Client Experience Lessons from a Retail Store, a Snack Bar and a Social Media Giant

Aug 20, 2019

In May, my blog post ICYMI: Assessing, Designing, and Improving the Client Experience included three links that shared insight into how to create a great client experience. One link described what a financial advisor could learn from Starbucks.

I pay close attention to consumer brands and the experiences they offer. Here are a few examples of the brands I think advisors can learn a lot from, in terms of the client experience.

Target: The human touch

It is easy to get caught up in the e-commerce conversation. Everyone buys stuff online; therefore, brick-and-mortar stores’ days are limited, right? Not necessarily. Target is thriving – and from my experience, that is due to their commitment to creating an excellent shopper experience. It’s so important to them that they’ve coined a trip to Target as a “Target Run.” A core component to the “Target Run” is employee participation. Employees are trained to treat each customer as a guest – they are there to answer questions, direct people to the shortest line or help them navigate the self-checkout consoles. Most importantly, they are ever-present; they work hard to eliminate the need for a guest to hunt an employee down to ask a question.

Target has not ignored online shopping – you can buy items from their website and have them shipped to your home. But you also have the option to pick up the items from the store that same day. If a shopper orders online and picks it up curbside, an employee brings their bags to the car and asks if there is anything they forgot or would like to add to the order. That does not happen with pure e-commerce transactions. In fact, many pick-up orders with other retailers require the customer to walk in and pick them up off of a shelf. There is no interaction with an employee or easy opportunity to add something to the order. All in all, the human interactions Target provides are diverse, but the customer’s treatment as a guest is consistent.

Lesson for advisors: Embrace innovation or industry changes and understand how they can enhance your differentiator or value proposition. Like Target is committed to the power of the human touch, you should embrace the relationships you have with your clients. And if you have staff, be sure they all understand how clients should be treated and are able to proactively provide value.  

KIND: Purpose-driven

There are many companies out there with mission statements, but some take it a step further and each day pursue a purpose. In my opinion, KIND® is a great example of a company that exists because of its purpose: to “make the world kinder, one snack and one act at a time.” They create snacks made of wholesome ingredients that everyone can pronounce and that taste good. They promote kind acts through the KIND Foundation and its signature initiative, Empatico. In short, they live, breathe and act on their purpose, which has created a deep level of trust with their customers.

As a result, they have successfully captured health- and community-conscious consumers. This purpose has allowed them to successfully penetrate a very crowded snack bar market dominated by big names.

Lesson for advisors: A purpose can help you successfully and authentically craft a niche. Impact, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG), and Socially Responsible Investing provide an opportunity for advisors to create a purpose-driven business and appeal to many in the market who are not able to find the investment strategy that goes beyond risk tolerance and appeals to who they are and aligns with their beliefs.

Instagram: Bite-sized content

The social media giant is probably best known for influencing teens to take selfies or not look up from their phones at the dinner table. But think about it this way: Those teens produce and consume enormous amounts of content every day. Whether it is a picture or a 30-second “story,” many brands and businesses are relying more on Instagram’s “square” to advertise and acquire customers. It is working. They are getting through to their customers by slimming down the content they produce.

Lesson for advisors: It is easier for people to consume bite-sized content. I know that we struggle to figure out how much content to give to our clients in a meeting, an email or even at an event. How much is too much? How can we ensure they learn or walk away remembering something? Adopting Instagram’s bite-sized approach could be a really good way to format content and make it more impactful.

Client experience is all around us

Many people poke fun at me in my personal life because I am constantly commenting on experiences that companies provide or create. The reason I am so observant? I know my clients also interact with these companies and I am compared to the experience they have. We all are.

Being aware of the experiences your clients have with others – no matter the industry – can help identify expectations and teach us best practices.

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