by Tony Vidler
While talking to a very experienced and successful adviser I asked him what he put his phenomenal success down to.
He said: “I am dependable”.
As simple as that…a 40 year record of happy clients and success in financial services is summed up. He doesn’t claim to be the best technician of all time, and readily admits to disliking a lot of the paperwork and back office stuff…and doesn’t pretend to be great at it. But he is smart enough to hire people who are good at it, and they are people he can depend on. Which means of course, that his clients can depend on his firm to do what it promised.
It doesn’t sound like much of a differentiator, and it doesn’t sound particularly brilliant. In fact it all sounds terribly “old school” doesn’t it? However, it IS a brilliant customer promise because it taps into a core desire of the majority of consumers who use a professional.
In professional services there has always been an ongoing issue with variable service levels, or to use the technical term: heterogeneity. That is, the service experience of customers is diverse – even from the same practitioner. When multiple practitioners operate in the same firm then the customer experience will potentially become even more variable. The word “service” in this context is the entire client experience that they have with any given professional, rather than the more narrow operational definition of ongoing communication and keeping existing clients satisfied or giving them excellent experiences to some degree or other.
Research has found that retail clients largely feel that the “people are more important than the brand“. The bottom line is that the majority of consumers in developed countries still believe (it would seem) that a professional whom they can count upon is valuable to them. It is more valuable than convenient technology or lowest price access to products. It is more important than a big solid brand.
So what is dependability?
I defer to my friendly successful adviser here, who summed it up best:
This is his value proposition he says. It matters to his clients and prospects. And he delivers on it. All the time. Without fail.
As a result his clients trust him and continue to work with him through all the ups and downs of the markets….through all the gains and losses in their portfolio’s….through all the price hikes on their insurance policies….through all the changes in their lives.
Clients stick with him because they receive a consistent and reliable professional experience. And he has a LOT of clients…a big book of business by anyone’s standards. And he keeps getting more clients from word of mouth…clients keep introducing other prospects to him, and it has been that way for years.
But is it a differentiator really? Surely this is something that every consumer should expect from every financial adviser isn’t it?
Being there. Being reliable. Being able to follow through relentlessly on what you say you can and will do. Then doing that to the best of your ability. It should be something that consumers rightfuly can expect you would think.
Therein lies the opportunity though for it to be a differentiator: people DO expect it; but they do not experience it often enough. So something as simple as a rather generic and reasonable expectation of a professional attribute can in itself be a differentiator if the industry is largley failing to meet consumer expectations on that point. So if you see an area where the industry is fundamentally failing to meet a basic expectation that can be an opportunity for your firm or yourself to differentiate.