What constitutes a “good” customer experience as we know it has changed. Service is no longer about simply fulfilling a basic need, it’s about the personalized interactions that occur along the way to fulfilling that need.
Take a look at Nike’s website, as one example. If I go to Nike right now to buy a new pair of shoes, I can pick out the laces I want, the colors of the shoe, the type of padding—it’s all in my control and it’s all unique to me.
What personalization does is it creates a better customer experience, because it pulls the focus away from the company and puts it where it belongs, which is on the customer and what they want. A personalized customer experience makes people feel seen and valued.
When serving clients as a financial advisor, you have to personalize the services and solutions you offer. It all begins with an understanding of what your clients need from you.
The Right Value at the Right Time
Before you can communicate the right message to your clients and prospects, you first have to begin by understanding where an individual is in relation to knowing your firm and what you can do for them.
Put simply, the conversation you have with a new prospect will be much different than a conversation you have with a client of ten years. How that conversation develops will determine your success rate of turning interested prospects into client advocates.
As you communicate your value, think about talking to investors as if they are a prospect, a lead, a client, or an advocate.
Your message each step of the way will be different, but it will likely follow a similar progression to the below:
- At your first interaction, you need to educate, not sell; help prospective clients understand how you help them, above all else.
- Once you’ve garnered someone’s interest, they’ll look at what everyone else says about you — anything from your social media to word of mouth sites like Google reviews and Facebook; even when someone isn’t directly engaged with you, your message across your digital presence should consistently point back to how you can help with the problems they are looking to solve.
- Once someone who’s interested has decided that you can help with the problem they’re experiencing, the next step will be personal interaction. Almost everyone will ask a simple question: How will what you provide help me, protect me, or make my life easier? (You’ll never stop answering this questions; if you answer it well enough and often enough, you’ll have an opportunity to turn your clients into advocates for what you’ve done for them.)
Through all of your communication, the way in which you personalize your service to where an individual is in their journey with your firm will make all the difference.
Let me explain what personalized service looks like with an example from my own life.
I’ve always been a dog lover, and I want to give the best to mine; they are a part of my family. A few years ago, I decided that providing the best included giving my dog the best food I could find. So, I signed up with a dog food company to have recurring shipments sent to me.
When I first signed up, the company sent me a handwritten thank you note that said they appreciated the trust I was putting in them. That was a great first interaction. It was a nice, personalized gesture and it won them some goodwill with me.
But the real personalized experience that made a lasting impression and turned me into an advocate of this dog food company came later.
When my 14-year-old dog passed away, I received an email that my shipment of dog food was on its way. I called to cancel, of course, and the treatment and real empathy that the service rep showed me made me feel cared for during a difficult time.
A few days later, the company even sent sympathy flowers. In that moment, I knew that I would be a lifelong customer whenever I got a new dog.
The company paid attention to my situation, and they took action to provide an experience that would make me feel seen and valued.
These types of personal, empathetic experiences are the model you need to follow with your clients. Once you know your clients and understand their situation, then you can overwhelm them with a great experience that provides great value.
Improving Clients’ Lives
My simple guide to how advisors can create exceptional and personalized client service begins and ends with four words: Talk less, listen more.
Most advisors are experts in their fields. They want to educate their clients, display their knowledge, and communicate everything they know. That knowledge and expertise is, of course, a good thing. But in reality, you need to be more interested in asking questions than in providing fast solutions.
It’s our human nature that we all want to feel heard and validated. Your clients want to be understood when they bring their financial questions to you. You can provide that by listening to their needs, and crafting a careful response that’s unique for their situation.
When an individual decides they need financial advice, it’s because they want help. Provide solutions for where they are at today, in bite-sized chunks to help them implement decisions that will help them get closer to their goals.
Providing exceptional service starts with hearing the needs of your clients. Once you’ve taken the time to listen, you need to respond with an empathetic attitude so you can show that you value your clients.
In other words, a large part of your value is in showing that you value them.
Making a great client experience starts with educating people on their first interaction with you, but it never stops there. Continuing to provide personalized experiences for everyone you help will set your firm apart and help you create a client experience that builds advocates for you and your team.
Jarrod Upton, MBA, MS, CFP® is Chief Operations and Senior Consultant at Herbers & Company, an independent growth consultancy for financial advisory firms. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.