Does Your Client Experience Create Raving Fans?
Client experience is a common topic these days. Indeed, the ability to deliver a standout client experience drives client satisfaction, asset retention and -the holy grail: receiving unsolicited referrals. Accurately assessing and actually improving the experience of your clients, however, is not as simple as sending them to your client website or hosting a blowout appreciation event.
Below is our 5 part framework for thinking about client experience, some ideas about how to assess where you stand with clients, and some tips for thinking about areas of future improvement.
Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles wrote the book Raving Fans back in 1993, discussing the need for a clear vision, a clear understanding of what clients want and value, and that you have to consistently exceed the expectations you set in order to create raving fans. These same principles hold true today, especially for financial advisors. And with an ever-changing industry and the proliferation of options available to clients (entrance of robo-advisors, low-cost self service platforms, and consolidation of larger players), the need for focus and clarity in this space has never been greater.
Below is SA's 5-part client experience framework. It is our assertion that each element below adds to the delivery of a consistent, best-in-class client experience.
1. Strategic Clarity
Is Your Vision Clear?
Which Clients Do You Aim to Serve?
What Value Will You Deliver For Those Clients?
Creating a vision of what you will (and won't) deliver, who the target client is that you will deliver it to, and articulating a value proposition that reflects your vision is a deep first step, but one that is helpful in evaluating your client experience and downright critical to improving it. If you work specifically with small business owners, privately held-companies of a specific size, divorcees and widows, (or physicians, your vision and value proposition might be relatively clear. If you don't have a target market that is so clearly defined, you may find you are, in some ways, trying to be everything to everyone... and while, with enough spaghetti on the wall, something will certainly stick, a more deliberate approach will enable you and your team to consistently deliver a truly differentiated experience and to focus resources and attention on those that will elevate your practice.
Once your vision is clear to you, make sure it is clear for your team as well.
Coming out of bankruptcy in 2010, 6 Flags Parks brought on CEO Jim Reid-Anderson to spur a turnaround. He delivered with a strategy focused on creating a clear, shared vision of creating "anticipatory customer service." He challenged his staff to rival "best day ever" park experiences like Disney and Sea World by training them to watch for potential stress points in their client's day and to turn them into something positive (proactively replacing a spilled food item or proactively offering directions for anyone actively looking around). This simplicity and clarity of the desired outcome allowed every employee to deliver to the fullest extent in their own way and "carry the torch" of exceptional client experiences in each of their individual roles.
2. Repeatable, Personalized Processes
Creating consistent processes allows you to prepare your client for what to expect while earning the credibility of demonstrated experience. You also set your team up for success in delivering on what you promise as there will be no surprise in what was promised or the process that was described. Finding ways for you and your team to personalize the process along the way is essential to developing the sense that each client is heard and understood and receiving the level of service and attention they desire.
Making sure these processes are efficient and that the division of labor among team members is optimized will further enable growth and ensure best-in-class delivery.
It is critical to have people on your team who are committed to delivering the caliber of client experience you envision; the experience for each client will only be as strong as the weakest link in the chain.
In addition to making sure your team has true clarity of the goal and is committed to doing their best to execute that vision, it is essential that their incentives are fully aligned with achieving the vision. It is also helpful to try and tailor both formal and informal rewards and recognition in a way that is fulfilling for each team member, depending on their personal preferences. Assessments like the Culture Index or DISC profile can be helpful in determining these preferences.
Under-promise and over-deliver. Consistently deliver 100% of what is promised. Be more responsive than is expected. Look for ways to make doing business easier here than anywhere else...
There are many ideas out there about what it means to execute on delivering world-class service. Make sure the expectations you believe your clients prioritize are known and executed consistently by every member of your team. Look for ways to proactively support and recognize your team for consistently delivering on these expectations.
Take natural opportunities to ask clients how you and your team are doing. If a satisfaction survey is too much, ask just one question: "On a scale of 1-10, how likely would you be to refer us to a close friend, colleague or family member." Anything below an 9 should be read as room for improvement and can naturally open the door for a deeper discussion.
In closing out the client experience topic, we'll offer a handful of areas (over the life-cycle of a client relationship) to think about in helping identify and perhaps prioritize where your practice might best benefit from focus and improvement:
An introduction that includes discussion or a pre-view of your value proposition
A Fact Find and Presentation of Analysis/ Recommendations where clients speak and are heard more that spoken to
An online, phone and/or in-office experience that reflects your practices strengths, culture, professionalism and values
An on-boarding process that is consistent, predictable, streamlined and personalized for each client
A timely delivery/ review of product or account set-up completion
Regular out-reach and updates, tailored for the clients preferences in communication frequency, detail-level and style
Online access with the appropriate level of support set-up and training
Gifts, events and touch-points that are personalized and truly speak to the client/ meet them where they are in life
With a clear vision, established processes, the right people, aligned incentives, consistent execution, and open channels for feedback, you and your team will be well on your way to creating not just satisfied clients, but raving fans.