In a recent call with a group of registered investment advisors (RIAs), I found myself facilitating an impromptu panel discussion on how advisors plan to approach client meetings as we move into a post-COVID-19 world. The discussion was lively, yet most participants concurred that ultimately the clients will decide where and how they will meet with their advisor. 

During our wide-ranging discussion, we touched on many scenarios and ideas around best practices for hybrid client management— from the advisor's point of view. Only one advisor spoke to the client’s point of view. That advisor had just completed a post-pandemic client survey that had a great response rate and revealed details on her service model and future client needs.

Ask your advisor clients what they want

In recent blog posts, we have written about the changing advisor/client dynamic and the need to be hyper-focused on the client experience. For example, in “Advisors: Are You Netflix or Blockbuster?” we discussed the “squeeze” between the mega firms and the digital providers, and why specialization allows the independent advisor to remain a growing/thriving entity. Specialized firms can carve out a differentiated model in the advice business by demonstrating unique value to those they serve. So why not ask your clients what they want?

I can’t think of a better time to survey your clients. In the context of a “post-pandemic survey,” you can ask them all sorts of things that will help you serve them better. You can learn how to understand their future needs — and how you can meet them. 

Craft your client survey

Personally, if I were creating a survey, I would look at Absolute Engagement as a great partner to help craft questions more thoroughly and more professionally than anything most advisors can do on their own. But if you insist on creating your own, here are the things that I would want to know from my clients:

  • Their meeting preference: phone, virtual, or in-person, as well as the preferred frequency of each type.
  • How your interactions are currently meeting client needs. Are there things you should do more of, less of, or not at all?
  • How they feel about future events such as client appreciation or marketing functions.
  • How your current communications are perceived: favorable, too complex, too frequent, or “what communications? Are there things they want to see more of?

Your response rate (as it is about their preferences) should be pretty high from this type of survey, so why not add a few other questions that may really help you in your quest to build a better experience. You could ask things like:

  • What additional services would they like to see from your firm over the next five years, 10 years or more?
  • As they picture themselves five or 10 years in the future, what is their biggest worry or concern?
  • What company, business, or professional (not you) do they think delivers great customer service and why? Ask them to describe the experience. 

Use your CRM to map it out

The first part of analyzing the data is easy. Import the results into your CRM. You’ll know which clients want to meet in person vs. virtually (regardless of their response, you should always give them the choice when confirming an actual meeting). Make notes on what they said was right about your service, and what you should change. By listening and executing on their comments, you are creating that hyper-focused client experience that drives customer loyalty.

The second part is using the data they provided you on client experience, their concerns, and future needs in your business plan by segmentation. As always, keep fine-tuning your personas to build out that specialized service based on what is important to them, not just how much they have invested with you.

Understanding and being in front of evolving client needs are paramount. It makes it easier to specialize with certain types of clients when they tell you what they want. Your first step is to ask.

Absolute Engagement is not affiliated with SEI or its subsidiaries.

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