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Courtney Babiak

Episode 44: How to Improve Your Customer Experience Process, with Courtney Babiak

Before entering the financial planning industry, Courtney worked in City government for the duration of her career in Human Resources. Courtney has been in the financial industry since 2012 and joined the Troxell Financial team in 2016 in which she creates, maintains and enhances the ongoing operations and project management within the firm as well as serving her individual clients. She is devoted to helping her clients and the Troxell Financial team, envision their goals and develop a plan and process to pursue them. Courtney specializes in financial planning for women and special needs planning.

Courtney is married and lives in Springfield, IL with her husband Mike and two children Lillian and Bennett. While Courtney is not working with clients and spending time with her family, she enjoys exercising, reading, volunteering with United Cerebral Palsy and most of all, the outdoors, especially by the water.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Customer experience processes that can foster better relationships
  • How to grow a business through referrals without spending too much on marketing
  • Standing out from the pack but focusing on service and finding your niche
  • Using the most robust CRM system possible to grow your business
  • Managing massive systems through technological automation
  • Coordinating data entry and analytics across your operations divisions
  • Empowering client-facing team members with the most comprehensive systems
  • Focusing your time well and working to staff strengths
  • Using good systems to enhance client relationships

Ways to contact Courtney:

Podcast eBooks:

The Power of Two

Episodes 1, 2 and 3 collide to bring you summary of lessons learned and systems created around Vision and Key Initiatives that help drive success to companies and businesses.

The Transition to Automation

In Episode 25, Vera talks with Heidi Rasmussen, CEO and Co-Founder of one of Inc 5000’s fastest growing companies in America – freshbenies. This eBook highlights part of the conversation to bring out the best lesson in automation and on-boarding for startups.

Using IT Strategically

In Episode 29, Vera talks with Tom Grooms, Vice President, Information Technology, and Chief Information Officer for CF Industries. This eBook is your guide for seeing IT as more than just a faster way to do your accounting.

The ZFactor Methodology

In Episode 35, Vera talks with Cindy Goldsberry, founder and partner of ZFactor Group. This eBook shows you how to take your business from vendor to value creator.


Welcome to System Execution, the strategy and system behind today’s successful companies. Systems can make or break your company, but here we’ll solve the physical, technological and physiological systems issues by connecting you with experts that are succeeding in overcoming those challenges in their own business and providing you the guidelines and tools you need to implement those same strategies for immediate results.

Now, here’s your host, Vera Fischer.

Vera Fischer: Today’s episode is sponsored by 97 Degrees West, the brand marketing agency located in Austin, Texas. 97 Degrees West serves regional and national companies in the healthcare, finance, energy and manufacturing industries. 97 Degrees West believes that an integrated approach to marketing that involves traditional and digital strategies, that fit your customers buying journey, yields the greatest impact on your bottom line. Go to www.97dwest.com to learn more.

Welcome to System Execution, a podcast devoted to using processes and systems to drive to a better outcome for your business. I’m Vera Fischer, your host. Many of you know that business success relies on systems. Systems can be a physical aspect, such as a warehouse or a factory, they can be technological, think software, and others are psychological systems, such as checklist or charts, or your daily hot list.

My guest today is the Chief Operating Officer and Wealth Advisor of Troxell Financial, Courtney Babiak. Before entering the financial planning industry, Courtney worked in city government with the duration of her career in Human Resources. Courtney’s been in the financial industry since 2012 and joined the Troxell Financial team in 2016, where she creates, maintains and enhances the ongoing operations and project management within the firm, as well as serving her individual clients. She’s devoted to helping her clients at the Troxell Financial team, help them envision their goals, develop a plan and process to pursue those goals. Courtney specializes in financial planning for women and special needs planning.

Welcome to System Execution, Courtney.

Courtney Babiak: Welcome, thank you. I’m so excited to be here.

More on Courtney’s Background

Vera Fischer: Well, Courtney, it is so good to have you on the show and I’m really excited to talk to you about your customer experience process in a few minutes. But if you don’t mind, my listeners would really appreciate hearing more about you and your experience.

