As advisors strive to deliver excellent service and create deeper relationships, it’s important to understand how investors think about money, what they expect out of an advisor relationship and in what aspects advisors fall short.

Yet identifying what it takes to deliver an outstanding experience sometimes can feel like a moving target. After all, clients’ needs change and new technologies can create new expectations.

To find the answers, TD Ameritrade Institutional recently surveyed more than 1,000 high-net-worth investors who work with an advisor to learn about the quality of the experience they have as clients.

What we discovered was that few advisors possessed a deep understanding of their clients’ expectations outside typical investing and planning services. Less than half collect feedback from clients; even fewer work to understand what specifically drives higher client satisfaction. Advisors say they are puzzled when clients claim to be ‘satisfied’ with their advisor but don’t attend annual review meetings or generate referrals.

Based on these findings, we are telling advisors there are four major opportunities to more fully engage their best clients, enhance the client experience and turn customers into advocates:

1) Oline brand management

2) Continuing education

3) Review meetings

4) Customer appreciation.

Step 1: Manage Your Online Brand
When it comes to brand management, we found most advisors are falling short with regard to promoting their name and brand online. Only a third of investors, for example, agreed that they were able to find meaningful information about their advisor on­line before reaching out to make first contact.

Think of the lost opportunities. Most investors first learn about their financial advisor from a family member, friend or other trusted individual. Yet even a warm referral can quickly turn cold if an advisor doesn’t have a compelling brand presence online or, worse, little presence at all.

We suggest that advisors Google themselves and then determine the answers to these questions: Am I easy to find online? Is my firm easy to find online? Is the information that’s available representative of who I am and what my firm stands for? Is this information compelling to my ideal client? Can prospects easily locate my contact information?

By doing so, advisors can begin the work of enhancing their online presence so that it’s easier for prospects to learn more about their firms and the client experience they can deliver.

Step 2: Provide Education
Another opportunity to enhance client engagement can be found in education. Less than a third of the wealthy investors we surveyed reported that their advisor provided “meaningful educational opportunities.”

We dug a little deeper and learned that those under the age of 50 were much more likely to want their advisor to educate them on financial as well as non-investment related topics, such as how to craft a meaningful vision for retirement, better understand investments and the markets and create a meaningful legacy. The under-50 crowd also want help teaching their children to make better financial decisions and advice for how they can support aging parents. 

Step 3: Rethink Review Meetings
In our experience, review meetings are valuable in strengthening personal engagement and the client experience. Asked how they would rate the value of meetings with their advisor, 59% of the investors surveyed said these sessions were “very valuable,’ which means that four out of 10 want to get more out of these meetings.

That finding correlates with anecdotal feedback we receive from advisors, who say it’s been increasingly difficult to get their clients to commit to review meetings. 

The solution is for advisors to re-energize the traditional review meeting by involving clients in developing the agenda, visually display data rather than provide paper-based reports, leverage technology to play out different scenarios in real time and employ “gamification” or assessments to help clients make decisions.

Step 4: Show Appreciation
The fourth opportunity is pretty simple: show your appreciation. Only half of the investors surveyed said they feel valued by their financial advisor. Saying “thank you” to clients for their business should be at the top of every advisor’s list and it doesn’t have to be elaborate. Whether it’s an unexpected act of kindness, a small token or a simple thank-you note, advisors just need to be personal and relevant.

Luckily, there are many opportunities throughout the year to show your appreciation, including the client’s anniversary date of joining your firm or when a referral by the client leads to new business.

So while the needs and preferences of investors may vary, by focusing on these opportunities advisors can go a long way toward developing a better experience that turns clients into enthusiastic advocates for their firms.