Third-party providers seeking to attract advisors often point to service as a differentiator in the marketplace. Yet, what service means to one advisor is often quite different to another advisor depending on size, circumstances, goals and more. By segmenting advisors, TAMPs (Turnkey Asset Management Programs) and other providers can better understand and support their clients, often dispelling some common misunderstandings about service expectations in the process.
Too frequently, firms implement a one-size-fits-all approach that fails to recognize the differing goals and needs of advisors. Successful firms see an opportunity to provide differentiated service through segmentation, supporting advisors based on their varying needs and building service models that best support each segment. This includes developing different metrics for each segment to quantify success. Effective segmentation also requires engaging advisors to understand how well you’re meeting their needs, and adjusting the service model as needed.
One strategic way to approach segmentation is by grouping advisors based on how they use the platform. Generally, platform use is a principal determinant of how best to serve advisors—with higher-use advisors understandably expecting more. Advisors who use a platform with greater frequency tend to expect an open line of communication with a trusted service professional who knows their practice. These advisors also usually prefer the immediacy of electronic communications. Successful firms recognize this and develop ways to support this preference, including offering a live chat feature. Providing live chat functionality enables advisors to communicate in real time with the service team, quickly resolving issues as they arise. Another key service component is assigning a specific support person (or two) to each high-use advisor who is familiar with that advisor’s history. This eliminates the need for the advisor to explain his or her issues and relevant background every time they reach out with a question. Firms can also use technology to increase the efficiency of their service model for all segments. For instance, advanced tracking systems allow support staff to instantly call up past calls and communications, cutting down on the time it takes to serve that advisor.
In contrast, advisors who use a platform less are likely to have fewer individualized needs. They tend to be satisfied with consistent, predictable processes and knowledgeable staff who can guide them through their questions. Strong and trusted relationships with service professionals are important for most of these advisors, but frequent communication is unnecessary, and it can border on annoying.
New advisors are a critically important segment that can require a specialized service model even though they may have limited platform use in the early stages. New advisors, in general, require more hands-on, expert guidance on how to get the most out of a platform. It’s important to give these advisors access to staff who are skilled at welcoming, teaching and accelerating familiarity with the platform. These advisors are evaluating the service, deciding whether or not they want to work with a firm. First impressions are critical to demonstrating that your team is in tune with their needs and is available to assist at any given moment. New advisors are also unfamiliar with the platform and its products, making it important for the service team to provide extra support to familiarize them with the different offerings, including how to open and transfer accounts.
Don’t hesitate to engage your advisors to understand how they think you might serve them better. Understanding the needs of each segment is achieved by continuously soliciting honest and constructive feedback that informs training and processes. Generic reviews are not helpful. Firms need to really push advisors to provide specific information about what they are pleased with and what is lacking. While it can be difficult to ask for this level of transparent feedback, it will ultimately enable a firm to provide the best service possible.
Firms that offer differentiated service models based on strategic segmentation will provide the best results and retain the most advisors. At the same time, firms must also remember that each advisor is different and requires individualized service to meet their needs. It’s important for a firm to work to understand those specific needs and service those accordingly.
Carrie Hansen is EVP and Chief Operating Officer of AssetMark, a provider of investment and consulting solutions serving financial advisors.