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What to Do When Exceeding Expectations Isn't Enough

Bridge the gap of emotionally connecting with affluent clients in order to win word-of-mouth influence.

Continuing in our series of deep-dive articles on the components of the Word-of-Mouth-Influence (WOMI) Hierarchy , progressing from the previous article, “Exceed Professional Expectations—The WOMI Foundation,” takes us to what I consider to be the heart and soul of WOMI: Emotionally Connect.  


I realize that you might be thinking that “exceeding professional expectations” should be more than enough to create an ideal client, but unfortunately it’s not. We’ve listened to advisors gripe about how today’s affluent take their hard work for granted, how they’re unappreciative. Although this is a legitimate gripe, for many reasons, this is today’s reality.

However, this is nothing personal against financial advisors. The affluent have become a very skeptical, distrusting, leery species far beyond the world of financial services. This is clearly evident when you review the data uncovered in our Affluent Consumer Research regarding their trust in advertising listed below.

Affluent Rated “Some to Full” Trust in Advertising for:      

  • Banks                                                33%
  • Airline & Travel                                  31%
  • Food & Beverage                              29%
  • Financial Advisory                             26%
  • Insurance                                          26%
  • Pharmaceuticals                               25%
  • Automotive                                        21%
  • Cellular Companies                          15%
  • Weight Loss / Fitness Products          4%

All of the above serves to illustrate why today’s affluent place such importance on having an emotional connection with entities or service providers with whom they conduct business, especially when it’s an ongoing business relationship. Naturally, this includes their financial advisor. It’s quite simple—it’s an overall trust issue. Whether it’s the neighborhood grocery store or their lawn service, when there’s a personal connection, the affluent feel much better about their experience. The result: they’re far more likely to be loyal and spread the good word.

We have been studying this phenomenon since it was uncovered over a decade ago. Our data is quite clear about this—when a financial advisor connects with an affluent client on this level, on average, they are rated 13 points higher in every aspect of wealth management, practice management and service. That alone is a big deal!! When you then add their willingness to recommend their advisor to people in their spheres of influence, you have an ideal client.

The irony regarding this phenomenon is that establishing an emotional connection is actually quite simple, yet few advisors have done so. Since uncovering this fact, for the past 10 years we asked questions in both of our dual-research projects (affluent and financial advisor) to determine their perception of the advisor-client relationship. And year after year, our findings have highlighted a serious difference of opinion. According to affluent clients, less than a third (28 percent) feel emotionally connected with their advisor, whereas nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of advisors think they have emotionally connected with their client. This a huge perception gap on a serious issue. This is probably one of the primary reasons only 19 percent of advisors reap the benefits of WOMI.

Because of its value regarding advisor-client relationships, we consider it the heart and soul of WOMI. To assist advisors in this regard, we’ve created a Relationship Index and have been coaching advisors in how to develop this level of connectivity with their top-tier clients. In a nutshell, this index takes the guesswork out of emotionally connecting because now we’re monitoring every interaction. We discovered that by simply putting some structure around managing affluent-client relationships, it’s relatively easy for advisors to truly connect on an emotional level.

The concept is for financial advisors to make it a priority to develop a relationship with their affluent clients wherein both parties are comfortable having conversations on a very personal level—where both parties are sincerely interested in each other’s well-being and share nonfinancial joys and concerns. Essentially, it’s incumbent on the advisor to take the initiative to make certain they have a personal relationship built on TRUST.

As I’ve stated on numerous occasions, relationships that go beyond first-class professionalism—the foundation of the WOMI Hierarchy—and have an emotional connection create the ideal client. Those clients will recommend your services when the conversation presents itself. At this level within the WOMI Hierarchy, you have a client who is an advocate—which is a very good thing. However, the next level of the WOMI Hierarchy is about developing a knack for “activating conversations”—creating opportunities that make it easier for your client advocates to spread the word.

Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent

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