Less than 20% of financial advisors believe their firms are doing the most they can with customer relationship management (CRM) technology, according to a survey released Wednesday by Schwab Advisor Services.

But advisory firms are improving how they use CRM systems, which have great potential for building business and relationships for financial advisors, says Neesha Hathi, senior vice president of technology solutions for Schwab Advisor Services, who participated in a Twitter exchange with advisors on the subject.

Only 17.9 percent of the 1,608 independent advisors surveyed gave a grade of "A" to their firms for their use of CRM technology, while 72 percent gave their firms "B" or "C" grades. The numbers indicate there is quite a ways to go before CRM technology is used to its fullest capacity, says Schwab.

CRM systems are most often used to store client contact information, say 98 percent of financial advisors surveyed. The next most-cited function was  preparing and sending client communications (61 percent of advisors surveyed), followed by assigning tasks to others in the firm and tracking task completion (58 percent).

"This means advisors are barely scratching the surface when it comes to putting CRM to work for their businesses to streamline processes, increase efficiencies and deliver higher levels of client service and satisfaction," Schwab says.

While nearly 84 percent think their firms have the right technology in place, 25 percent think more education and training would increase usage and 28 percent think having a better understanding of their CRM's capabilities would help them make better use of it.

Large percentages feel entrenched employee behavior is a barrier to effective use of CRM (42.5 percent), while almost 33 percent think there are higher priorities for time and money, and almost 16% percent feel employees do not see the value of CRM. Forty-three percent feel it is a challenge to get employees to use CRM technology.

Hathi in the Twitter exchange advised giving employees a stake in the use of CRM and rewarding its effective use. She noted CRM can help manage the business. Everything from authorizations to routing information can be automated through CRM and it can be used to help analyze business, she says.

Advisors asked for clever ways they built client relationships through CRM technology say they use it to send wine and birthday cakes to celebrating clients. One firm uses it to quickly send information to auditors. Social media outlets are soon going to be integrated into CRM, says Hathi.

-Karen DeMasters