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Advisors Are Not Keeping Pace With the Disruption of Client Engagement


Advisors Are Not Keeping Pace With the Disruption of Client Engagement

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately in my happy place – on the road speaking to advisors about the future of client engagement. I wanted to take some time today to break down the argument I’m making, that client engagement is being disrupted and that we need to sit up and take note.

We Have a Goal

Let’s start at the beginning, with what I believe is a shared goal. We all want to provide a client experience that not only engages but makes us a magnet for exactly the right clients.

We Have a Problem

The problem is this. The way in which we need to engage clients is being disrupted and we aren’t keeping pace. We’re using old approaches to tackle new challenges. It’s like using a hand saw to chop down a huge tree. Technically the tool still works, but it’s just not the best tool to achieve your goal.

And in the same vein, I think we can engage more effectively if we can think about designing the client experience in a different way. Let’s look at how we approach client experience today, what’s changing and the potential impact.

Today, our focus is on delivering great service. A typical approach would be to segment clients based on the value they provide and then tier our service model to reflect that value. Tiered service would probably include the scope of the offer, the frequency of contact, the extent to which automated solutions are employed (or not) and the scope and scale of education and appreciation. And the result of all of this, as it happens, is quite good. Clients are satisfied and they’re loyal.

But things are changing. In fact, I’d go one step further and suggest that client engagement is being disrupted in three primary ways. And your clients are being ‘schooled’ in how engagement is changing as they go about living their lives, almost all of which happens beyond the four walls of this industry.

In future, the client experience:

  • Will be co-created
  • Will be personalized
  • Will be designed around the needs of a defined niche

We Need a Change

To respond to that disruption I believe that we need to shift from a focus on your offer to a focus on the client journey. Stated differently, instead of focusing entirely on what we deliver to clients, we’ll focus on how what we deliver fits into their journey, much of which doesn’t involve you at all.

Below the line is the foundation. There we focus on our offer – things like the scope of the offer, the frequency of contact and the depth of reporting. When we’re focused below the line, our natural inclination is to focus on improving efficiency.

In the future, I’d suggest we need to focus above the line, looking at how your offer fits into the client’s journey. This approach means we are focused on supporting clients as they move through their journey – not the journey of working with you but of planning for their financial futures.

We Need a Plan

We get there by starting with a client journey map. A client journey map gives you a single view of the client experience through their eyes and goes deep on their questions, motivations and feelings at each step.

We know that the client journey:

  • Starts before they meet you
  • Involves other people
  • Is not always rational

At a more tactical level, I’d suggest that you need to answer four critical questions to respond to disruption (or at least to stay one step ahead).

  • Who are you designing the client experience to support?
    • Hint. Define an authentic niche, because you can’t design a compelling client experience around the needs of everyone.
  • What does ‘extraordinary’ look like through their eyes?
    • Hint. Actively involve clients in defining what extraordinary looks like, because you can’t base this on assumption.
  • What is the client’s journey?
    • Hint. Understand the steps that clients go through and what they think, feel and do at each stage because that will uncover their real needs. You can read more on that here.
  • How will you support clients in their journey?
    • Hint: Define a communications plan that actively reflects the client journey and supports them along the way because that’s where innovation happens.

Let’s look at a simple example of what a client journey map might uncover for a defined niche and how your communications plan might be updated to support those clients.

Example: You specialize in legacy planning and you’re designing your client experience around families who are focused on philanthropic giving and/or the next generation.

Related: Can Client Engagement Be Automated?

With that niche in mind, you create a client journey map and then focus in on the client review process, believing (rightly) that this is an area where you might be able to add even more value.

With your ‘offer’ hat on, you define the frequency of reviews and map out a process for setting those meetings. All good.

With your ‘client journey’ hat on, you begin to focus more on what happens in between those reviews and the conversations your clients are having. They’re talking to friends about how to get their kids to think more about helping others. They’re talking about the future as a couple and they’re talking to their kids about the fundamentals of saving.

The result? You realize that this is your opportunity to support them on a deeper level. So instead of focusing only on the reviews, you build out your experience to support them in the conversations they are having without you, in between those reviews. The support you provide might include articles on these topics, discussion guides to use at home or a workshop on one of these key topics.

You can see how your client experience changes because you are focused more on the client’s journey than on what you deliver. And you can probably see how this shifts the focus from ‘good service’ to a ‘meaningful experience’.

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