By Carrie Hansen
Operations and service departments are frequently categorized as cost centers, but studies show that when delivered correctly, they can be drivers of revenue.
Recent research from PricewaterhouseCoopers showed that consumers would pay up to 16 percent more for better customer experience. And while robos, artificial intelligence, and chat bots can create efficiencies, 75 percent of consumers desire more human interaction. Financial advisors who deliver the best of both will be well-positioned to meet investor expectations for instant information while still providing a personal touch for holistic and complex conversations.
One of the reasons customer service is critical to revenue is its impact on customer loyalty. Globally, consumers reported that they would stop doing business with a company due to unfriendly service (60 percent) or unknowledgeable employees (46 percent). Moreover, nearly one in three stated that they would walk away from a brand they love after a single bad experience.
Here are three simple rules for creating a culture of service for your clients and nurturing long-term relationships.
1. Make the Customer Experience Easy and Enjoyable.
Is it easy and enjoyable for customers to do business with your firm? You can be dead serious about what you do, but don’t lose your personality in the process. Managing someone’s money is personal, and it requires a great deal of trust—so make it easy for prospects to get to know you. Put your bio on your website and include relevant credentials and personal details that will help current and potential customers engage and connect. Write educational articles for your local newspaper or host informational seminars at community centers. When meeting new people, show you care by expressing interest in them as a person, not as a prospect. Ask questions and really listen rather than simply looking for an opportunity to respond. Listening pays off—tailored-made presentations and follow-up communications will demonstrate your understanding of a client’s specific needs and interests.
2. Always Strive to Be Better.
Business advisor and lecturer Jim Collins once opined that “good is the enemy of great.” When business is good, it’s easy to settle into the status quo. It’s okay to celebrate positive feedback, but dedicate time every month to reimagine ways to improve your business. Don’t compare yourself to other financial services firms. Compare yourself to firms like Google, Amazon and Zappos—that’s what your prospects and customers do. Ask your clients directly how things could be better. Do clients understand what they are invested in and why? Do they want more information about philanthropy or ideas for supporting their children’s education? Do they need referrals to attorneys or help anticipating healthcare costs? Take a holistic look at your business through the eyes of your ideal client and look for “wow” moments that create loyalty and lasting impressions.
3. Acknowledge, Fix and Eradicate Mistakes.
No one person or organization is perfect, so when a customer has a sub-optimal experience, it’s critical to make things right. Immediately recognize the issue, take action to fix it, and let the client know how you’re taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Negative internet reviews can be costly, and research shows they weigh heavily on the minds of consumers. According to research, 95 percent of consumers share their bad experiences and 54 percent do so with more than five people. Gen X and high-income households, which can be the lifeblood of many advisors, are the most likely to share their customer service stories widely. Even when mistakes seem irreparable, an empathetic approach can make a big difference. Responding to customers’ concerns with compassion increases brand value and improves Net Promoter Scores, which measure client loyalty. Always leave an open door for a customer to return.
As competition among financial services providers increases, creating a culture of service at your firm can improve your odds of capturing more clients. By ensuring that your firm is enjoyable to do business with, continually improves its practices and goes the extra mile to make things right, you can establish a reputation that warrants rave reviews and referrals.
Carrie Hansen is EVP and COO at AssetMark, Inc. AssetMark is an SEC-registered investment advisor.