Courtney Babiak: Vera, I got into the financial advising industry about five years ago. I’ve always had more of an operational background and operational drive. The duration of my career, like you said, was in Human Resources, prior to getting into this industry and really what I like to do is take ideas and concepts and execute them. A lot of people have great ideas and they talk, but sometimes things don’t come to fruition because we don’t get things written down and there’s no action. I really like to take actions.

So as well as helping the client base, as you’ve mentioned, to women and special needs planning, that’s kind of something personal that I’m very passionate about. I have a younger sister with cerebral palsy and that’s what drove me to get into the financial advising industry. And it’s been great to have a twofold role here to use my expertise as far as operationally and systems and execution, as well as serving my own client base.

Vera Fischer: Well, Courtney that’s a very unique proposition. I can tell you that, in my experience with System Execution’s podcast, as well as my own work experience, I’ve never come across a financial planner, wealth manager that focuses on special needs. I think that’s really interesting.

Courtney Babiak: And that’s why I really wanted to focus on it. You don’t know what you don’t know until you know type of thing. And so becoming a financial advisor and speaking with my mother on the needs we had with my sister, I teamed up with a local attorney in town who specializes in special needs trusts and planning as well. So we tag teamed on that and educating parents of children with special needs, so that they do know, so they don’t get stuck on the situation. It fulfills my philanthropic side of myself and getting out in the community as well, and serving a purpose.

How to Improve Your Organization’s Customer Experience Process

Vera Fischer: Courtney, I’m really excited to talk to you about this customer experience process. This will be something listeners … we’ve had just one or two people speak to this topic, so this should be very enlightening. So, Courtney, why don’t you take it away and start us off?

Courtney Babiak: Yeah. We call our customer experience process our love affair marketing program. Really our client base grows through referrals. We don’t do much marketing, we really like to bring in clients that are similar to the client base that we have. And something that we realized is really needed to execute that experience that they have and make an impression. Make their experience memorable with us, and show them that we are different from other firms. There’s plenty of financial advisors and multi management firms, even in Springfield, Illinois. Every other block there’s a couple. We really wanted to show how we can set ourselves apart. So giving our clients that Ritz Carlton type field, making them realize that we do understand them on a personal level type of relationship, what we feel very strongly about. We don’t view them as just clients. We view them as relationships.

For example, we want to make sure that we have their drink of choice when they come in. We want to make sure that we’re up to date on their family. If something important is happening in their lives, we want to make sure to capture that. We’re not going to be able to it for everybody, but we try to do it for most and being aware, and having those conversations with our clients, and then having conversations internally and documenting the process that we’ll be able to pull that off really helps. Having good communication with our clients and internally with our staff is really number one in what makes us to be able to pull this off.

Vera Fischer: So, Courtney, was this in place when you joined the firm? Or is this something that you’ve created?

Courtney Babiak: It was in it’s infancy when it started, when I started. They already had a process in place. We’ve got the idea from a coaching company that we had used and we just went away with it. And tried to really get that wow factor in. Where I’ve kind of come into play is going above and beyond that 30-year anniversary. And going above and beyond that milestone birthday whereas somebody maybe having a new baby, so we send them food over, or a new house, and we send them pizza that day that they’re moving in, so that they have food. So it’s not just happy birthday card and it’s really trying to get them something that is meaningful to them. And that’s what we really try to document when our clients come in for orientation, to make sure that we know what their likes and dislikes are. What their favorite wine is, who their favorite sports teams are.

For example, for somebody’s got a new office, we sent them a picture of their favorite baseball team stadium. All of them stand within compliance, as well. That’s unique to the financial advising industries. We are tied to very strict compliance rules, so being able to execute this, some within compliance, and really making an impression on our clients.

Vera Fischer: Do you have to put this process through compliance to get approval?

