While waiting to speak at a recent conference in Chicago, I heard Tracy White, the director of Janus Labs, talk about creating extraordinary experiences that can help advisors win clients for life. I wasn’t surprised to discover that this powerful idea came from Janus, whose cutting-edge thinking has impressed me ever since I wrote about their advisor wellness programs (see “Finding Balance in Your Busy Life,” Investment Advisor, March 2012).
White connected me with Janus Labs’ executive director, John Evans, Jr. To learn more about how an advisor can build unflinching loyalty, I asked them to explain the client-delighting strategy they call “WOW.”
Olivia Mellan: How do you define “WOW”?
John Evans: It’s a unique, emotionally engaging experience that goes beyond expectations and is readily recounted. Those last two words are perhaps the most important. They lead to stories that burnish the reputation of the advisor and create more business.
OM: Can you give an example of a WOW experience?
JE: Three years ago one of our advisors, Tetsu Tanimoto, had me come out to L.A. and co-present “The Art of WOW” with him. Our audience was a group of philanthropic executives interested in retaining high-value donors. I had just shared a story about how I’ve been inspired by a great UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, when Tetsu suddenly stopped the meeting. In front of everyone, he called Wooden, whom he knows personally, and left a message for him to call me.
Ladies and gentlemen, WOW!
OM: What inspired you to help advisors develop WOW experiences for their clients?
JE: As a veteran of one of the larger RIA firms in the Southeast, I’ve walked in the moccasins of the advisor. I know one of the most important things for advisors is to not lose their most valuable clients—the 10% or so who drive 90% of the business. I’m not suggesting that we give short shrift to the other 90% of clients, but this focus on the 10% is a compelling motivator, day in and day out.
In Janus Labs, we strive to anticipate and meet our advisors’ unrecognized needs. Seeing how valuable it could be, we set out to help them increase their ability to deliver great experiences for their top clients.
We partnered with Dr. Joseph Michelli, who has written best-selling books about Ritz-Carlton, Starbucks and Zappos and is an expert on the client experience. He introduced us to the concept of WOW. In collaboration with Michelli and advisors who are outstanding at client retention, we wrote “The Book of WOW” to help advisors cultivate WOW experiences (see sidebar on ThinkAdvisor.com for more on the book).
OM: What do advisors need to know about cultivating these experiences?
JE: First, adopt a mindset for WOW. Culture is not just the main thing for an advisor, it’s the only thing. When we expand our capacity for WOW, we improve the culture. We make clients want to sign up with us.
Be aware that a WOW for one person is not necessarily a WOW for someone else. Advisors need to determine the unique coordinates of each WOWee—the passions and interests of the individual client and their personality type. Are they a Driver, a Social or an Analytic? With Drivers, you want to be bold, be brief and be gone. For a Social, earmark time to talk about family and friends. With an Analytic, accuracy and thoroughness count above all else.
You also want to know the emotional dynamics of the WOWee. How do they want to be appreciated? Is it through acknowledgment of their accomplishments, by spending time with you, by doing some nice service for them or through tokens of appreciation?
And how do they want to be communicated with? Some prefer handwritten notes. Analytics like charts and graphs and reports delivered for them to review, while Socials may prefer a visit on the veranda with latte in hand. Drivers like emails of less than 12 words delivered before 7 a.m.
OM: One of the quotes I love in your book is “All business is personal” by Dr. Michelli. I truly believe that.
JE: Just as real estate is all about “location, location, location,” WOW is all about information, information, information. To gather information you can use in creating great WOW experiences, you need to establish the habit of listening when clients don’t think you’re listening. This will allow you to anticipate and satisfy unstated needs.
Another saying I like is a variation of the quote by Louis Pasteur: “Chance favors the prepared mind.” We say, “WOW favors the prepared mind.” When you commit to the art of WOW, all sorts of opportunities will open up.
OM: So a WOW doesn’t have to be elaborate for a client to feel special?