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4 Ways to Give Clients a 'Wow' Experience

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There’s a lot for advisors to learn by reading “The Book of Wow,” which is based on the Art of Wow program created by Knowledge Labs — the value-added platform of Janus Henderson developed in partnership with Joseph Michelli, a client experience expert and best-selling author.

The book is based on a survey of a wide variety of advisors, who share client experiences that go beyond their expectations — resulting in a “Wow.”  

According to the book, Wow experiences are unanticipated, surpass professional advice and involve actions that resonate on a personal basis with clients; they’re also often unique to each client. 

These experiences can be personal or tied to relationships between parties that go deeper and are more meaningful than what is normally experienced.  

Words are cheap, and actions speak louder than words — as our industry spouts many cliché corporate platitudes. Few follow through with the necessary actions to bring about Wow experiences. Here are four Wow experiences that work on both the advisor and broker-dealer level.

1. Concentrate your attention.

While many advisors and broker-dealers think in terms of providing a service experience that’s adequate enough to keep clients, these advisors and BD go beyond adequate.  

For an advisor, if you have hundreds of clients, high levels of attention to your clients becomes logistically impossible, because the Wow model requires 25-50 qualified investor clients or 50-100 accredited investor clients. (Or if you’re Taylor Swift’s father working with Merrill Lynch, just one client).  

One advisor we consulted with had 35 clients, all of whom were very wealthy. She is involved in many aspects of their lives, such as attending birthdays and graduations. 

Clients come to her when they want to buy a car or other high-end items, and also seek out her advice for referrals in real estate, legal and insurance to ensure they get the best. Clients have her cell number to call at any time.  

This advisor’s clients have been so satisfied with her that they refer others like themselves (wealthy prospects) to her, which is exclusively where her growth came from.  

She did not want more than 50 clients, since that would hurt her high level of service, lessen the experience for everyone and hinder her quality of life — as there’s more to life than work.  

At 35 clients, she’s worked four days a week, traveled frequently and enjoyed a very comfortable lifestyle. Not having hundreds of clients frees up her time to shower her clients with attention and still have plenty of personal time to do the things that matter to her in style.  

 On a broker-dealer level, there are BDs in the small and midsized range that follow a similar model: They have a very high service level, are focused on high-end advisors and give them focused attention and high-quality service experiences that make them very sticky. 

One of these firms, which is at the 250-advisor level, has a growth cap of 500 for the same reason the advisors cap client growth: It would negatively impact the service culture they worked hard to cultivate.  

BDs like these have average yearly production (or fees and commissions) per advisor of $400,000 or above. The advisors have “go to people” in the back office who they can easily reach out to for problem resolution; staff turnover at these firms is extremely low. 

Advisors at these firms also have strong relationships with management, enjoy high-end lavish conference and reward trips, and are surrounded with like-minded advisors who are all highly successful. (You can learn more about high-attention BDs in an earlier piece I wrote, entitled “Is Your Broker Dealer a Screaming Eagle or a Box Wine?” 

Larger firms have their own version of this high-attention model — namely through a structure that lets large producer groups operate within their broker-dealer. 

We work with numerous producer groups that have 100-350 advisors. These groups bring the individual advisors a high level of attention and frequently have their own internal service staff.

For some reps, these groups offer additional services such as in-house financial planning and turnkey marketing programs to bring advisors a steady flow of new clients, as well as the scale to potentially bring the same or better payouts than if the reps were to directly join the broker-dealer. 

Many of these groups celebrate the success of their advisors by having their own annual conference.  They also support networking within the group, so advisors with different areas of expertise can aid others. 

For standalone advisors who feel isolated, these groups can be a refuge where they can build relationships and feel significant. (I highlight the characteristics of these large groups in an article, “How Super OSJs Bring Innovation to Broker-Dealers.”

2. Strive to impress.

As broker-dealers mature or advisors get accustomed to their client bases, they can sometimes fall into complacency and take customers for granted. They might get lazy and stop making the effort to impress.  