Courtney Babiak: No, not necessarily, but we have a dollar limit that we can spend per client, per year. We just need to make sure we don’t exceed that and we do have to … we have to document it. So we can spend over x amount per person, but we also have client events, as well, that plays into our love affair marketing because it’s something that we think it’s important, that our clients are educated. We don’t have events that are, we have no sales events. All of our events … for example, this last year we’ve had a market update, we’ve had an event on Social Security and Medicare. We took a hard look at our age base or our clients to see what was important. Also, in what would be relevant. We survey our clients after events and give them options of what would be of interest to them. We also have a 401(k) side of our business, as well. So we had a special event for 401(k) trustees and sponsors where they could learn more about different rules and regulations, some HR functionalities.

Again, trying to be experts in the field, as well as staying on top of everything and making sure that our clients are educated on things that are of importance to them, as well.

Why a CRM is Crucial to Organizing Information in Business

Vera Fischer: So, Courtney, it seems there’s a lot of moving pieces and parts to this. People are unique, so there are events in their lives are unique … how do you keep track of all that information?

Courtney Babiak: Very good CRM, so technology. We use a very robust CRM, which can be frightening at some point because there is so much functionality of it that none of us are IT people in here. So we’re building on our systems and we’re relying on others to help us. So, really what’s important for us to do is come up with ideas and document that, write that down, as far as the flows and the systems and what we want in there. So we want to make sure that we have ability to document what our clients likes and dislikes are. Just set out actions for us to send us reminders of when the special events are going to come and what they’re going to do. The ability to review our notes in one centralized area, so everyone on the staff can view and put input into it, as well as giving us a direct line of communication besides, between our client relationship manager and the advisors within our company, so that everybody is on the same page. And those are clients at that deep level as well. So it’s important for us … we really function as a team.

Some advising firms have multiple advisors, are siloed, and we really like to take the firm approach, which sometimes can throw complexities into it, where you have too many chiefs. So that’s been an issue that we’ve had, that may be one of the obstacles, and we tried to get rid of so we really identified who’s responsible for certain tasks. And I think that’s really helped. So documenting, writing it down. Trial and error. You’re going to have trial and error, you’re not going to be perfect the first time you try and do something. But just to sit down and brainstorm it, and think things all the way through, instead of being just reactionary. I have a great idea, so I’m going to do it this one time. We want to make sure that that is something that we can replicate on an ongoing basis. Having that documentation, having that CRM system where we can input these things. Outflows that are automated, that send it out so we don’t have to think, in two weeks, “Oh, shoot, I need a follow up.” Or, “Wait a minute. Was it so and so’s birthday? What birthday was it?”

We have a process in place where we have those task set out even years in advance, so we’re aware of that. We’re having conversations with our clients, we make sure to see of they have any trips planned. Some people have … we had a 35th wedding anniversary, for example, and we talked to our clients, and they were going to Las Vegas. They told us when, we knew the hotel they were staying at, so we sent them a bottle of wine for their anniversary with a nice card to show up at their hotel. And they posted it on Facebook and to all their friends, so that’s almost marketing for our firm stating, “Look how great these people are. They really care about me.”

How Courtney and Her Team Selected a CRM

Vera Fischer: That’s the best type of marketing that you can get, is that word of mouth and then great review, if you will. The CRM system, was that something that through the trial and error, that you realized it as a team that you needed? Or was it something that was already in place?

Courtney Babiak: I think in our industry, you’re going … almost have to have one. But the functionality and how big you want to go. There’s a baseline CRM that’s going to track your compliance stated and your client information but we really wanted to go above and beyond that, to have the ability to really, again, automate our systems. Because if we can … it’s going to take time upfront, I think you have to understand that to get your systems in place, of what you want to do, but ideally the end game is to have that system set up to where it freeze up your time, so you do have time to really sit and meet with your clients, and get to know them and maybe work on other projects. The goal is to really have the ability to have things automated as much as possible. And today with the technology world it is possible, but making sure that all the pieces fit in a puzzle can sometimes get tricky.

