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Creating Your Advantage

by Alan Smith

There was a time when providing comprehensive financial planning was enough to set yourself apart from product focused advisers. However, over the last few years, cash flow modelling and goal-based planning has become increasingly commonplace, making it harder to differentiate your customer experience.

In a competitive market it’s important to stand out to win more clients, receive more referrals, and enjoy greater growth. As the sector becomes increasingly commoditized, and one firm looks (at least from the outside) very similar to the next, the magic ingredient is the client experience. Most of your clients may not know the precise nature of the work you do for them – the complex tax calculations, the thoughtful investment philosophy that you designed and built for them. But they know how they experience every engagement with you and your firm.

I’ve often said that our competition isn’t other IFAs, it’s the amazing boutique hotel, the wonderful local restaurant. It’s Amazon and Apple and the other world class organizations your clients use as part of their daily lives. Personal finance is more personal than it is finance. Your clients are judging you on how you make them feel on an emotional level.

Great businesses think through every single step in their customer journey, from the first point of contact to the on-boarding process to regular interactions.

The Australian dentist Paddi Lund referred to this obsession with the customer experience as the ‘Critical Non Essentials’. Critical Non Essentials are seemingly irrelevant touches that by themselves don’t make much of a difference. However, when combined, they deliver an outstanding experience that your clients rave about to their friends. By focusing on Critical Non Essentials, he transformed an unsuccessful dental practice into the leading practice in the country, with new patients accepted by referral only and a waiting list months long.

When was the last time you walked yourself through every step your next prospective client will walk through? Have you experienced the calls they will receive, the emails, the documentation, the ‘homework’ you ask them to do? Have you thought about how this would make you feel, particularly as you would be out of your comfort zone as you engage with a new professional?

The First 100 Days

You want your new clients to be beyond delighted with their decision to hire you. You want them to provide you with positive testimonials, offer to share their story on your website and excitedly talk of their experiences with friends and family.

Your Discovery Meeting needs to be an amazing experience, full of insightful questions and ideas. Use a script, but allow the conversation to organically evolve as your clients reveal their values, hopes and concerns.

The information they share will then allow you to personalize their experience at the next step.

They told you they love sailing? Add a design flourish and incorporate some striking images of beautiful yachts and ocean scenes on the legal paperwork they sign. Technology allows this to be done now for no more cost than a standard, boring document – just takes a thoughtful approach and a few extra minutes.

Make sure to send new clients a personalized letter (not email) from you (or your firm’s CEO) welcoming them as new clients and thanking them for placing their trust in your firm

Follow Up Meetings

When we get back to meeting in person, what will the client remember, what makes you stand out?

Maybe your team greeted them at the door by name and with a huge smile. You knew their favorite drink was coffee with one sweetener and offered it as they arrived.

Your meeting room has freshly cut flowers and a jug of water chilling with lemon and ice. You serve hot drinks in the best china cups and offer handmade biscuits or small chocolates sourced from a local artisan supplier which creates a story you can share right there.

You’ve invested the time to dig deep into your CRM system and remind yourself the important names, dates, and events in their lives. How impactful is it to open a meeting by asking ‘how was Lucy’s 21st in February?’ or ‘what did you do for your 30th wedding anniversary last month?’

Actors going on stage every night remember that although they may be performing for the 10th time that week, for the audience it’s one night that they’ve been looking forward to and expect a fantastic performance. We should be no different – give your ‘audience’ your very best performance every time.

One of the best compliments I had from a client was you make us feel like we’re your only client. I can only create this feeling with a relentless focus on the seemingly small stuff. Your clients pay you thousands of pounds every year and deserve your undivided focus for the time they are with you.

Going Forward

As we begin to make plans to get back to the office and meet our clients face to face, this is the perfect time to pay attention to the granular details of your customer experience. Get your team together and brainstorm. Ask them to share stories of outstanding experiences they’ve had, whether at a restaurant or a store or online, and discuss ways of applying these experiences to your business.

Focus on memorable experiences over forgettable processes, on making an impact over making a sale and becoming world class in the business of client experiences – your current clients, your future clients and your team will thank you for it.

Alan Smith headshot
Courtesy of Alan Smith

Alan Smith is the founder and CEO of Capital Asset Management, one of the UK’s leading firms of independent Chartered Financial Planners. From their origins as a small, transaction-based IFA, Alan and his team have grown the business into a modern, profitable, boutique firm, delivering lifestyle financial planning services to a growing client base of affluent families.

The views expressed in this article are that of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Voyant.


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