As an advisor, the experience you provide to your clients is critical to building a successful practice. It is important for nurturing your existing relationships, and it’s also an effective marketing tool for attracting new business through your doors. Although it might seem like common sense, I find the most successful financial advisors take a highly personalized approach to their work. While the role of an advisor has evolved over the years, traditionally, an experienced practitioner will provide his or her clients with customized portfolio management and discipline that can help better position them to reach their long-term goals. However, a “good” financial advisor also focuses on building relationships—which goes beyond transactional planning and results in a more holistic and valuable planning approach.
So, what is client experience and why is it so important? A great client experience is “right” all the way around—it delivers the right services to the right clients in the right way. To help define what this means, here are five important tactics to consider implementing in your own practice:
1. Segment Your Client Base
As a successful financial advisor, you’re likely managing many portfolios while trying to keep your practice up and running. To help stay organized and focus on deepening relationships with your clients, start by segmenting your business into three to four key groups. A few factors to consider in doing this could be economic, demographic (i.e., age, employer, income, geography) or service criteria—for example, those who might come to you for financial planning versus strictly investment advice. While you can tailor your strategy to meet your specific needs, in many cases the segments will be some combination of these factors. From here, you’ll be able to allocate the right amount of your time to those who need it most. Time is money, and some clients may not require as much attention or support, especially if they are earlier on in their career and require less sophisticated advice and guidance.
2. Define Expectations
Once you’ve grouped your client base accordingly, define the general level of service that you would provide to each group. For example, you may determine that your “highest touch” clients should get a certain amount of in-person visits or consultations each year; whereas on the other hand, certain groups may just need or prefer simple phone or video chat consultations. Creating these definitions will help to outline a clear model that you can communicate to your clients to set expectations around service levels. You can also use this to define your sales, client services and operational expectation definitions for each of those groups. This will allow you to maximize business efficiency, provide optimal face time with clients and enable timely follow-up with each of the groups.
3. Establish a Pricing Structure
The next logical step in this process is to look at the services and support you will provide to different types of clients and set your pricing structure accordingly. As the market is shifting toward advice-based service models, it is imperative for clients to have a clear understanding of the value you are delivering. It is also important to be transparent and open about the types of services you are offering. If you’re moving toward a new model, know that many clients are receptive to the concept of advice-driven active portfolio management, but remember that transitioning can be a process—it does not happen overnight.
4. Determine How to Serve Each Client
A solid long-term business strategy likely won’t be able to support providing hours and hours of prep work or providing multiple reviews every year for very small accounts. On the plus side, clients with smaller accounts also likely may not need as much face time compared to clients with larger accounts, which can require more investment rebalancing and so on.
One approach may be to segment your groups and assign each certain times of the year to meet with you. For example, perhaps you plan to schedule meetings with one segment in March and April and then again in September and October. With other groups, you might schedule conversations weekly or every two weeks. Finding a happy medium to fit both client sets is important, but this will differ from practice to practice. However, in the process, make sure your clients continuously feel as if their needs are being met.
5. Utilize Resources and Tools
You’ve identified your client segments, defined their expectations and determined the level of service you’ll be providing. So, how do you execute? First, it’s important to remember that technology can be your friend. While the human touch is critical to any successful client experience, innovative and new technology resources can help you run a more efficient practice. For example, retirement income calculators, online budgeting tools or portfolio-creation software can support the level of service you provide to your customers. An advisor that is aligned with a broker/dealer may have more of these tools and assets available to them, which is one of the many benefits of being connected with a major b/d.
A successful advisor in today’s world knows they need to appeal to their clients when, where and how they want to be served. As some clients may be more comfortable with technology, this can enable you to do your job more easily, and it also allows them to be part of the process and become more hands-on with their planning. It’s important to recognize innovation and technology are helping to make the advisor experience an effective one.
Remember: Mastering the client experience can set you apart from your competitors and help you deliver on your business’ value proposition. Developing these goals may ultimately create more value for you, your clients and your legacy in the industry. In the end, it could be a win-win result for growing your business and supporting your clients.
Tom Halloran is president of Voya Financial’s retail broker/dealer, Voya Financial Advisors, Inc. Halloran has over 25 years of experience working with financial advisors in various product, marketing and sales leadership roles. Voya Financial Advisors has a network of over 2,100 registered representatives across the country.