We went with more robust version, top of the line, that we could get so we could build in on these systems. So we could execute and pull off what we really wanted to pull off. With having 400 clients plus, as well as 401(k), 30 to 40 401(k)plans and making sure they were hitting on all the people the way that we need to, that’s really something that we needed. So we did upgrade several years ago to this new system, which, again, has caused a little bit of headache, just because it is so complex. But under seeing in the end that it’s going to benefit us as a company and that our client base as well.

Vera Fischer: So, Courtney, does everyone in your firm utilize this tool? Is everyone responsible for inputting information?

Courtney Babiak: Yes, everybody is responsible and that’s something that we feel to taking in some time as far as … our client relationship manager, she’s the one that schedules all of our appointments. She’s the one that sets all of our meetings, schedules the conference room out. Because what was happening, and as others were getting into it and filling things halfway out, so then that in turn was hampering the way our system’s supposed to work. So we’ve talked about and I pushed that on to where our client relationship manager, she’s the one that handles that. So we make sure that it’s put in there correctly, it’s tied to the right person and that everything runs seamlessly.

But something else, I can send a task to another employee and he can track that. Not something that’s also big in our industries, being able to track the progress of certain things and what you’re doing. I’m even being able to document around reports, as far as meeting with clients, when you’re meeting, what are you discussing, so yes, everybody is involved. As far as the operations people, myself, operations manager and our client relationship manager are the ones that are the bulk users of it, get to send things out to myself, some of the other advisors. So it’s something that everybody works on internally. But certain people know what portions of it they can touch and not touch.

Vera Fischer: I think that’s really important with any type of a system or a process, is you have to make sure that certain people can do a lot more than others.

Courtney Babiak: Right. And that’s why I think really identifying who is in charge of certain projects or certain aspects of using that CRM, or anything, in the business, for that matter, is what’s really important. Because if you did locate efforts, number one, that’s taking time away, and there may be one staff member that stronger in one area and that’s where you want them to focus their time. And they’re going to get it done in a more concise manner than somebody that maybe isn’t strong in that area and could be focusing on something else.

Mistakes that Were Made When Implementing the Improved Customer Experience Process

Vera Fischer: So, Courtney, have you ever had a mess up, where something was sent, just curious, that wasn’t the right day or something of that nature?

Courtney Babiak: We did. We had a, in this very silly, but they had a meeting, they delete it, and we have ongoing meetings. So what it did is deleted the whole series, so then … every Monday we have a certain meeting and so next Monday nobody thought that there was a meeting. But thankfully was just internally and we were able to go in and fix it. And again, there’s at least two of us that are pretty savvy that could go in, just find it and get it back up. It wasn’t that big of a deal, but there has been. And again, that’s people going in and doing things that they shouldn’t. So that’s a good reminder to, “Why don’t you work on this and well focus on that?”

Vera Fischer: Exactly. Well, I think the intention of recognizing your client’s special events in their lives it’s such a simple idea. But the execution of it can get really complicated when you’re getting into the hundreds of clients and you’re tracking all this information and staying within compliance. It really has to be a commitment from within the entire organization.

Courtney Babiak: Right. And I would say our client relationship manager, that probably takes up 80% of her time.

Vera Fischer: And she’s full time?

Courtney Babiak: And she’s full time. And that is making sure that the advisor is giving you the information of what they’ve talked about in the meeting. Not just giving you an investment objective and personal financial situations that come up. What did you discussed in your meeting, personally, so that that’s something that we can document and think about of what we can do to go above and beyond. So that is, it is hard to pull off but I think if you have the commitment to do so in here. And we have a lot of creative people in this office. So I think that helps too. Everybody is really committed to the art of wow. Again, our client base was build on referrals and that’s what we strongly believe in. And we don’t really do much marketing, we don’t do any mailings. Besides doing our seminars or educational events that we have, we don’t send anything out to people we don’t know. We just have our clients, they’re more than welcome to bring families, friends, guests, to that.

So, again, that’s really the foundation of our business and our business model. And it’s worked out for us, because I came from another firm, prior to be here, and we heard people talking about referral, referral, referral, and we just had a different client base. We hadn’t built that reputation with our clients by having such a robust love affair marketing client experience relationship with them. So it was different. It’s not something that’s easily done or easily pulled off.

