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Q&A: Employee Engagement and Risk Management Are Critical in This Community Bank’s CRM Implementation Journey

Jan 30, 2019

In part two of our Q&A series, we sit down again with Jason Howard, chief financial officer (CFO) of First State Bank and Trust (FSBT). (Missed part one? Find it here.)

To recap, FSBT uses Wipfli Connect for Banking powered by Microsoft Dynamics 365. This robust CRM is designed for financial institutions to manage the total customer relationship and enhance the customer experience.

Today, we pick up the conversation to find out how the launch of the bank’s CRM solution is going so far. 

Q: What critical milestones did you hit leading up to the CRM launch?

A: “A few different milestones come to mind: The first was getting to the point where we felt confident to move forward with the CRM implementation. It involved meeting with the board, meeting with staff and finding that ‘appetite’ for change. We had several board meetings to really convey why we were making the investment in Microsoft Dynamics 365 — but we also had to secure that buy-in from our staff. 

“So, we decided to have a staff kickoff event. We hosted a live meeting, inviting roughly 45 FSBT managers and key staff who would be involved in using the CRM on a regular basis. We talked about the strategic direction of the bank, our roadmap for the future and how the CRM would play a critical role in our path forward. 

“Wipfli also participated in the meeting, explaining how they would help facilitate the process. Together, we reviewed the key values we uphold on a daily basis at FSBT and how those translated into the goals of our CRM implementation. We explained the importance of the system, what the implementation would entail and how it would benefit day-to-day work and customers.

“For instance, we broached the topic of relationship management across different business units. Several people may interact with a customer at any stage of the service process. We stressed how the CRM will further our mission to respect client relationships. The system isn’t intended for making cold calls because that doesn’t align with our values and could put a customer relationship at risk. Instead, associates can use the CRM to review key data about the customer, establish those service expectations and understand who should be in the loop when that customer is contacted. The kickoff event exposed staff to the CRM before we even engaged with Wipfli as our implementation partner. Those conversations put a lot of people at ease.”

Q: Did you have to change course at all?

A: “As part of our engagement with Wipfli, we met once a month, where we continually identified any challenges that had come up. We often did have to go back to drawing board to make revisions and modifications, both anticipated and unanticipated. That’s one key area the Wipfli team helped us navigate.

“The capabilities within Microsoft Dynamics 365 are so powerful; there is so much information that’s consolidated and presented in different ways. For instance, an associate can type in the name of one of our customers and immediately access information across all business units. That opened up additional discussions around ways we can restrict and secure customer data.

Q: What did the launch look like for your associates?

A: “On launch day, we collaborated with Wipfli to do an official rollout, where we walked staff through the whole process and previewed the system for them. You could look around the room and see people’s eyes light up when you typed a name into the system and it immediately populated the critical business information we’ve needed for so long. 

“At the same time, some people were nervous — there was true visibility for the first time over our customer base, which was a little overwhelming. As mentioned before, it was so important to us to communicate that the CRM isn’t a sales tool; it’s a tool to help all of us serve our customers better. It’s part of our strategic plan and vision.

“Concurrent with the launch, we also spent a lot of time working through the technology development piece — getting our technology to align with the needs of CRM, which meant moving to Office 365. That was a critical piece of the launch and our ability to use the CRM to its fullest capabilities.

“We were also cognizant about being strategic with the way we communicated the launch to our associates — we didn’t just rely on email communications and verbal word of mouth to engage people. We rolled out functionality to a group of beta users and will keep it that way for at least six weeks. And importantly, we set expectations with our associates that the system wouldn’t be 100% live and usable on day one. To implement it the right way and ensure total adoption, it has to be a gradual, step-by-step process. We want to get to a point where we can’t envision our standard business operations without the CRM.”

Q: What challenges have you faced so far?

A: “We definitely feel an urgency to keep the momentum going. During the staff kickoff event, and on launch day, there was a lot of excitement and energy in the room. Our associates were buzzing about all the ways the CRM is going to solve their problems and make their lives easier. But of course, like any technology rollout, there are still minor details to iron out — and one of them is devoting ample time to training. 

