How Frictionless is Your Advisory Business?

I have been thinking a lot lately about client loyalty, retention and referrals, wondering why we choose the service providers that we do. It started with a frictionless experience that exceeded my expectations from a car dealer, but it got me thinking about relationships with financial advisors.

So first, a little about friction. It can be physical, making something materially more difficult, or it can be mental, making you think harder, hesitate or just plain uncomfortable. If you gauge some of your experiences with service providers and think about just how easy it is (or not) to do business with them, you probably realize that the less friction there is, the more loyal you become.

On the side of the road

I live in a somewhat rural area in the Philadelphia suburbs (we even have cows across the fence of the backyard). The roads in my neighborhood are narrow, hilly and, in some cases, rocky near the edges. On my way to work a few weeks ago, I got too close to some of those rocks and they tore a quarter-sized hole in the passenger-side front tire. Now, normally, you might consider AAA, a local tire shop or even just changing the tire yourself. I called the dealer that I bought the car from (4 years ago!). Why would I go to the (arguably) most expensive option? Because, I knew from experience that they would be transparent about time and cost and make it easy for me. They would eliminate the friction in the experience. And they did.  They texted me with the status of the tow truck, had a (free) rental car waiting for me, as they didn’t have my specific tire in stock.  They even dropped off my car at our house when the work was done. It was frictionless.

Think about any great service experience you had in the last year. Who or what “wowed” you? And how do you feel about that business or that service provider now?

  • Did you immediately become more loyal?
  • Did you tell your friends and family about the experience?
  • Are you more likely to go back/do business with them again?

Now think about your business. Do you believe you make it easy for your clients? (And would they agree?) Do you take away the friction? My guess is that we rarely put ourselves in the shoes of our clients so that we can really understand just where the friction lies.

Their journey

In our 2018 paper, Your High-Net-Worth Client Strategy, Allie Carey and I shared that, while 85% of advisor clients are satisfied with their relationship with their advisor, just being satisfied may not be enough. We shared that the golden rule of service, “Do unto others as you would want done unto you,” should be replaced by the platinum rule of service, “Do unto others as they want done unto them.”

The first step in living the platinum rule is to understand that it is not all about you. In fact, by understanding your clients’ journey through the onboarding, planning and services process, you have the ability to create a truly memorable (and referable) business.

At your next staff meeting, draw up your client journey for onboarding (as an example). Start with when the prospect first hears about you (remember, the client experience happens BEFORE they become a client). Alongside the journey, look for friction points. Examples:

  1. A client refers us. Are our clients describing us the way we wish? Are we giving our clients the stories/words that can make us more referable? Are we making it easy for them to refer?
  2. A prospect hears about us and visits our website. Are we clear about who we are, whom we work with and what we do? Is there content that relates to the targeted consumer? Are there examples of our planning, investment and services process? Are there bios and pictures of each of the people they will meet? Does our social media reinforce our brand?
  3. A prospect calls for an appointment. Does the staff have clear direction on how to handle a call including how to describe the firm, the process and what targeting (not generic) pre-meeting materials to send to assist the client in coming in? Is there a client advocate or ambassador that is available to answer questions or ease the mental friction? Is there a welcome kit?
  4. A client agrees to a planning engagement. How can you make the process easier for the client? How can you eliminate the confusion and stress? Can you coordinate/meet with the other professionals, such as CPAs and attorneys, instead of sending them there for information?

While these are examples, I think you could go much deeper into what your client journey looks like. The key is to map this out from your point of view and then from your client/prospects’ perspective. I think you will find multiple areas that can be addressed to lessen the friction of working with you (both mental and physical).

Advice: less friction

After our first child was born, my wife and I knew we needed to update our estate plan. We hired a planner. He was able to provide advice and some sample wording for us to use when we met with a local attorney. However, we had to find that local attorney ourselves and think through some very big issues on our own. Frankly, it was a bit intimidating. We had to do that, and  find someone who could draft the documents and get them executed. It took us over a year to get it done.

Compare that experience with our current advisor’s most recent update to our plan. An attorney met us in our advisor’s office, had diagrams created to show the flow, and had a notary available when we were ready to sign. The physical and mental friction was gone and we moved forward with ease.

And yes, we are loyal and refer often.

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John Anderson

John Anderson

John Anderson is the creator and lead author of Practically Speaking blog and Managing Director of Practice Management Solutions for the SEI Advisor Network.

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