For many advisers, service models took a big hit during the pandemic. People started working remotely with little or no advanced notice, and some advisers were slow to transition to a technology framework for meetings, onboarding and communication.
If this happened to you, it’s understandable; no one thought we would be working remotely — running practices and conducting everyday business in an extraordinary environment — for months or years.
But here we are. And while some advisers are back in the office and parts of the country have returned to “normal,” others are still taking a gradual approach. I’ve discussed the critical importance of surveying clients to know what they really want and value from advisers post-pandemic. (You did that, right?) Don’t assume you know; those who shared their survey results with me have been shocked at how much client attitudes have changed.
Once you know what they want, you have an incredible opportunity to make things even better than they were before for clients. Don’t go back to business as usual; look to transform your practice.
As one example, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an adviser’s website that didn’t highlight their deep commitment to excellent client service. Of course you need to take good care of your clients; that’s a given. But rather than focusing on servicing clients, think instead of creating a great client experience — something very different.
MORE THAN GOOD SERVICE: THE WHOLE PACKAGE
If you have a service mindset, you’re probably pretty good at being reactionary. Clients call in and need something done — an address updated, a check cut, a question about distributions answered — and you take care of it. Service tends to be transactional, and therefore measurable, in nature. With so many uncertainties, advisers and staff like functions they can measure and track. It feels good to deliver on client requests and help solve their problems.
A client experience would have you look at all the touch points a client or prospect might have with you along their journey, not just when they call in. It may be a bit scary because you can’t measure things the same way. But the best client experiences look to create feelings and emotions — which are subjective and hard to track. Advisers who deliver a great client experience differentiate themselves in the marketplace and attract prospects to their practice because they value and prioritize those emotional connections.
THE CLIENT EXPERIENCE IS A JOURNEY
One adviser realized certain touches he had in place for client office visits — like welcome signs, a cappuccino maker and warm smiles from his staff — didn’t matter in a remote environment. But short videos showing him and his family hiking during the Covid-19 pandemic gained a tremendous response, with clients even asking to join in. Now he’s organizing regular hikes with clients and their families (as well as their dogs), and clients are experiencing the adviser relationship very differently.
Since this adviser intends to prospect for virtual clients on an ongoing basis (a smart move for all advisers), he is also rethinking every touch point to ensure he’s delivering a high-quality digital experience as well as an in-person one.
What was your last impressive experience as a consumer? Sadly, it might take you a while to come up with an example. We’re all too used to bad service and experiences, but the really good ones stand out. Take a look at your processes and procedures from the client’s point of view, to see what the experience of working with you is like. Advisers who have tried this exercise often find that their processes and procedures may benefit the adviser and staff more than the client.
As you look to regroup post-pandemic, take a different mindset that goes way beyond service. Think about creating a great client experience that encompasses every step of the journey — from prospect to client and beyond — and empower your team to help build it. Your clients will be glad you did.
Kristine McManus serves as vice president and chief business development officer at Commonwealth Financial Network.
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Andrew is half-human, half-gamer. He’s also a science fiction author writing for BleeBot.