Practice Management

Raising The Bar

A personalized approach to delivering first-class client experiences

by Jesse Abercrombie

Mr. Abercrombie is a financial advisor with Edward Jones. Visit www.edwardjones.com.

In a world where hotels and credit card companies offering consumers enticing rewards and concierge-level service is no longer reserved for the wealthy, our clients have higher expectations than ever — including of their financial advisors.

According to a recent study from Edward Jones and Morning Consult, 22% of Americans surveyed said they seek advice from a financial advisor when making financial decisions. And those who work with a financial advisor tend to find comfort in their knowledge and experience — helping them feel more informed and less stressed and frustrated about their finances.

We live in stressful times, and Americans’ expectations of their financial advisors are changing due to a variety of factors. More than half (54%) of adults surveyed indicate factors such as COVID-19, interest rates and the unemployment rate have changed their expectations of their financial advisor. This figure is even higher for Millennials who work with financial advisors (75%).

In my own practice, I saw how the pandemic changed the focus of our client meetings. People want to be more connected to family, health and purpose — in addition to their finances — and these topics dominate our client conversations.

How can we prepare to meet — and exceed — these changing client service expectations?

We need to listen to our clients and really tune into what they are telling us about the importance of family, health and purpose. We then need to take a holistic approach to service — partnering with our clients to build a financial strategy that addresses all those priorities and helps them achieve what’s most important in their lives.

In short, we need to keep it personal.

Build A Team Around Your Clients’ Needs

When I started in this business nearly two decades ago, a financial advisor’s role was largely limited to investment consulting. Today, the best financial advisors are offering a comprehensive approach. Our clients are coming to us for more than investment advice. They’re seeking our guidance in all aspects of their lives, so they can feel confident and secure in their financial decisions.

This has always been the case. But especially in volatile economic times that can make investors reconsider investments and drive emotional changes, our clients are looking to us to provide calm, reassuring guidance — and a long-term financial strategy. Our survey also found that there is a gap in economic and financial knowledge, leaving nearly a third of Americans feeling less than confident in their economic literacy — and creating an opportunity for financial advisors to become that trusted source of information.

At the end of every meeting with a client, I like to ask questions about tax strategies and listen to see if my clients are happy with their estate strategies, looking for opportunities to introduce them to other professionals, if needed. Our clients value my interest in their total financial picture as another way I am looking out for their best interests — and when I initiate those discussions, I can see them lean in.

Naturally, we work with our clients’ accountants, estate planning attorneys and other trusted professionals, creating an exceptional client experience that elevates our role to so much more than the client’s “investment person.” We are partnering with our clients on advanced financial strategies around tax, estate, succession and retirement planning. We help our clients with wealth protection and charitable giving strategies.

Building a team of advisors around our clients and communicating their value — at least quarterly — is the hallmark of a first-class experience.

Ask The Client What They Want

What does the client’s ideal experience look like? If you are wondering whether you are already delivering this type of experience, ask your clients what you can do better...

Surveys help us keep our finger on the pulse of what’s on the minds of our clients and driving their financial decisions. But the most informative survey is the survey of one: Ask your clients what they want.

This is such a powerful tool but one we too often fail to use.

What does the client’s ideal experience look like? If you are wondering whether you are already delivering this type of experience, ask your clients what you can do better.

Your clients will appreciate being asked, and you may be surprised by their answers.

Go The Extra Mile

Every client meeting is an opportunity to strengthen the relationship you have with that client. But it’s what you do after the meeting that transforms good customer service into exceptional.

Here’s what I do after every client appointment: While our conversation is still fresh in my mind, I jot down thoughtful notes with clear takeaways for both myself and my client — and I follow up with a post-appointment email with homework assigned to the client and my team.

If a spouse isn’t at the progress meeting, I or someone from my team will follow up to see if they have any questions or something on their mind they’ve been meaning to share.

These are the little things that add up to a personalized client experience.

Make Them Feel Special

Your clients are special, so go out of your way to make them feel that way.

Every good financial advisor knows the importance of understanding your client’s financial goals. The best financial advisors know it’s just as valuable to understand your client’s interests: What makes them light up? What team do they cheer for? What hobby consumes their weekends?

I’m a big fan of yoga. Every yoga session concludes with one last pose called “shavanasa” which is literally lying still and doing nothing for a few minutes. Yoga instructors will tell you shavanasa is the most important pose because it allows you to connect to all that has taken place in the last hour. In our discovery meeting, our team takes the time to get to know our clients’ interests. I like to call this part of our meeting “shavanasa,” because it allows me to learn so much more about my client outside of their financial needs.

Clients want a deeper relationship with their financial advisors. It’s up to us to initiate those conversations that help us better understand what makes them tick as people — not just as investors.

Once we know their interests, we can do something special for them on their birthdays and anniversaries. My team also likes to do what we call “surprise and delight,” which is taking the opportunity to appreciate our clients at unexpected times throughout the year.

As an example, one of my clients is passionate about a certain type of knitting. I found a nice coffee-table book about this particular knitting style. The book didn’t cost much, but my client loves it and proudly displays it in her home.

Showing my appreciation for clients through small gestures like this is important to me because it demonstrates to them that I don’t define them based on the size of their portfolio. I truly care about them and what’s most important in their lives.

Treat Them Like Family

When all is said and done, your ability to exceed your clients’ expectations is directly linked to the depth of your relationships with them. When you truly understand what matters to them outside of their finances — family, health and purpose — your clients will look to you not only as their financial advisor but as their trusted confidant and friend.

This hit home recently when a client who meant the world to me passed away. When I learned of their passing, I was heartbroken. I cried as if they were family and went home for the rest of the day. Two days later, the client’s widow called and asked me to be a pallbearer.

When you have this type of relationship with your clients, you treat them like family… and that, ultimately, is the key to delivering a personalized, first-class client experience.

 

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