It’s been 18 months since my company switched over to a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) phone system, and I’m really glad we did. This post tells you how your advisory firm can benefit from a VOIP system. I’m not going to pretend to have all the answers and your feedback about key issues can help the Advisors4Advisors community with VOIP decisions.
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Financial Advisory Firms Can Benefit By Switching To VOIP
The rewards of using a VOIP come in customer service, quality control, and monitoring employees. Advisor Products, the advisory firm marketing-technology company I founded in 1996, switched from a traditional analog phone system to a Fonality VOIP system in January 2009. Our IT Director, who had about 20 years of experience in running IT systems, chose Fonality after conducting a search of vendors and system options. I’ll tell you more about our Fonality experience in another post but will focus below on the benefits of switching.
Integrating VOIP With CRM
Advisor Products has its own proprietary web-based CRM system. Our engineers started building our CRM in 1999 before open source CRMs like Sugar were available. All of our workflows are embedded in our CRM and the system is so elaborate that switching to an open source system at this point would be counter-productive.
Though we are using our own proprietary CRM, it was fairly easy to integrate it with our VOIP phone system because our CRM is web-based. In fact, integrating your VOIP system with any open source or popular web-based CRM should be easier than it was for Advisor Products to integrate with its proprietary CRM because any popular web-based CRM comes with Application Program Interfaces for hooking your VOIP system to the CRM. That’s where the gains come into play.
Recording Customer Calls
Using the VOIP system, Advisor Products now record all customer calls. This is a great feature for any advisory firm to use.
When a customer calls or when our staff calls a customer, the caller ID system kicks in. When a phone number is recognized, then the call recording is automatically saved in the client’s folder in our CRM system. If a phone number is not recognized, the Advisor Products staff member who made or received the call is prompted to associate the unidentified number with a client in the CRM. Below is a screen shot of how the calls are saved in the Advisor Products/AdvisorSites CRM.
Advisory firms who adopt a VOIP system would be wise to integrate the system to record all customer calls. When your staff knows that all of their call are recorded, it makes clear that management expects great service. We’ve seen steady improvements in client service in the last couple of years, and I’m sure that recording all client calls has been a big factor.
Keeping Clients Honest
Recording client calls not only keeps your employees honest, but it also keeps customers honest. Especially in tough economic times, customers are prone to saying you promised them one thing and then did another. Being able to tell a client that we did not promise to build his website in two weeks, and that we have a recording of the call, can come in handy. Being able to listen to recorded calls can help you resolve customer disputes and learn from your mistakes.
Recording And Barging Calls Enables Employee Training
In addition to recording calls for listening on-demand later, a VOIP phone system allows designated individuals in your company to “barge” calls. I can listen to any employee calls real-time without the employee knowing.
Being able to listen to your sales or service team provides important training opportunities. For instance, I recently listened a junior salesperson repeatedly interrupt our prospects. He thought that selling meant talking.
After listening to my junior salesperson on a few calls, I urged him to stop interrupting prospects and listen carefully to what their problems are. He learned a valuable lesson and would have otherwise just kept making the same mistake if not for the convenience of the barge feature.
An Advisor Products employee recently decided to move to South America but wanted to continue to work for the company remotely. We were able to restructure our relationship to make it mutually beneficial. He’s on our internal intercom system. He can handle client calls when needed. We can transfer calls to him and vice versa. He’s tied into our Virtual Private Network and can see all of the files on our local servers. He remains helpful to the company, but he happens to work in another country.
To make a company great, you must expect employees to put in a lot of extra effort. Any business owners knows that you can’t make a company great if your staff is unwilling to put in an extra effort. That means occasionally making themselves available on weekends or nights. But you cannot ask employees to be flexible like that unless you are willing return the favor.
Using a VOIP system allows employees to meet family obligations while still serving your company well. One employee might have a babysitting issue, while another might need to stay at home to care for a spouse. Being able to allow employees with special needs to work from home occasionally makes your company more humane and employees appreciate it. It’s a great employee benefit if used judiciously.
Advisory Firms Should Switch To VOIP
Businesses can get great benefits by going with a VOIP system. But I don’t know how many advisory firms have made the switch, what their experience is, and which providers are best. I’ll tell you more about my firm’s experience with Fonality in another post but would like you to tell me your thoughts on VOIP.
Have you switched to a VOIP system? Are you considering doing it? What providers have you used? Are you hosting it yourself or using a hosted service? What problems did you run into?
Please share your thoughts to help your colleagues using Advisors4Advisors.