Phoenix—"It seems that what you’re saying is, everything is important when you’re dealing with the affluent," Mary told me. "Is it possible to create some sort of a checklist that can help us have more consistency with what you refer to as the ‘client experience?"
Mary was addressing a key issue. Many financial advisors fail to consistently provide their affluent clients with the high level of service that they claim to offer. Advisors who take the concept of “client experience” seriously develop what I refer to as a client-centric practice that always delivers. In other words, there are no fancy value propositions—they simply deliver on all promises, display a commitment to serving their affluent clients, and always provide a positive experience with every interaction. That means that every procedure, policy and system is geared toward delivering high-level, comprehensive wealth management to every client on a personalized basis.
The following is the checklist I shared with Mary and her colleagues:
Don’t tell people about your service—show them.
Create a comfortable business atmosphere, on the phone and in your office. You don’t need to try to impress your clients with grandness. Instead, create an environment that is consistently courteous, professional, and comfortable.
Practice hospitality by doing the little things.
Do not allow anyone else to greet your clients. Be there yourself when they come in the door. Do not make them sit in front of a receptionist, waiting for you to get off the phone. Hold doors for people. When you are finished, walk your clients to the elevator, to the lobby, or even to their cars.
Be available to clients 24/7—even if you don’t believe it’s necessary.
Forget about normal business hours, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. You’re there to serve your clients whenever they need you. Provide a designated emergency cell phone number to your affluent clients.
Enable your clients to make one call to get the answers they need.
Transform your support personnel into a client response team. This requires clearly delegated areas of responsibility and cross training. When messages are left, someone should be able to respond to a client within 15 minutes.
Never say no.
When a client asks, “Can you…” Even if you know the answer is “No,” pause, enter into a brief discussion, ask for clarification, and be gentle in turning down a request that is impossible for you to comply with. This is an issue of mindset. Your job is to serve! And don’t charge for those extra services unless it’s absolutely necessary. Will your clients take advantage of you? Rarely, if ever.
Help clients help you provide Ritz-Carlton-level service.
This can be accomplished by simply explaining every aspect of what you will be doing for your client, step-by-step, setting clear service expectations. Then ask about any personal preferences they might have. Always personalize your service and communication when interacting with affluent clients.
Set a leadership example.
Take control of the relationship from the beginning. Do not expect your company, other team members, or service personnel to consistently exhibit the desired attitude and behaviors unless they first see them in you. Accept that you are responsible for client loyalty.
Surprise and delight.
Know the passion points of each client, and do little things that play to their passions. The idea is to periodically “Wow” your affluent clients without going overboard. This should be executed carefully so each affluent client gets touched in this manner throughout the course of the year.
Execute with FedEx efficiency.
Every aspect of practice management is important, operationally and administratively. Here is where the little things mean a lot: the accuracy of paperwork, follow-through on all promises, timely and accurate correspondence, etc.
Be a problem solver.
The number one statistically significant criteria that impacts loyalty is solving a problem quickly, communicating everything clearly, and making absolutely certain that your client both understands and is satisfied. Never pass blame! You are the product, and you are the solution.
Be the real deal.
The affluent want a solutions provider to oversee the multi-dimensional aspects of their family’s financial affairs. They want a “go-to” financial coordinator, a quarterback. You must be what they want, which means you should be helping them organize and coordinate every aspect of their financial affairs. This is a “win-win” since you should control the lion’s share, if not all, of their assets and be able to fully monetize the relationship. If not, you’re vulnerable.
Check your affluent bandwidth.
The more clients you have, the more difficult it becomes to adhere to your “client experience” game plan. This is a tremendous challenge for many financial advisors. It is important to take a hard look at your smaller clients and consider the time they take away from developing affluent loyalty with your top clients.
The loyalty of today’s affluent investor is more fragile than many advisors realize. Yes, satisfaction ratings are going up, but so is the market, and satisfaction isn’t loyalty. It is important that advisors embrace the highest level of professionalism within every aspect of their practice. To paraphrase Mary, “You gotta be a true pro to follow that checklist!” But that’s the point; affluent loyalty isn’t as fragile if their advisor is a “true pro.”
So, let’s continue to raise the bar, one step at a time, every day.