Today, we’re going to take a quick look at scheduling, a fundamental feature of a financial services CRM solution. It’s a necessity, however, many companies only give a few cursory questions about it in most RFPs we see. It’s a mistake to assume that all scheduling is alike. There are plenty of options within scheduling that can enrich your users’ lives, foster collaboration, and encourage user adoption. Here’s a quick list of capabilities we think companies should be looking for in their CRM’s scheduling feature:

  1. Can users view the schedules of others within the company? This makes booking meetings faster and easier.
  2. Can users restrict the visibility of schedule items, if desired, to themselves alone or to a specified group? Not everything needs to be shared. If you’re going to allow visibility into schedules, you need to let users limit who can see some items.
  3. Does the solution provide configurable team scheduling to provide a single view of all team activities? Collaboration comes more naturally when it’s fast and easy for groups of users to share a single view of all activities for a client, opportunity, campaign, etc.
  4. Can schedule items be linked with clients as well as users? With teams, opportunities, campaigns, or other entities? This is a game-changer in terms of productivity and client-centricity because it eliminates duplicate data input and enables a one-click view of every meeting, call, event, or review that occurs across the enterprise with a client.
  5. Does it integrate with Microsoft Exchange and synchronize contacts, schedule items, and tasks bi-directionally, in real-time? Features like scheduling are only as effective as their usage. For maximum adoption, you need to make it as easy as possible for users to accomplish their goals wherever they are, whenever they want. With real-time, bi-directional integration, users can book meetings, create follow-up tasks, etc. on their mobile and immediately see it in their CRM solution (And vice versa, of course.)
  6. Is the Exchange synchronization server-side or client-side? This is a game-changer for companies.

This last point is a significant differentiator that delivers two benefits, so let’s talk about that in more detail. Server-side integration with Microsoft Exchange is something we’ve been doing for years at NexJ and we can’t stress the benefits enough. Essentially, with server-side Exchange integration, there is no software to be installed on the user’s desktop or mobile device. No memory space taken up on your users’ phones, no reliance on your employees to run upgrades in a timely fashion, and no need to waste your users’ productive time waiting for upgrades to download. The beauty of server-side integration is that functionality updates to the synchronization engine occur invisibly behind-the-scenes – everyone is on the same version at all times, without disruption. More importantly, Exchange does not have to be running for schedule synchronization to occur, as it does for most client-side synchronization. This avoids the network spikes that can impact responsiveness when large groups of users power on at the same time, such as first-thing Monday morning.

Did I miss any scheduling differentiators? Message me or comment below. As always, I appreciate discussion from stakeholders across the industry.