Does your spouse or your family members like it when they are taken for granted?  Your client’s don’t either. So whether you are a BD or an advisor, striving to please will keep retention of these relationships high.  

For advisors, knowing clients’ passions, hobbies, charitable concerns, sports interests and more importantly their children and/or other relatives brings opportunities for personalized gifts and planned activities that show you know and care about them. This also will help you keep them as clients and set the stage for retaining their children as clients in the future. 

For broker-dealers, advisor counsels that let advisor concerns influence company policy, reward trips for those at multiple levels of production, as well as communications from management to advisors on an individual basis (not firmwide memos) make advisors feel significant. 

Furthermore, awards for different accomplishments, such as plaques and crystal trophies they can display, are very motivating to top advisors. Examples of the focus of these awards include those with the most asset growth for the year, most production for the year, most advisory production for the year, most new accounts for the year, and most charitable work in their community for the year.

We’ve known some BD presidents that make a practice of calling up to 10 advisors per week to connect with them on the quality of their service and business processing, as well as to request suggestions advisors may have for improvements. 

Firms that take these extra steps help build a culture that’s perceived as advisor driven.  

3. Pursue what’s meaningful, not what’s expedient.

“Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient,” is Rule No. 7 in Canadian clinical psychologist and psychology professor Jordan Peterson’s 2018 self-help book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote for Chaos.” We include Peterson’s rule No. 7 in our top four “Wow” points, because we find that the most successful advisors and firms have taken a path to pursue being meaningful.  

In his Rule No. 7, Peterson encourages us to “Stop doing what you know you shouldn’t be doing. Do what you know provides your life meaning. The expedient path would be to indulge in short-term pleasures and put off long term commitments. You do what feels best today, indulging in your basest desires all the time.”

Peterson continues, “Acting with meaning, you will attain more security and strength than would be granted by a short-sighted concern for your own security.  What you do will matter to you.  In turn you’ll feel better about your existence, and the evils and injustices of the world are more bearable, because you will know they can be overcome. 

“Meaning regulates impulses and recognizes the value of making the world better,” he explains. “Expedience rejects responsibility, it doesn’t have the wisdom or sophistication to look ahead and plan carefully; it has no courage or sacrifice; it’s the easy way out. By providing deeper meaning, meaning gratifies all impulses.”

On an advisor level, the term “closer” pertains to representatives that excel at manipulating clients and prospects to buy whatever it is they are pedaling. (A rep with a product-driven investing style is an example of an expedient person.)

The financial planner who works slowly and deliberately, with all investing decisions supported by a financial plan and adhering to a fiduciary standard would be someone advising in a meaningful way.  

For broker-dealers, self-serving expedience can be characterized by: 

  • Prioritizing profit centers over their advisors’ ability to effectively adhere to a fiduciary standard; and
  • Compliance policies that cater to the lowest common denominator, with paperwork and processing business considered “burdensome” at best.

For BDs doing business in a meaningful way, their operating motives looks like this: If we do what’s best for advisors and their clients in the long run, we too will benefit. 

Broker-dealers that take a long-term approach are frequently (but not always) privately owned, because they don’t have the potentially disruptive obstacles of pressure from shareholders or ownership changes from private equity firms. 

It’s worth noting that by working and living meaningfully, you’ll create Wow experiences that are shared with all those around you. 

4. Do many things extremely well.

What we’ve seen to be universal in making the end client say, “Wow” are broker-dealers and advisors that do many things extremely well. They build a culture that people are drawn to and want to experience. 

Technology, operations, processes and compliance have been refined over and over until they operate with such accuracy that mistakes and errors are rare occurrences. These firms and individuals are always learning and keeping up with changes, always honing their craft to deliver a better experience. 

We encourage you to read through Janus’ “The Book of Wow” to learn what others have done to exceed normal expectations and to come up with your own Wow experiences for clients that you feel are a better fit for your personality and client base. 

Wow experiences are similar to “unexpected acts of kindness,” which can be infectious and very gratifying when put into regular practice.