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Five Service Model Questions Answered

Segmentation and service models might be the most agreed upon practice management principles, yet the least executed.

As we enter into what most people consider a forever-hybrid environment with clients, it’s time to commit to a new set of service models. I say commit because we’ve arrived at a point where experimentation can come to an end and more structured policies can be put into place.  

I was recently on a video shoot in New York and was asked a number of questions around service models. I’ve highlighted some of my answers below in hopes that it inspires some of you to rethink your service models as well. There is no one perfect path, but there are some truisms found across elite advisors. Most importantly, be proactive with client service and deliver contact beyond expectations!

  1. What meetings should be done in-person going forward?

Your most significant client meetings, like talking through someone’s succession plan, benefit from being in-person.  However, we suspect many of the review-type meetings to remain virtual. From a prospecting perspective, almost everything should be done face-to-face; it gives you the ability to connect and persuade in a way that video does not.

  1. Should I give clients the option of doing in-person or virtual?

In general, we think your top tier clients should be able to dictate your service model in most ways. For example, if a top five client wants to meet in-person once a month, you should probably accommodate them. A bottom-five client is a different story. In these cases, you’ll want to be more prescriptive in terms of when and how you’ll meet.

  1. Why shouldn’t everyone receive the same level of service? 

The idea is to give priority attention to clients with more complexity and who pay the most for your services. It’s not only in the essence of fairness (giving them what they pay for), it helps in your marketing efforts as well. Your wealthiest clients generally have similarly wealthy friends. The more time you spend with them, the more likely you are to make inroads. 

  1. What should factor into my client segmentation? 

Revenue and assets are a great place to start when it comes to segmentation, but you’ll want to include things like advocacy and upgrade potential as well. When you do this, you’re not only spending time with your largest clients, but those most likely to grow with you in the future.  

  1. What should go into my service models?

Your service models might include frequency of in-person meetings, virtual meetings, phone calls, event invites, small gifts and birthday recognition. They might also determine how deeply you provide your financial services. For example, you might provide financial planning in one manner for simpler clients and another for more complex ones.  It’s also important to consider your bandwidth. Some service items on paper sound great, but in practicality may overwhelm you.  

Segmentation and service models might be the most agreed upon practice management principles, yet the least executed. Why? It takes hard work, a system for implementation, and (usually) breaking some bad habits. It’s also never really finished, requiring a constant rebalancing to make sure you’re on top of an evolving client base. 

Stephen Boswell is a partner with The Oechsli Institute, a firm that specializes in research and training for the financial services industry. @StephenBoswell

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