We are at a clear fork in the road, where advisory firms must make a choice: They can choose to evolve or to wither away. While Julie doesn’t exactly say it bluntly, the harsh fact is that the current business model of the “revert back” advisor will not be sustainable, and clients will ultimately choose their preferred advisor model with their feet (and their assets).
Julie does a great job of outlining your comeback plan and she even offers a tool to assess your firm. Please enjoy her blog and ask yourself, “Is my comeback plan on track?” – JDA
I believe our industry is sitting at a “client experience fork in the road,” and there are only two choices:
- You can refine your client experience to reflect the evolving needs of your clients
- You can revert back to the way things have always been done
Truthfully, I don’t actually think we have a choice. We must evolve. And that raises some important questions:
- Exactly how have your clients’ needs, challenges and expectations changed? (They have.)
- How should those changes impact your client experience? (They will.)
- What is the risk of doing nothing? (It’s real.)
What’s your comeback plan? If it’s feeling a little light at the moment, here are some questions to ponder about the future of your client experience.
1. How much client contact is enough?
Most advisors have been reaching out more than ever before to reassure clients. In the process, clients may become used to more proactive contact and they may continue to need that contact to help them deal with lingering anxiety.
You need to evaluate how often you should meet with clients going forward. To do that, it’s important to understand how they are feeling and how their needs are changing.
Thinking slightly further into the future, according to our most recent investor research, younger clients are demanding more frequent contact, so this is a question that needed to be answered irrespective of a global pandemic.
2. How will your clients want to meet?
Almost everyone has become used to virtual meetings — the good, the bad and the ugly. And now that your clients have been “trained” on them, it’s important to understand if that has changed their preferences. . Do they find web-based meetings more, or less, helpful or engaging? Do they see a virtual option as an easier way to get both spouses/partners involved if one finds it difficult to meet in person? Do virtual meetings make it easier to include others, such as family members or other professionals? Going forward you’ll most likely need to incorporate additional meeting formats, which may result in offering clients more choice.
3. Do clients want to connect with social media and other online options?
During periods of isolation we all naturally seek to connect in different ways. For some that means using social media more actively. For others that means taking online courses or attending webinars. Those changes in behavior may open up opportunities — or perhaps greater expectations — regarding how you connect with your clients.
Going forward, you’ll need to ensure that you show up wherever your clients go connect and learn and, for many, that means having a strong presence on social media.
4. Do clients expect more self-serve options?
Many firms have accelerated the adoption of technologies that put more control in the hands of clients, from e-signatures, to booking meetings online, accessing information via a client portal or digital access to education. Increasingly clients are becoming used to these self-serve options in all areas of their lives, and naturally that influences their expectations.
Going forward you’ll need to focus on your digital offer, not only to enhance the experience but to meet client expectations.
5. What challenges are your clients facing?
The most recent research from Absolute Engagement shows an increase in interest in non-financial topics, such as health and wellness. Advisors who can understand the challenges their clients are facing and use that to provide personalized communications (e.g., emails, articles, resources, webinars) are demonstrating true leadership. Personalization is one of the most important characteristics of effective communications.
Going forward you’ll will need to demonstrate leadership through your communications and ensure that you’re providing support on the topics that are most important to clients at any given time. That means taking a personalized approach, at scale.
6. Are your clients thinking differently about what is important?
The pandemic has caused all of us to think differently and to re-evaluate many aspects of our lives. That self-reflection may impact how clients plan for the future. That means you need to think about the scope of the offer you provide (e.g., insurance, multi-generational planning, philanthropic giving). For some advisors that may include incorporating non-traditional services, such as health and wellness, or grief counseling. You can do this either directly or via expert partners.
Going forward you’ll need to evaluate your offer to ensure it reflects what is most important to clients.
Remember that your clients have been observing the evolution of client experience as they interact with other organizations and brands. As a result, they have not only seen what is possible, but have developed new expectations. As an industry, we need to keep pace.
So I’ll pose that question again. What’s your comeback plan?
Get our self-assessment tool
To help you and your team think it through, we created a nifty little self-assessment tool. If you have five minutes to invest, we’ll send you a personalized report that includes a client experience readiness score, as well as practical insights on how you can take action.
When I’m feeling particularly optimistic I prefer to look at change as an opportunity. We’ve all been tested on the optimism front, but I do believe that 2020 will force us to accelerate the evolution of the client experience, and that the outcome will be good for your clients and for your business.
Julie Littlechild is the Founder & CEO of Absolute Engagement, a firm that helps advisors use ongoing input from clients to uncover unmet service, revenue and referral opportunities. For more information go to www.absoluteengagement.com.
Julie Littlechild and Absolute Engagement are not affiliated with SEI or its subsidiaries.
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