I recently bought a new car, my first in nine years. One reason I stayed with my last car so long was that I dreaded the car buying process. To alleviate some of the burden, I decided to go with the same make as my previous car but a new model. It’s a luxury brand, entry-level model, so my expectations were high. I went to the dealership where I’d had my old car serviced quarterly for the last nine years. The service experience over that time had been impeccable.
But not this time. Although the process of making the deal with the sales manager was quick and painless, from there the experience went downhill. The mistakes the dealership made were great practice management lessons for financial planners.
Advisor Lesson No. 1: Blueprint Your Process
When the salesperson showed me the car, he mentioned its features but clearly randomly as they popped into his head. Then he said to me, “You know, there is like a 30-point checklist for this.” He did not have the checklist with him.
The business manager had no order to the paperwork. He was tossing blank forms in front of me asking me to sign with no explanation. He seemed unsure which forms I needed to sign and which I didn’t. He gave me no indication how long the process would take or what information I should bring with me.
Lesson Learned: Blueprint your process. Have checklists you and your staff can use to make sure you have all the documents you need. Checklists also provide the client with a roadmap to the process. The client knows what is going to happen next. They can see the checklist being completed, so they know everything is in control.
Lesson No. 2: Design the Experience
I had the business manager and a salesperson asking me for information at the same time. At one point, my driver’s license went missing. The salesman was making a copy and did not tell me he had picked it up. The business manager could not get his printer to print the information for the right lines of the invoice. I waited 30 minutes while he fought with his printer. During the process, the sales manager took a personal call on his cell phone. After the paperwork was signed, I was left to wander around the showroom trying to find the salesman who was going to show me my new car.
Lesson Learned: Every hand-off of people and paperwork should be choreographed. Every aspect of the client experience should be designed with nothing left to chance, from how the client is greeted by the receptionist to what expectations you set for future communications. Create a linear process to manage the client and make sure your staff knows their individual roles in that process.
Lesson No. 3: Manage the Mistakes
When I got back to my office with my new car, I had a voice message from the business manager that he forgot to have me sign two forms. He wanted me to come back to the dealership—a 30-minute drive—to fill out two more forms. After several voice mails back-and-forth, I suggested the dealership fax me the paperwork in lieu of me driving back there. When I received the forms, I realized that I had signed one of them at the dealership. My confidence in the dealership dropped even lower.
Lesson Learned: Mistakes happen, no matter how prepared you are. When they do happen, make it easy for the client. Go to the client with solutions in hand. Respond to mistakes by making everything right with the client. Then figure out where the process failed.
When products have little to differentiate them, like a car of the same make with new bells and whistles, the only competitive edge a business has is service. By blueprinting your client experience, and following that blueprint consistently, you can ensure your clients will have every reason to come back to you – and to bring their friends and family with them.