As published in the IFA magazine 7 May, 2013.
The client experience is just as important as the actual services you provide.
When it comes to how it makes us feel, Disneyland – even if you have never been there – is a place that makes us think of ‘nirvana’. Yet behind the facade of fun and an ‘out of this world experience’, Disneyland’s success is that its results are driven by exceptional, client-focused processes.
Focusing on improving process efficiency has been on advisers’ minds for decades. However, their primary motivation has always been around how they can deliver their value quicker, faster, better and, of course, cheaper. What advisers fail to take into account is that there is a client sitting at the other end, experiencing everything they do.
These days, “70 per cent of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated,” according to online customer support company HelpScout.
This makes the client experience one of the keys to a successful business.
Remember how you felt – or still feel! – the night before Christmas. The bubbles of excitement that flood your veins and the anticipation of what awaits you the next day…
Imagine if your clients felt like that at every interaction with you? The anticipation and the excitement about the difference you are making in their lives and the way you make them feel means they can’t get enough.
It can be done.
However, it requires moving away from traditional thinking and broadening your approach to what constitutes the client experience. What used to be considered a great experience is no longer good enough. Today, the ‘experience’ of doing business is almost as important as the business itself.
This means considering everything you do from the client’s perspective, putting yourself in their shoes and prioritising how you make them feel, at all times.
If you are not already doing this, it may be time to put your business under the microscope and start moving the client experience higher up your priority list.
Here is some food for thought to get you started:
- The first step is to think about delivering a sensational client experience as an investment in your business rather than relying on conventional thinking, which treats it as a cost.
- Develop a client experience strategy and capture what it looks like and what needs to be done.
- Understand what rocks your clients’ boat. If you don’t know, ask. This involves seeking meaningful feedback to find out what you should do more of, less of, start doing or stop doing. Then do it.
- Undergo a ‘process facelift’. Strip back all the layers across your business and think about everything you can do to make clients feel acknowledged, appreciated, heard and understood. Often, it’s the small stuff that makes a big impact.
- Be human – it’s critical to let clients know they are dealing with real people. Share your stories, beliefs and, importantly, make an emotional connection. “Customers will gladly pay more for an experience that is not only functionally but emotionally rewarding.
- Instill a ‘client experience culture’ across your business that is guided by specific rules and accountability. Link it to people’s performance or incentives targets.
- Put your back office on a ‘process diet’. Give it a ‘once over’ to reduce any excess capacity, limit wasted time, remove duplication and simplify complication. Nothing is more frustrating than dealing with an inefficient business.
- Consider how you can use technology to open up experiential rewards that were not possible in the past and deliver them on a scalable basis.
- Pretend to be one of your clients: call in, tour your office, look around and meet your people.
- Use language clients understand unless your strategy is to confuse.
- Always consider ‘what’s in it for me’ from your clients’ perspective.
- Finally, providing financial advice is a serious business so remember to have some fun along the way.
After all, “on average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase” (according to HelpScout, 2012). Therefore, delivering a sensational client experience should be a fundamental business discipline. It must permeate your entire business and it must be a priority.
Whether it’s a ‘wow’ factor or to satisfy compliance, you, your future business success and most importantly your clients, need the experience to be just like going to Disneyland.