“For instance, we want our associates to have a full understanding of the system’s search capability and settings. We want our associates to understand that they have to put in time and energy to use the CRM and learn it, until they become super users themselves. We’re aware that if the system functionality gets too clunky too quickly, they’ll give it up. And we’ve been transparent and communicated to our associates that this is the biggest risk to adoption. If our beta users haven’t bought into the CRM and using it every day, it will be even more challenging to secure adoption from the next batch of users.

“The other piece is helping associates realize what they can do with it. We want them to get curious about the system and ask themselves, ‘Can I take this manual process and see if it makes sense to put it into the CRM? Let’s try it.’

Wipfli’s Connect for Banking solution offered a lot of good training resources that other financial institutions have leveraged. But outside of that, we’ve realized we need to start from square one with general Dynamics training. It’s a powerful tool, and we want to make the most of it. It will take a little bit of staff development, but we know the effort will be worth it.

“And finally, my biggest fear about the CRM implementation was the complexity of the data integration. I planned on spending most of the summer dealing with it, but Wipfli has actually been a big help in moving that effort forward. We were tasked with pulling data out of three disparate systems and combining it into Dynamics. We didn’t have the expertise to do it ourselves, and we couldn’t afford to hire a full-time employee to take care of it — we needed someone to figure it out behind the scenes. Wipfli had a lot of resources in that area we could draw on.”

Q: How did you encourage engagement and buy-in from your associates?

A: “Banking can be a stodgy business, so we wanted our staff to get excited about the possibilities of the CRM as a new, cutting-edge tool. To ramp up that engagement and excitement, we felt it was important for us to brand the system internally — so we named it ‘hub.’ We wanted a name that was both easy to recognize and say. Our staff even voted on their favorite names, and hub ended up being the winner!

“A hub is a gathering point, and that’s what we want our CRM to be. We’re trying to connect all of our business units, and this theme of connection and collaboration plays into the overall goal of the project.

“And, as I mentioned before, we’re really trying to integrate it into the strategic planning process. We’ll be tying hub adoption to our goal-setting process, especially when it comes to identifying more opportunities to help customers through additional services. For the first time ever, we have complete visibility over our total customer count.”

Q: What’s next on your CRM roadmap?

A: “In this next phase, our objective is to increase our number of beta users from six to 25. After we roll out hub to those 25 staff members, we’ll use the ‘train-the-trainer model’ for the next round of users.

“Just like we branded our CRM internally, we’re also working through branding exercises and trying to figure out how to communicate the initiative to our customers and prospects. We’re looking at more indirect efforts, such as leveraging data from hub to distribute more focused marketing. For example, we plan to use hub to identify the most relevant customers based on the subject matter and will take a more tailored approach to marketing events. We’ll be replacing legacy marketing systems and mining data in hub to better target our efforts overall and focus our marketing resources in the best-possible ways.

“We’re also working on integrating hub into our daily processes. We’ve created a list of several things our staff can complete in hub at any time — it’s not just a system for prospecting and business development. The system is constantly evolving with new and expanded customer information. We are encouraging our staff to share their customer knowledge in hub so our customers can receive the best possible experience when they work with any bank associate. If associates spend at least 15 minutes in the system every day completing at least one of those tasks, we’ll inch toward our goal of getting full adoption. We’ll eventually train our business development staff to keep track of basic discussions and conversations they’ve had with customers to facilitate more productive collaboration and touchpoints. Over time, hub will ultimately help them foster more personal relationships and provide better customer service. 

“And another major milestone is using hub to help our staff learn more about customers during times of transition. Our bank is 100 years old, and we have several long-time employees, some of whom will be retiring in the next few years. Hub will help ease those customer transitions and be a repository for helping us look at relationships beyond just financial transactions.

“All of these efforts will bring us to our end goal, which is full adoption across our entire organization. We’re just getting started!”

Thank you to Jason Howard of First State Bank and Trust for sharing his time and insight into launching a new CRM solution. Find out how Wipfli Connect for Banking can improve efficiency and enhance the customer experience at your financial institution. Contact us today.


Jason Muhlstein
National Regions Leader
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