More industries are seeing the emergence of “concierge services.” Taking their name from high-end hotels that assign concierge staff to meet guests’ every need, these services have emerged to help the affluent in their daily lives — addressing problems from chest pains to window panes and most things in between.
The driving force behind the need for these concierge services is, ironically, technology itself. While the Internet has given us access to virtually every product and service on the planet, it also has a dark side: creating a wall of voice mail, “help” sites and “more information,” which make it nearly impossible to speak with a live person when you have a problem with a product or service.
Thus, concierge services are popping up so individuals can get the help they need.
It follows that more independent advisory firms are adding technology to increase efficiency and lower costs. And when done intelligently, tech services can achieve these goals.
However, many advisory firms today are bringing on more technology to reduce the perceived “inefficiencies“ of client-to-human contact. To those I ask, “Why not close your doors now?”
Like other professions, such as law, medicine, accounting and teaching, financial advice is based on the relationship between clients and advisors. It involves one of the most important aspects of most people’s lives — their finances — and consequently, it involves a high degree of trust.
To build that trust, advisors have to show up — alive and in person. If your clients were comfortable working with a website, they would go to a digital platform, but they aren’t.
Since your clients haven’t moved their assets to digital solutions and platforms based on artificial intelligence, it seems the key to competing with any digital platform is to increase (not decrease) client access to advisors and other humans who can help them with with their financial lives.
To provide this level of human service, you must do four things.
- Stop trying to download your clients onto your website. Sure, it’s okay to enable them to schedule appointments and/or view their financial information online, but make sure that when they have questions or issues, they can easily reach an actual member of your team.
- Train your staff to provide a high level of personal client service and give them the tools they need to do their jobs. This is where your technology investments should go: enabling your staff to address client needs and issues quickly and easily.
- At the same time, don’t set your support staff up as barriers to client contact with advisors. This is an easy trap to fall into, as most advisors are busy people. But providing a high level of client service means that when clients need to talk with their advisors, they exactly what happens — maybe not right away (unless it’s a real emergency), but definitely as soon as possible.
- Finally, if you’re like most advisors, you’re wondering how you can increase access to your clients and do all the other things you need to do for your practice.
The short answer is that you’re not. That is, to increase client access and boost your firm’s competitiveness, you must stop doing some (or even lots) of the things you currently are doing.
As a simple yardstick, use this rule: Anything you can delegate, delegate. You will probably need to hire some more staff and even one or two new outside consultants.
This is true for your other advisors, too. You want them in front of clients as much as possible. Where will you get the money for all this support? How about from that new client-facing software you were going to buy?
To continue to compete and win, independent advisors have to go with their strength: the human relationship between advisor and client. This means building a firm in which your advisors get to focus the majority of their time, energy and human talents on clients.