What Does Great Service Mean to Your Advisory?

As a financial advisor, do you provide exceptional service? 

If you pride yourself in your service and don’t have a defined service model then I challenge you to answer this question, “What does great service mean to you?” 

Literally, think about a client and write down what that client should expect from you in a year. What will you deliver, how and when will you deliver it? How do you want the client to feel? What do you want the client to do? How will you know how you’re doing?

Most people think about a service model as how often you check in with someone and deliver an update on their portfolio. I’d argue that a service model is an essential part of your sales process, specifically in delivering a great first impression but also the onboarding and ongoing client experience. 

Once someone is a client the goal is to move them to advocate. Moving from client, to loyal client to advocate requires trust and belief in your ability to consistently deliver value based on their experiences and outcomes. 

Investment outcomes may be somewhat outside of your control but experience is not. 

Delivering a great experience requires you meet (and occasionally exceed) expectations. The problem with expectations is they are subjective. We all come to relationships with different expectations and often aren’t clear about what we expect. Clients may be clear about a specific outcome, to not outlive their money for example. However, they don’t provide clarity around what they need and want out of the relationship. 

One of the best things you can do from the beginning is to set realistic expectations and then ensure you can deliver on them. Prospects and clients will quickly make assumptions and form expectations if they are not clear. Sometimes those expectations are aligned, often they are not. Especially when markets are volatile or performance is down, a gap between expectations can be detrimental to the client-advisor relationship.  

A service model is important for a few reasons:

  1. It helps you set realistic expectations for prospects, clients and your team
  2. It provides a framework to build and deliver your services efficiently
  3. If well implemented it is a way to intentionally build advocates 

Set expectations early and often

When it comes to effectively managing a relationship with a prospect, client or team member, expectations are critical to getting and staying on the same page, which creates trust and coherence. 

When my oldest daughter was born we found a pediatrician we loved. She was an expert at setting expectations and delivering on the experience she promised. She was very clear up front what to expect. She would not make us wait for more than 10 minutes but expected us to be on time and for the appointment to last only as long as it was scheduled. She would be responsive to questions as they came up if we used their online portal to submit the questions. She was clear, she wasn’t for everyone. She ran her practice like a business and was focused on providing exceptional patient care. 

We adored her. She wasn’t the warmest pediatrician but she never made us wait, always got back to us as promised and didn’t make us jump through hoops to get the service we wanted. It was easy and efficient, unlike many medical service experiences today. Because of this, We referred many people to her (and so did many other families) and her practice grew quickly but her service stayed consistently great. 

When you first engage with a prospect take time to explore what they expect. What are the investment and planning outcomes they want, how involved do they want to be, how often do they expect proactive communications, what do they want beyond the investment and planning work? Ask, “What does success looks like” over specific timeframes and for examples of service relationships that they love.

Then, be clear about your investment and planning philosophy and approach, how involved clients are or aren’t. Share how you work with clients, what you need from them and what they should (and should not) expect from you. 

Part of providing consistent service is setting and protecting boundaries.  

Sample boundaries include:

  • The best way to get a quick answer is to send questions to [email protected], we will get back to you within 24 hours
  • Meetings should be scheduled on our website at www.abcfirm.com
  • You can expect us to check in quarterly via call and email, if you have a communication frequency and format preference please let us know
  • Your primary point of contact is… 
  • We will send an agenda in advance of your annual meeting, if there are other topics you want to discuss please let us know so we are prepared.

The same approach goes for your team. People thrive when they know what success looks like and what is expected of them. If you have a team be clear about their role and responsibilities in the service model and within the team. (Read more about how to leverage your team to grow.)

A roadmap to success

Once you have a written outline of the service you want to deliver, back into how you can formalize your processes, technology and people to support that experience. 

This is how businesses scale, they define processes and look for opportunities to simplify, automate or outsource. 

Imagine bringing on a new team member or outsourced partner and being able to give them an overview of your service model with workflows, roles and responsibilities and expectations.

This level of formality empowers people and allows you to build a scalable business while consistently delivering a quality experience and product.   

I help advisors orperationalize what they do after they get a lead including defining their service model. There is also a lot you can gain by simply documenting your ideal prospect and client experience and taking small steps to make improvements where needed. (Read more about why you should take small steps to grow)  

Building advocates

Advocates, people that acknowledge and adore the service and value you provide are developed when you consistently meet (and occasionally exceed) their expectations. They trust you, they trust your team, they value what you do for them and feel that they made the right decision. 

As you’re defining your service model at every step ask yourself, will this build confidence and trust? Will this allow me to deliver the best outcomes possible? If not, how can you improve that experience or process to get closer to a confident "Yes"?

You will not wow everyone, not client will become an advocate. As you are building your service model build it for your ideal client, the relationship that you wish you had more of not only because they are profitable but because you love working with them and are able to deliver meaningful value.

Building trust and advocacy takes time. However, if you’re going to do the work, do it with the intention to be efficient and impactful to your client and your business.

Start with the essential question

What does great service mean to you?

Write it down. How do you make people feel, what do they say about you and your team? How do you know you’re delivering great service? 

Every engagement with you, your team and business is an opportunity to deliver on your promises and to build trust. 

Control what you can, which is their experience.

Related: Why Financial Advisors Should Think Small ... to Grow Big