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Your Clients’ Expectations

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Many advisors believe that those darn robo-advisors — or digital advice platforms — do not represent a serious threat to their livelihoods. They argue that wealthier people, with more complex financial lives, will want to work with a human being that they’ve gotten to know well over the course of a long-term relationship.

There’s some truth in that proposition, but I’d like to tell you a story that suggests long-term business relationships that don’t meet the expectations of the client can dissolve pretty quickly.

For the last 16 years I’ve used a car service, mostly to take me to and from the airport for business trips, but also for personal and family transportation purposes. I’ve grown to appreciate this service, especially after a long, annoying trip. I’ve come to enjoy making a phone call to the reservations department, where I’ve gotten to know some of the people in the (local) call center. The drivers and the support people have always been very professional and on time.

So last month after one of those long, annoying trips, when I had two flights cancelled on me and arrived at my destination at midnight on the outbound trip, I arrived inbound at Newark Airport and couldn’t find my driver. I called my car service and reached the dispatcher. That’s when the problem started.

The dispatcher informed me that he did not have my reservation. He reminded me that there had been an outbound reservation that was changed (one of those cancellations) but that he didn’t have me down for a pick up. I explained that I’d had multiple conversations with different people in reservations and that I was sure that I had reserved a pick up.

The dispatcher, however, didn’t want to hear it. All he kept saying was, “You’re not in the system.” Now, he could have said, “You’re not in the system, but let me see how we can help you get home.” That would have made me feel like a valued client, and even if I had to wait for a ride, I would have been satisfied, if still a bit grumpy.

I’ve started using ride-hailing services, mostly Uber, over the past year or so. In some cities, and at some times, and for certain transportation challenges, Uber is absolutely fantastic. You can get a driver to pick you up in midtown Manhattan on a rainy day at rush hour in five minutes. You can get a ride for a fair price between two points that are not served by any public transportation. And so on.

So in my frustration with my old reliable car service, I hung up on them and checked my Uber app. In five minutes I was picked up. It was about two-thirds cheaper than my car service, in a nice car, and I knew who my driver was before he picked me up.

My point is one of client expectations. My car service company has an app that is pretty bad, which is one of the reasons I make a voice phone call to reserve a ride. I have no idea how many “points” I have on my account; there’s no way to view my account through the app. It took about three phone calls to change my credit card number on the account. They’re really nice people, and I’ve gotten to know a couple of the drivers, who are good people and good drivers. I like the company.

I haven’t used my old car service since my last experience. The car service has called me to apologize and to offer me other inducements to use their service again. I’m not sure I will.

Yes, I know we’re talking about a basic transportation service, not the kind of in-depth relationship that advisors and clients have. But my expectations of a personal transportation service have changed since I started using Uber.

Once exposed to an efficient, timely, holistic user experience — with the cost displayed up front and a receipt emailed to me — having a poor user experience, headlined by a person who fixated on the wrong issue (not how to help a long-time customer with a need, but rather that I was “not in the system”) has led me to step away from that long-term relationship. Just think about it.

— Read “Robo Platform Provider NextCapital to Custody With Pershing” on ThinkAdvisor.


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