Advising Consistency

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When it comes to large-scale CRM rollouts, few organizations can boast of higher user-adoption rates than those seen by financial services company Raymond James Financial (RJF). The secret to RJF’s success? Developing a system based on stakeholders’ input.

For starters, says Brian Balboni, RJF’s technology product manager, an RJF advisor needs to know her clients or prospects on more than just a first-name basis. “A lot of our functionality is based upon the present demographic and preference traits of clients and prospects,” Balboni says, “rather than strict data-driven values.”

Demographic information could include how many children a client has and where they attend school. An advisor might even include such attributes as where a prospect likes to play golf, or whether a client attended the firm’s annual wine-tasting event. Sure, an advisor could easily type that kind of information into RJF’s existing contact management program, but the advisor couldn’t then retrieve it when needed most, as in the middle of a client phone call. The impact on productivity was obvious.

“What the users seem to be really attracted to is simple, fast information at their fingertips,” Balboni says. For that, RJF needed a more-integrated, enterprisewide version of contact management, says Josh Bohlander, RJF’s senior manager of technology product management. His department tried building that CRM solution itself, but ultimately sought outside help, selecting CRM consultancy ISM. 

With ISM’s assistance, the company chose to move forward with Microsoft Dynamics CRM (MDCRM). The solution would import all of RJF’s contact data and was configurable with other Microsoft programs the company regularly uses, such as Microsoft Visual Studio. (RJF is also a Microsoft shop in terms of its servers, but its enterprise resource planning is all run via mainframe, which Bohlander says is unusual among Dynamics users.) 

In spring 2007, RJF began rolling out 2,300 MDCRM seats in its St. Petersburg, Fla., headquarters and in affiliate offices nationwide. RJF decided to make participation optional for advisors, and yet thousands of them were soon signing up for training. Bohlander explains that those choosing not to adopt MDCRM likely had another contact management system in place and didn’t see a pressing need to change. 

At the start of the deployment, Balboni was brought on board to aid in adoption and technical support. The process involved everything from e-learning and hands-on classes to consultations at conferences and emailed best practices. Balboni says that, because the solution is opt-in, the CRM implementation team was forced to demonstrate its value in great detail. “We don’t push this on anyone,” he says. “So it has to be very compelling and very clear.” Luckily, Balboni says, the MDCRM system offers what he calls a wide swath of functionality.

On the other hand, that robustness comes with a tradeoff: Because the solution had to meet the needs of all the financial advisors, education is a bit more complex. The RJF technology department and support staff has to handhold on a variety of processes in order to identify the nuggets of value for each user. 

“The key to adoption is the follow-up,” Balboni insists. Whether RJF is training brand-new advisors on MDCRM or helping more-sophisticated users get full mileage out of the solution, each advisor gets what Balboni calls “intensive care” for at least 90 days. 

In fact, RJF has a small team of people devoted to answering support phone calls about CRM. 

“Giving answers quickly gives [users] more confidence to learn and keep moving forward,” Balboni says. “That has been the single greatest impact on our adoption success.” Bohlander adds that CRM is consistently one of the hot-button technologies among RJF’s advisors. “People want guidance in how to use it and how to talk to people,” he says. 

Soon after the implementation, RJF’s technology department configured the contact grouping within MDCRM, allowing users to rank and map accounts according to characteristics other than dollar value. “The ability to create mappings and groups of your clients and prospects allows you to see them quickly and in context, rather than in a strict sales context,” Balboni says. An advisor might choose to map his clients according to geography, or even by favorite baseball team.

RJF also automated many of its sales processes, such as contact creation, and added configured workflows that now aid advisors in common situations. After an advisor creates a record for a new prospect, for example, MDCRM prompts the advisor to follow up via email, then to schedule a call, and later to schedule a lunch meeting. 

Most critical, Balboni says, are the workflows that have been enabled to cover meeting preparation. “The ability to have a shock-and-awe effect when [prospective clients] walk in an office...has a tremendous impact with clients,” he notes. 

Many companies think CRM-related automation offers little more than mail merges and marketing campaign management; for RJF, it’s about adding ease and knowledge to recurring processes. 

Now, more than three years after the initial rollout, RJF has upped its MDCRM seat licenses to 5,000. “We’ve been happy with the numbers, and we expect they’ll continue to grow and trend upward,” Bohlander says. “Use of the system continues to grow, as well.” 

The more employees use the system, the more integral it becomes to their day-to-day activities. Balboni and Bohlander attribute some of the strong CRM uptake to in-house projects built to complement the solution. “If you’re paying close attention to service requests, that’s the voice of the user telling you what to do with your training,” Balboni says. 

One of the strengths of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Balboni points out, is its highly configurable platform and ease in setting up processes and customizing workflows and forms. “Not having to write code is a big deal to us,” he says. “The time-to-market is much lower.”

Most of the requests for changes in the system now come from advisor support conversations and feedback data. The product managers say they talk to advisors every day about various CRM use cases. Those conversations enable RJF to create new applications that the users not only need, but love. With the majority of adoption woes under its belt, the company is now able to spend some time developing around specific productivity areas such as client reporting.

In the spring of 2009, more than 3,000 RJF users upgraded from Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 to the newly released 4.0 version. RJF also debuted a feature it calls Quick Notes, a Web page that an advisor can launch from her desktop to quickly parse the system’s CRM data to help identify—and respond to—a client’s needs with ease. When answering a call, she can quickly search the person’s name and pull up relevant notes from previous interactions—fostering an ongoing conversation. 

“We have a good product, one we continue to evolve and make better,” Bohlander says. “And from the customer perspective, the advisor and branch professional has a much better memory of what’s going on. Overall, that will lead to better service.”


Company: Raymond James Financial

Founded: 1962

Industry: Financial Services

Original CRM Implementation: Microsoft Dynamics CRM, after 20 years of Act! and some home-grown contact management

Go-Live Date: 2007

Any Subsequent Updates: Upgraded to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 in spring 2009, expanding to 5,000 seats


Since implementing Microsoft Dynamics CRM in 2007, Raymond James Financial has:

  • expanded the rollout of CRM to 5,000 financial advisors nationwide;
  • enabled those advisors to pursue a more-personal approach to sales;
  • wrapped automation around sales processes and contact creation so advisors interact seamlessly with clients;
  • customized the solution to add flavor and depth to sales force automation;
  • dedicated an entire team to making sure adoption and software uptake is smooth and beneficial; and
  • shown the uncommon benefits of making CRM participation opt-in rather than a requirement.

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