions before implementation with the vendor.
How do we teach our old dogs new tricks? How do we get people to embrace this system and understand the value to our advisory firm? I think people want easy access to information, so I don’t get the resistance.
I’m curious what involvement everyone in the firm had in crafting the RFP or selecting the system? Do your advisors think this is being foisted on them instead of feeling they were part of the decision-making process? It’s natural for people to resist change – anything that upsets the status quo is cause for pause. Even without technology, most people develop some sort of “system.” It might not be the most organized or effective but it is still their system. Keep in mind you are asking them to abandon what they’ve used and move to the unknown.
Now I’m not saying to avoid change and stop progress! Of course you need to move to an electronic capture of your information. This is important and necessary on many fronts. I’m just asking you to be sensitive to the reaction you are getting.
The piece most firms miss in thinking about implementing new technology is the human factor. Just because the system makes sense, doesn’t mean the team is going to obviously understand why and how they should embrace it. For this reason, there are a few things you probably want to consider:
- Do you have a clear process for using the system that everyone understands? I’m hoping, given the amount of time and effort you put into selecting the system, that you also thought about how best to use it. There are a number of strong CRM systems but many are more powerful than the average advisor needs. For this reason, you want to make sure you are guiding the vendor to provide only what you need. Be sure you have a process that aligns with the way your team does business. Review this and make sure it is clear – and understood – and that the system supports their daily work.
- Has the training been specific to your firm and your needs? You mentioned two trainings but you say these were before implementation. I’ve sat through many a vendor training that was very high level and generic and not that helpful for the firm once the “real” system was in place. Query your group on what’s confusing about the system, what they need a refresher on and then work with the vendor to develop a customized training for your team – or find a person internal to you who can be a “super user” and train on an ongoing basis.
- Does everyone understand the reason for the system and the importance to the business? Don’t assume that just because the need for a CRM is clear to you and me, and maybe some others in the firm, that it is crystal clear to your advisors. Remember this means more work for them in the short term, so take the time to show them how this will improve the business overall. For example, show them how the system allows others to handle a client inquiry when they are on vacation (because all of the information is tracked), serve a compliance need for capturing client information and so on. There are so many reasons for having a CRM; be sure you are conveying them.
- Do your advisors think they are losing something? In many cases the one “safety” for an advisor is knowing their clients better than anyone else in the firm. You may be dealing with people who want to hang on to those folders because information is power. You might need to address this head on and let them know nothing is being taken away from them (if in fact, that’s true) and that this is to enhance their position with their clients allowing them to be more responsive and to capture even deeper information.
In short, don’t take anything for granted here. I know it might seem obvious to you, but if you want this to work effectively and you don’t want to be fighting an uphill battle for many months (or even years), I encourage you to re-examine your approach.
Are other advisors experiencing the hot potato this current political administration can be? We have two clients who are literally asking our advisors whether they support the current administration or not and – if they do – threatening to take their wealth management elsewhere. How do you respond to a threat like this? We do not promote our political views but we do have them. I hesitate to push my advisors to respond and be honest but I also know we can’t ignore a direct threat like this. What are others doing?
This has come up before in my column and I understand the political climate gets more interesting every day. I have some advisors who are very vocal about their views and talk openly with their clients. Others are loath to get into these discussions. I don’t think you can avoid directly answering, but I might answer with something like “We don’t believe our political views impact our ability to work on your behalf to help you meet your financial goals” or something like that. Personally if you don’t agree with these clients, you are probably going to lose them at some point and if you do agree with them, just saying so sounds like a win for your firm. I’m interested in what other readers are finding and whether they are confronting this same situation. We welcome insights on the topic!
Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995. In 2008, she co-founded Advisors Trusted Advisor to offer dedicated practice management resources to advisors, planners and wealth managers. She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate students Leadership & Social Responsibility. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).
She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.