by Tony Vidler
While talking to a very experienced and successful adviser recently 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 says it will.
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 brilliant, 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 to some degree or other.
The importance of delivering consistent experiences and being able to follow through reliably was highlighted in an excellent piece of work by the CFA Institute in their report “From Trust To Loyalty: What Investors Want”.
Their research found that retail clients largely felt that “people are more important than the brand“. Interestingly, they also found that retail investors believed that even in a few years time a professional that helps guide them will be more important than cool tools and the latest technology.
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. 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.
Laughable to many perhaps as it isn’t “clever”, and arguably doesn’t meet the requirements of any value proposition formulae (of which there seem to be many varieties!). But here’s the thing:
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.
More importantly for any other professional who may be wondering how to compete with robo-advice and online offerings, this suggests a simple yet powerful value proposition opportunity.
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.
People value that, and people really value those who can consistently do it.