I recently read this great blog by Capital Asset Management chief executive Alan Smith about how important the client experience is.
There is no doubt that having a first-class client experience is fundamental to growing a successful business.
When advisers talk to me about marketing, I start with the premise that investment in the client experience is always the starting point, as this will lead to referrals, which are the best source of new business.
Although important for all, the client experience is especially important for those who are aiming to attract higher value clients.
Higher value clients have greater expectations, across the entire experience with your brand. That's every meeting, every phone call, every interaction.
Clients want to be impressed. They want to have an experience that exceeds their expectations.
This isn't simply through the process of financial planning, but from the first time they get sight of your website. They have certain needs and wants, and you must fulfil these through the client experience.
What do clients need?
Clients need to feel in control and informed at all times.
They need regular, clear and concise communication. They don’t need war and peace.
They do need to feel a sense of traction, particularly during any implementation work. Keep this in mind, and make sure you don’t go quiet on them.
Clients need you to do what you say you will - always. Failure to deliver against expectations is a sure-fire way to ensure they never refer to you and, at worse, that they leave you.
They need confidence in your capability. Not just your's, but that of the wider business.
To some extent this can be achieved by always creating the right impression; you need to look good and make them feel good at all times.
Equally, you need to know what you’re talking about.
If you or your colleagues are in too deep, they’ll sense it. There’s no harm in referring to others, as no one knows everything.
Clients need and want to be challenged. Not in an uncomfortable way, but through a professional, considered process.
They want an outcome better than what they could achieve themselves. They also want to have confidence in your ability to take them to a place they couldn’t get to themselves.
Clients want to know you care, deeply.
This means treating them as an individual (hopefully this is standard practice anyway), and making out like they're the only client you have.
Be highly personable and personalise everything. It’s often the little things that matter, including remembering their important dates and events.
So how do you improve your client experience?
You map it.
You put yourself in the client’s shoes and consider every interaction from the moment they first visit your website.
This includes everything from answering the phone and attending meetings to sending out email updates and reports. Offline and online, leave nothing out.
Document the process (flow diagrams work well here) and review it on an ongoing basis. Apply a process of constant improvement, as regular small changes are easier to implement and make for significant improvement over time.
At every stage you should consider these very important questions…
- How does this interaction make them feel, what emotional reaction do we create?
- Is this interaction what they expect, or does it surprise them (bearing in mind surprising them in a good way is the only way)?
- Does this interaction provide them with what they need, is it clear and concise? What is missing?
- Is it easy for them (the easier and simpler the better)? Is it easy enough that it doesn’t create any avoidable friction or frustration?
- What's missing between this and the last interaction?
- How do we make this better, in a ‘knock their socks off’ kind of way?
Don’t ignore the fact that this experience is increasingly digital.
My own financial planner sent me a risk assessment questionnaire as a PDF for me to print, complete on paper, scan and return by email. What a pain that was.
The client experience is arguably the most important part of your business.
Do it well - and I mean exceedingly well - and it will create an organic referral stream that will feed your growth ambitions.