By David Mehlhorn
Providing great customer service requires a dedicated investment of time, energy and resources, but the ROI can be huge if your efforts are well planned and executed. Below, we’ll focus on four customer service components that tend to consistently reward advisor efforts.
Develop and adhere to processes
Implementing a process ensures consistency across all areas of operations. First, you must create a system to ensure your process will be accurately mapped and reflects the tasks needed for completion.
Process development should include a brainstorming session with all staff members who handle the tasks. Use some form of whiteboarding to detail everything included in the process so it can be clearly visualized. This is invaluable in making sure no steps are missed, but more importantly it clarifies certain aspects that may need revising to improve the client/prospect experience or resolve bottlenecks. Without well-defined and easily manageable processes and adherence to them, operational consistency may suffer.
Fortunately, modern technologies make it possible to map your processes down to the tiniest detail. These tools assist in preventing errors, eliminating missed steps and providing recordable consistency. From client onboarding to client reviews (and everything in between), well-designed processes play an integral part in shaping the overall picture your clients and prospects have of you.
Earn and build trust
Trust begins with consistency. However, adhering to processes is just the first step on your path to building client’s trust.
Showing your clients they are valuable to you also helps build trust. Remembering things like birthdays, children’s names and recent vacations shows you pay attention and care about the client on a more personal level. Conveying that value is easier if you track everything you learn about each client, as this makes it a snap to “recall” relevant data points on an as-needed basis. This lets clients know that what’s important to them is important to you too.
As further means of building trust, consider improving your communication skills by responding to emails and calls in a timely manner. Proactively reach out to your clients individually for matters relevant to their unique situation, and en masse for things relevant to all.
Those who refer other clients your way are incredibly valuable assets, and you should make every effort to express your appreciation. That appreciation should come not only in the form of thanking them for those referrals, but also by taking care of those they refer. Remember that your referrers’ reputations are on the line with every client they send your way.
This doesn’t necessarily mean doing anything more than you regularly do for your prospects and clients—it does, however, mean making sure your office does everything that the referrer has come to expect from your office. A key finding of a November 2011 Prudential survey was that "respondents ranked recommending a financial advisor as having higher social risk than recommending many other professional service providers, including accountants, primary care physicians and dentists." In other words, recommending a financial advisor to one's peers is perceived by many to pose a risk to their relationships with those they refer, should the referred have a negative experience with the advisor. Your challenge is then to create an environment for your referring clients in which these doubts are removed.
Create a searchable and reputable name
Working in a field in which reputation is everything, it is now more important than ever to carefully cultivate a positive reputation through both the client experience you deliver in the “real” world and on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.
In regard to social channels, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel in terms of how you go about interacting with your clients. You may need to learn channel-specific conventions, but as long as you stay within the parameters laid out by your compliance department, you should begin by approaching social media as another additional tool for bolstering your reputation: respond quickly to client inquiries via these channels, reinforce your branding (without selling), share content relevant to your firm’s offerings and your clients’ interests, and build your network.
Even if you’re already engaged in all of the above, a best practice is to regularly review what’s working for you and what isn’t. You’ll likely have a feel for areas of service you need to retool, but it’s also important that you involve your staff in this review process, particularly those employees who regularly interact with clients. You might also consider putting together a survey for distribution to your clients, soliciting their satisfaction level with each area of the client experience. It’s also a good idea to include a field for them to write in suggestions they might have, in case you neglect to include something that might be important to them.
Planning and executing customer service strategies should never be an afterthought or a one-off activity; excellent customer service is the lifeblood of your practice’s continued existence and should be revisited regularly to ensure your office is adapting to and meeting the needs of customers in an ever-changing environment.
David Mehlhorn is the director of sales for Redtail Technology.