by Tony Vidler
The first priority for any adviser in tougher times is to keep clients that you currently have, right? Then you can afford to worry about getting new ones.
Changes to financial services are coming thick and fast, and advisers know that clients are rapidly changing in their expectations of service, solutions and experiences. So what clients want is changing and we should ask ourselves what do we have to change in order to keep our clients?
Client management to date has largely been about “conditioning” clients to fit into the advisory model that the industry created. We tell them what products and services are available. We tell them when we will get back in touch and update them with new information and service. We tell them when they should change products. We tell them what problems we think they should worry about – and solve. We tell them what the process of doing business with us will be…
We tell them how it is going to be.
Does any professional (who also happens to be a consumer of services themselves) REALLY feel that this is how consumers want their business relationships to be? Is this what will keep clients using us and our services?
Would WE put up with this from professional services providers WE engage?
Damn right we don’t. Well I don’t anyway. Nor do any of my friends and peers. Nor do any of MY clients….and I work with other professionals exclusively. It is noticeable to me that the professionals I work with previously accepted many of the industry norms as “just being the way it is” yet now so many of them challenge virtually everything. I don’t mean challenge in the sense of being painful to deal with either; I mean it in the sense that virtually all want their service providers to increasingly personalise all levels of engagement and the professionals expectations of their institutional suppliers is shifting rapidly.
Everyone wants things done differently. Everyone wants bespoke. Everyone is willing to change service providers if that is not understood.
Remember: this is US that I am talking about here. Professional services personnel who understand professional services…those who know its limitations and the relative inefficiency of the sector in many respects. Consumers who do not have that same understanding of our problems in delivering services are developing even tougher expectations for us to meet, and their expectations are shifting far more rapidly.
Service businesses in other industry sectors that have boomed have been the ones who challenge ALL of the incumbent thinking.
Everything that professionals have taken for granted about how to create value, communicate, manage relationships, source product solutions (and who we source them from), package and price services…everything is subject to massive and rapid change now.
For professional service firms to keep clients long term we have to be willing to challenge all of our existing thinking about how we define and then deliver service. In fact we have to get to grips with how our clients are defining service and expecting it to be delivered. Issues such as the pre-occupation that the industry has with robo-advice offerings, or bancassurance, or other professionals moving outside of their traditional practice areas to begin cross-selling services….these all work because clients want to use them.
Clients want service delivered in different ways and via different models, and they are increasingly using a range of service providers in the same core areas. At the very least practitioners have to be prepared to consider incorporating robo-offerings into their service delivery, and they have to be willing to consider strategic alliances with other service firms, and accept the ongoing existence (and persistence) of bancassurance, and so forth. Transacting simple product solutions quickly and affordably needs to be a practice offering just as much as being able to deliver complex strategic planning advice for those advisory firms wanting to be holistic financial relationship managers.
Advisory firms have to be prepared to change everything we think about how our business works if we wish to stay relevant to clients, and have clients continue to use us as their go to source for financial services. We actually have to begin focussing on the service part of “professional services”: deliver the experience and value in the way that the client wants us to.
So what needs to change in your practice?
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