Charlotte: “Get this,” said one of the participants from our recent affluent focus group. “I met with my accountant over the holidays to go over year-end details and then stopped by my advisor’s office to drop off a sizable check—he was off for the week. Granted, it was the week between Christmas and New Year’s, but I waited nearly 15 minutes watching the poor receptionist field call after call, trying to get my advisor’s assistant between calls, to no avail. And finally I left. Not pleased.”
There are a number of issues in play regarding this affluent client’s rant. She called me to share this as a post-script to our focus group, but she was really looking for my advice. Her questions ran the gamut: Was this the norm? Should I have gotten better attention? Were only a handful of assistants and the poor receptionist the only people working that week? What level of service should I expect? How do I go about finding an advisor who is more attentive?
Ouch! This advisor has some explaining and relationship repair work to do. That’s if he’s even aware of the problem (I did recommend that she contact her advisor, explain her frustration, and give him a chance.) But most disgruntled affluent clients will express their displeasure by using their feet. They walk. It might take some time to make a move, as indicated by this affluent investor, because it’s not easy for the consumer to separate top-quality advisors from the rest.
This caller highlighted a key issue that was discussed during our affluent focus group, and it’s what prompted her call: service and access.
In the broad context, all of the participants were complaining about the service they were receiving, which led to a discussion about the limited access they had to their advisor. No one was satisfied with the accessibility they felt they had with their advisor. It came as no surprise that all would be open to a second opinion from another advisor whom they both trusted and respected.
Granted, the caller was complaining about access during the holidays, which might be excused, but the focus group was talking about access in general. Which begs a number of questions.
• How accessible are you? Today’s affluent are just like the caller referenced above; they expect total access. Did our caller have an appointment with her advisor? No. Did she have one with her CPA? Yes. Is this a bit of a double standard? Yes; get used to it. She is now annoyed with her advisor, not because he wasn’t there to service her, but because nobody was available.
• How do you define your service model for your top clients? This must be crystal clear. For these top clients, they get A, B, C and X, Y, Z. In other words, special treatment. This goes far beyond mechanical contact. Service at this level needs to be personal and yet functionally responsive. You must be able to meet the fluid demands of today’s affluent investor, as our caller is a case in point.
• Do you have a personal relationship with your top clients? Our research is very clear on this point; the stronger the relationship on a personal level, the more loyal the client. Our caller’s advisor is fortunate—she considers him a friend. Because of this, the odds are dramatically in his favor of mending this faux pas. But if he didn’t have a personal relationship with this client, I probably wouldn’t have received the call. She would have already walked.
Most advisors assume they have all of this in good working order, and under normal circumstances they’re probably right. But with today’s affluent, is good working order good enough? According to our findings regarding affluent expectations, the answer is a resounding “No!”
Here’s a suggestion for a New Year’s resolution that’s simple in concept but much more challenging to implement—make a commitment to strengthen your personal relationship with each of your top clients throughout the upcoming year.
Make this a team commitment and get everyone involved. This requires making certain that each top client family is thoroughly profiled and every member of your team is fully aware of every top client family profile. This establishes a platform upon which you can approach each client relationship with strategic intent.
What does this mean? Every top client needs to be handled and approached thoughtfully on his or her level. For instance, if a top client is unable to attend an upcoming intimate social event that you’re holding, make certain that you find another method of socializing with this client in the near term. This requires you to develop an intimate knowledge of their likes, dislikes, and travel schedule. If they always spend the winter in Phoenix, don’t invite them to your holiday event.
None of this is complicated, but if you assume you have all of your bases covered, think again. Our caller, a representative of affluent investors so coveted by advisors, says there is work to be done.
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