Vera Fischer: But is that consistency that really gets you to the finish line, if you will. You guys have been consistent over a long period of time with that commitment.

Courtney Babiak: Yeah, and it’s something that we really have to think about, because once you start doing something, you have to keep doing it. You can’t somebody a birthday card and then decide, “We’re not gonna do birthday cards anymore.”

Vera Fischer: Right.

Courtney Babiak: I mean, you’re going to think, “What I did wrong?” Or, “Am I not important to them enough?” Something as silly as that. You have to think it through. Again, we’ve had great ideas, but can we pull it off? And is it something that we’re going to be able to stick with are the questions we need to ask ourselves as a firm, before we execute. Because otherwise that’s something that we’re going to have to continue doing. Or we’re not doing our jobs right.

Vera Fischer: Exactly. And I would’ve imagined that Springfield is not that big of a town, so word will get around.

Courtney Babiak: Right. Right. It’s what we joke, it’s one of the biggest small towns around. Everybody has six degrees of separation. Somebody knows somebody that knows you. So your reputation and how you treat people is very, very key.

Courtney and Her Team’s Next Challenge

Vera Fischer: Well, Courtney, the information that you’re … you shared with us surrounding your customer experience process and system has been really educational. To wrap up our discussion, let’s talk about what your next challenge is.

Courtney Babiak: Our next challenge is, again, the technology type thing. We have a … we’re really trying to get our heads wrapped around all of our practice metrics. We’re certainly unique and we have a full book of business as far as the 401(k), retirement part of the business goes, as well as our individual site.

So kind of pulling that together, making sure that we’re spending time doing the cost benefit analysis and that we’re able to accurately pull that information together, to make sure that we’re operating, spending times in the areas that we need to. The next step is to make sure we’re putting data in the places that we want to, automating as much as possible, getting away from using Excel spreadsheets to track things, because anybody knows you could go in and accidentally mess up a formula or delete something. And we have … our system is whatever, but we can get to it, so I could go into somebody else spreadsheet not knowing what I’m doing and then it gets thrown off.

So having something concrete and something that we can pull from that’s accurate is vital. Trying that different scenarios and how we can best do that, whether it be our current system that we use for a broker/dealer or, again, using our CRM in a different capacity as well. We do some tracking but maybe looking in going to a more enhanced version of that, because that really is the nucleus of our business. That’s something that we can pull off, if that’s what we want to do. And we want to be able to make sure, as we grow, and we’re trying to grow, that we’re doing it in the right areas and doing at the right way.

Vera Fischer: Courtney, you’ve shown us that processes are needed to get the work done and have provided a few of the nuances that our listeners need to hear, regarding the execution of a successful system. So, Courtney, before we go, let’s close out today’s discussion with any final advice you want to share, anything we might’ve missed. And then tell us the best way we can connect with you.

Courtney Babiak: I think the best advice that I have is to just write it down and think it through. Don’t be in a rush to get things done. Just because something is a good idea, doesn’t necessarily mean that you could pull it off. Make sure you have the capacity to be able to pull it off and move forward. There’s always going to be trial and error, so don’t get discouraged. Keep trying to … keep plugging away and once you get those systems in place, it may be painful in the beginning, but it will be worth at the end, for sure.

The best way to contact me is via e-mail. Courtney.babiak@truxellfinancial.com you can also view or website, www.truxellfinancial.com. Thank you so much, Vera.

Vera Fischer: System Execution fans, no matter how many notes took or how often you re-listen to this episode, remember: every successful business use systems to drive to a better outcome.

Courtney, it’s been great to have you on the show and thank you for sharing your insight with System Execution listeners.

Courtney Babiak: Thanks for having me.

We hope you found this episode of System Execution on how to improve your customer experience process to be enlightening. For free examples, case studies, eBooks and more, be sure to visit systemexecution.com/resources. Contribute to the conversation by reaching out to Vera directly on email at vera@systemexecution.com. Until our next episode, thank you for the privilege of your time.




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