Financial Advisors: Your Client Experience is Not Digital!

Two words have shaped more thought leadership articles, media buzz, and sleepless CEO nights than any others over the past couple of years.You know the ones I’m talking about.“Client experience.”Everyone wants a client experience that creates advocates or evangelists, or put into simple terms, clients that absolutely love the service and product that they’re receiving and who want to tell others about it.( Because after all, referrals are how we all love to grow .)And it’s especially in financial services. Every financial advisor is talking about how their client experience is better than the financial advisor down the street, and every advisor technology company wants you to know that the solutions they provide help you create a “better” client experience.But... what is a client experience ? What does it mean? What does it look like? Is there a singular client experience, or is it different for every company on the planet?Those are the kinds of questions I want to unpack in this post.So let’s dive in.

Who Creates an Exemplary Client Experience

Ask ten people who creates the best “client experience” in their mind and you might get ten different answers.But this is my blog and I get to decide who’s the best.First, though, let’s get one thing out of the way: Everyone wants to be Apple or Amazon or Google. Yes, it’s true that they all care about the customer and the psychology of customer interaction, but saying you want to be like any one of those companies has become trite, not groundbreaking.Asking “what if one of those companies entered wealth management? What would happen?” is also a question that’s been beat to death so I’m not going to cover it in much detail here.When most advisors think about one of those companies entering wealth management, they focus on the technology experience each could offer.Simple. Robust. Easy access.But that isn’t what matters. The tech experience is notthe threat.The threat is that consumers trust those brands, they have a relationship with them, they are comfortable with them.They know their names. They don’t know your name. And that’s a little scary.But it’s not “your business will surely die” scary.And I’ll tell you why.We’ve been down this road. We’re still on the road. It’s a road called “robo advisors.”These are nationally-relevant technology-first firms that have name recognition, a certain level of trust, and awesome technology.It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the robo-advisor offering. I think it has a place.But it’s not a replacement for an independent financial advisor—as long as those advisors create a client experience that’s unique, focused on a niche, and above all, personal.And that brings us full circle back to the question of “what is client experience?”

Defining the Role of Technology in the Client Experience

Your client experience is mostly about interaction.An interaction can take many forms. It can be a phone call, it can be a meeting, it can be someone clicking a button your website and saying “hey, I’d like you to call me” by way of sending you their name, email address, and phone number (e.g. filling out a couple form fields).Every interaction you have with a client or a prospect informs how they feel about your company. They all come together to create that all-encompassing “experience.”But here’s the rub.If you’re relying on your technology to create your client experience, you’re providing the wrong client experience.As much as I love technology and the scale it brings and the ways it makes boring tasks more automated and exciting tasks faster tasks to complete, it can’t be the center of your experience.A client experience created fully through technology is the realm of robo-advisors. They do it best. You can’t beat them at it. Their digital platform is better than your digital platform.And that’s ok. Being different is better than being better.The experience you’re providing is built on relationship, trust, and trueservice. You don’t provide service through technology. Technology is simply a tool that reveals how good the service culture inside your company already is.Technology augments, enhances, and improves your client service, but the experience doesn’t start there. It starts with your people.Let me share a story on my own experience. We’re taking a step outside financial services for this one and focusing on one of those “tech” companies that everyone wants to be: Netflix.I recently canceled Netflix. That’s one of the things I love about subscription-based services. I can cancel them when I want, start them back up when I want, and it’s all seamless. There’s no equipment to send back or hassle. I click a button and I’m done with them.But this time, that “click a button and I’m done” workflow didn’t work. The day after my subscription ran out, I got an email thanking me for coming back.But I hadn't come back. I’d gone far, far away to a competing service called Hulu.So I went to Netflix’s website and looked at the ways I could contact them. I chose a live chat.Live chat is my favorite customer service option because it perfectly blends technology with human interaction. I can talk with someone without having to call them up and wait. I can almost always get an instant connection, while also continuing to do what I was doing before.So through my live chat experience, I talked to a real person (by using technology as a tool) and we figured out what the problem was quickly and easily. I got a refund for the charge I hadn’t expected, my Netflix stayed canceled, and I’ll probably start it back up in a month or two when a show I like has a new season out.That’s the winning model I see for financial advisors.The client portal you love so much is not the foundation of your client experience. It cannot replace interactions with you.What it can do is to provide information so that the next time you have a real interaction, it’s more productive.The website that you spent so much time branding and writing is not what’s going to fully win a new client.What it can do is give that person enough information so that they have a gut feeling that you’re the right match for them, and then you can confirm that through personal, human interaction.

Crafting Your Own Client Experience

When you want to identify that nebulous “client experience” in your own firm, it helps to map out the interactions you have with a client from the point they first contact you, to what an ongoing relationship looks like.The core points in that roadmap should be based around personal interactions. Whether on the phone, in-person, or through a virtual meeting they’re going to be moments when you can truly connect.Around those core points, your technology should fill in the gapsand provide ways for your clients to get information they want. But don’t mistake those technology points for “engagements” that replace your value. They’re supplements.A client experience doesn’t have to be a fuzzy buzzword that no one understands. Visually write down those points so you can identify what you’re doing well and where you might have gaps, and move on from there so you get to a place where you can say with confidence that your client experience really is better than the guy’s down the street. Looking for someone to help you refresh your marketing, create new content, or speak at your next event? Get in touch with me here and let’s chat.