You can tell a lot about a financial planning practice when you look at their client journey.
More often than not, a client journey is a mish-mash of 20 years of design.
It is often cobbled together by various different people and geared around the needs of a vast array of clients, though not necessarily a firm’s ideal clients.
Some clients get one thing, some clients get something else, services will be provided for some types of clients but not others.
You may think your client journey is clearly defined, but if it’s been put together in a haphazard way, it actually ends up being nondescript.
The danger with offering services that are so different across the board is you miss out an opportunity to create ambassadors for your firm, because heaven forbid that you would get all your clients in one room and allow them to speak to each other.
My famous line with firms is: “Let’s imagine we’re starting this business from scratch.” In this scenario there are no clients, no staff, no anything.
What service would you provide if you were fully resourced and had all of the key skills and abilities under your belt? What would the proposition look like? What is the client journey you would really love to deliver?
When firms discuss this at a group level, there can be a tendency to think of reasons why they shouldn’t pursue certain ideas.
Try to stop yourself from doing that, and forget about particular clients who might not like what you’re thinking about. At this stage, it’s all about the ideal client journey.
Then it’s a case of understanding what you’re starting with. Once you’ve done that and you’re in the design phase, you can examine what are the best bits of your proposition and what you do now that absolutely have to go in to the new service.
You can then cherry-pick the different elements, for example your existing meeting summary with the addition of photos from your brainstorming sessions with clients that you don’t currently include.
Think of it as creating your ideal client journey line by line, before you’ve even delivered it. This makes it real.
You can approach this in a number of ways, either with a stack of post-it notes and mapping each step of the client journey from enquiry onwards, or with a flipchart and a facilitator who can question you on what comes next.
Be careful not to miss out steps along the way, or jump ahead without understanding what has to happen first.
Keep this high level at first until the entire client journey is mapped out, then go back and look at how you want to deliver each step in turn. The final phase is understanding what document or process is needed to deliver each step.
The client experience
When you’re designing this, think about the five senses: sight, sound, smell, touch and taste.
Cheap coffee or unsightly food smells lingering from lunch will send a message, and not one that you are particularly proud of.
My ‘little book of woww’ has lots of tips and tricks on this, like a candle burning in the waiting room to make clients feel relaxed, or a branded notebook and pen waiting for them in the meeting room.
An easy one is to do the walk your client will take from the car park or the train station, and see what they would see. Is the signposting easy for people to find you? Walk around your office as a client would, and fix things accordingly.
In the same way, map your client journey not through the eyes of a financial planner, but through the eyes of a client. If you run client advisory boards, use these to gauge opinion on particular documents or experiences.
Taking it forward
There will be clients that won’t fit the new client journey, and that’s ok.
You may have clients that won’t ever engage with cashflow modelling, or don’t want to have a comprehensive planning meeting with their accountant and lawyer present.
For those clients, the choice you have is whether you’re happy to leave them as they are, or refer them elsewhere because it costs you to service them the way you have been.
But once you’ve agreed and decided on your new client journey, then for new clients you have to be firm in what you’re offering.
You can honour what you’ve promised to others, but to move forward you can’t keep offering the old way of working to new clients once you’ve decided there’s a better way.
Ultimately, we all want to deliver a service that we are proud of and that we love to deliver.
But planners can often feel quite traumatised about their client journey because it doesn’t match up to their values as a business.
A client journey may be too dependent on a particular adviser, or it may be clunky, or not well thought out, or may be built around clients you don’t actually want.
There are advisers who want to do some great things for clients and add to the client experience, but end up stripping these out of the process for fear of upsetting existing clients.
For established firms, it is a brave thing to do to overhaul your client journey.
But you’ll be surprised – clients won’t leave because you’re doing something different, yet you will be happier delivering a client journey that you’ve designed on purpose.
If you can get your client journey focused more on making the client feel special, then you’ve cracked it.
It’s not so much about what you said, or the report you gave them, it’s how the whole experience makes them feel.