Why One-Size-Fits-All Client Service Doesn’t (Fit, That Is)


A few weeks ago, I wrote about confirmation bias in your business.  The idea of the post was to challenge advisors to look at the way they take in information at events like conferences.  Do they seek out the vendors and presentations that will confirm what they already believe, or do they challenge their assumptions regularly? Today, I wanted to look at some of those other assumptions that can cause challenges in an advisor’s business.

I see it all the time – advisory firms systematically over-servicing smaller clients, while underserving the larger ones. We do that by creating a one-size-fits-all approach and then doing a poor job of segmentation. We assume that “A-level” service means the same thing to everyone when, in fact, I would argue that clients have a very different idea of what “A-level” service means to them.

Advisors tend to segment by AUM or revenue, rather than by what is important to the client, thereby almost ensuring that some clients are disappointed in what the advisor thinks is his/her best service. But what if you looked at your book in a different way?

People, not letters

Instead of A, B and C clients, think about creating personas (or avatars) that represent portions of your book. Use those personas to create service offerings targeted at that group.

Got a 55 year old, corporate executive with college age kids and busy life? “A-level” service probably means:

  • Annual meetings, instead of quarterly
  • Ongoing tax planning and maximizing after tax returns, instead of total returns and a yearend look
  • Account aggregation, making it easy to see everything in one place

Our bias is to treat people the way we ourselves would want to be treated – but maybe they don’t want what you want.

Why one-size-fits-all client service doesn’t (fit, that is) Click To Tweet

Takes one to know one?

One of the hardest challenges is to look objectively at your own business and how you work with clients. As many of you are independent, small businesses, there is no best-practice manual for working with clients. Interestingly, most advisors also have no idea what it even feels like to be a client, as you typically do the planning and investing for your own accounts. Investments, services and the whole client experience are very one-sided for most firms – so how do you know what a client is going through when you are not one?

Take a step back and look at your own planning and investing. Not what you do for clients, but for your own account, your own family. Many advisors manage their own assets exactly the way they manage their clients’ assets. Is that a bias – because it works for you, it will work for them? When is the last time you really challenged yourself on an assumption in your own family plan or brought your spouse into the conversation where you both had an equal voice?

The first step

With any challenge, there is a first step to overcome it. Understanding your bias and admitting that there may be another way is that first step. Think about what you read, what the norms of the business look like and where you go to get new ideas. Maybe even hire an advisor for yourself (or at least join a very diverse study group). I think you will be surprised that there are some other good ideas out there – ones that make you better informed (and perhaps a better advisor) as a result.

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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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