For this week’s blog post, we’re thrilled to welcome guest contributor, Allie Carey. She is the Managing Director of Front Office Product for Independent Advisor Solutions, and an expert on client experience and user-centered design. She has more than 10 years of experience working with financial intermediaries, with extensive expertise designing the client experience delivered by SEI technologies to independent financial advisors and their clients. With fintech startup founders in mind for today’s post, Allie shares four of her top tips to building an excellent client experience from the beginning.
The terms “exemplary client experience” and “financial technology” are very rarely, if ever, aligned. It is one of the greatest opportunities out there for newcomers and startups. Many new companies solve a problem effectively for consumers or businesses, but they are not taking the steps to design a truly exceptional client experience. The client experience is dictated by every touchpoint (human, technology, advertising, etc.) the client has with a company; it is the sum of how those touchpoints makes the client feel. No matter how many touchpoints are included in the overall experience, companies that excel in this area are those that consistently put the customer first and focus on personalization, simplification, reduced friction and more.
#1: Perception is reality
There are some strategies rooted in social psychology that can help you deliver a great client experience, such as the “warmth and competence model.” Social psychologists have told us that it is human nature to observe a person’s warmth and competence in order to form our opinion of them. In The Human Brand, Chris Malone and Susan Fiske explain that this happens with companies too: a client’s experience is rooted in the perception of the company’s warmth and competence.
The key point: it’s based on perception. A judgement is made before the customer even has firsthand interactions. This is valuable insight for emerging fintech startups and you as a founder. You are the face of your business, and therefore, a judgement of you is applied to your business, and a judgement of your business is applied to you. Knowing how much you are perceived as warm and competent (and how you want to be perceived) is critical as you think through how to design a top-notch experience.
#2: Let your compass (approach) guide your way
In the client experience world, Walt Disney is equivalent to Meriwether Lewis or William Clark: he was a pioneer. Walt was one of the first to understand that designing an experience can differentiate your business and add exponential value. Today, 74% of Americans are placing more value on experiences, rather than things.1
So what can today’s fintech startups learn from Disney? I think the greatest lesson for startup leaders is how Disney gets to know its client, or guests, as the company refers to them. Disney uses the compass approach to customer service, which focuses on clients’ needs, wants, stereotypes and emotions in order to point employees in the right direction to deliver an excellent client experience.
- Needs: What are your clients’ basic needs?
- Wants: What are your clients’ wants and desires? This is where you can exceed expectations.
- Stereotypes: What misconceptions do clients have of you?
- Emotions: What is your client’s emotional state when working with you?
#3: Focus on the moments that matter
Delivering a great client experience means that your company wows your clients in every interaction, right? Not quite. The majority of experiences should simply meet client expectations. These experiences are called efficient interactions. The goal is to be accurate, unobtrusive, remove barriers and provide the quickest service through the process.
What takes a client experience from good to exceptional are the moments that matter. These moments can represent a small percentage of interactions with your company, but they make or break the relationship and should be highly customized to each person or situation.
For example, making an insurance claim isn’t something a customer looks forward to. In simple terms, something has gone wrong and they need help. In that moment the insurance company is working with an angry or devastated client and needs to get them to a point where they feel calm, taken care of and happy. This is a moment that matters. It’s a tough challenge, as the company needs to be equipped to transform a very bad, unique-to-this-client situation into a feel-good experience. What’s important to realize is that bad moment is an opportunity to demonstrate value and care for the client. If the company fails, there’s a high likelihood it will lose a client, but if it succeeds, it may gain an advocate who refers business for years to come.
#4: Recognize (and seize) the opportunity a mistake presents
Let’s get this out there – mistakes happen. We all know this, yet we also know how terrible it feels when a mistake impacts a client. How do you recover when that happens? Mistakes present a valuable learning opportunity for your team internally, but more importantly they’re an opportunity you can and should seize to gain deeper customer loyalty than you would have built through constant good service. In the client experience world, this is referred to as the service recovery paradox.
The service recovery paradox formal definition: After a corrected service failure, the affected customer is more loyal to the company than they would have been if the failure did not occur. To achieve the service recovery paradox, focus on these three key areas when correcting a mistake:
- Accountability: Take responsibility for the mistake. Don’t try to dodge it, as that will only create more distrust. Taking responsibility will give the client confidence you not only understand what happened and how they’re feeling, but also ensure they trust that you can to resolve it.
- Communication: This one is a two way street – starting with listening. If the client is telling you about an issue, make sure you’re all ears. Then replay back what you heard to give them the confidence that you understand the issue at hand (or fill in any holes you missed the first time). As you are working to resolve the issue, check in frequently with your client to provide updates and be available to answer questions. Finally, when the issue has been resolved, communicate that to the client and ask if they agree and are satisfied. Continual communication demonstrates our competency and commitment to client.
- Thoughtfulness: Be aware of the total impact the mistake had on the client – whether it be financially, emotionally or temporally. Beyond acknowledging the impact, be thoughtful in how you respond or follow up. Send a hand written note or flowers – something you know they’ll appreciate and that will leave a lasting impression.
Taking the time to design the client experience can pay dividends for the future growth of your business. No matter the industry, size or age of your business, it can be a major differentiator. These four tips can help build your client experience as you build your business.
(1) Expedia, The Center for Generational Kinetics; Generations on the Move, 2018.