Earlier this month I had the opportunity to speak, over four days, to 15 separate groups of advisors. Never one to pass up an opportunity for some research, I conducted an informal poll related to client experience.
And the results are in….
- Percentage of advisors who believe that client experience can be a true differentiator: 100%
- Percentage of advisors who can say how client experience might differentiate them: 0%
The results seem, well, clear. As an industry, we believe (very strongly) that a great client experience can set us apart, but it’s less clear what that really means. And that makes execution challenging at best.
Client Service vs. Client Experience
Perhaps part of the confusion is that when we hear the words ‘client experience’ we immediately think about ‘client service’. They are, in fact, very different.
Client service is about delivering on the basics of what clients expect. In fairness, it’s not that difficult to figure out what it takes to deliver great service. My guess is that you are doing that today. Client experience, however, is about how every part of the business is organized to meet the unique needs of your clients.
Think about it this way. If you delivered a slightly higher standard of service, would it set you apart in the minds of prospects and clients? For example, if you meet with clients twice a year now and you increase that to three times a year, what would happen? You might be delivering a higher standard of service but you wouldn’t differentiate yourself.
So how does client experience set you apart?
It’s an important question if you believe what we believe. We believe that if you can craft a differentiated client experience, one that actively supports the needs of your ideal clients, then you become a magnet for exactly the right clients. At that point you’re not only growing – you’ve achieve real momentum.
On Becoming a Magnet
Your client experience sets you apart and makes you a magnet for the right clients when:
- It is intentionally designed around the unique needs of your ideal clients (and you know you have it right because you involved clients in the designing process).
- It is crafted to actively support your clients in solving their real problems (which may go beyond the money).
- It is designed around the stages of your clients’ journey (which doesn’t always involve you).
- It is reflected in every part of your business, from process, to team, to expertise, to communications and partnerships.
It should be clear, then, that designing a client experience that truly sets you apart is both a strategic and tactical exercise. It’s not about doing more of the same, but about getting intentional about designing something new and different. That means that the traditional tools that we use to deliver great service (segmentation, tiering service and managing expectations) aren’t enough. They are a good place to start, but not a good place to stop.
Designing a differentiated client experience requires vision, commitment and a good road map. We’ve invested years in developing a road map to get you there and it comes to life in our Engagement Edge program. Because you don’t get there by accident.
For those that prefer to go it alone, here’s a look under the covers of that process – the six steps to designing a client experience that will make you a magnet for exactly the right clients.
The Six Steps to a Magnetic Client Experience
Let’s look at the six steps as a series of questions you can (and should) ask yourself about your existing client experience.
#1 Who is your client experience designed to support?
An extraordinary and engaging client experience cannot effectively be designed around the needs of everyone. It has to be built around the needs of a defined group of clients who have similar needs, goals and challenges. The process begins by understanding your client focus (or niche).
Hint: Your focus can be defined by the clients you work with (e.g., business owners) or the work you do (e.g., legacy planning).
#2 What is the client’s journey?
Designing a magnetic experience demands a different perspective – that of the client. Rather than defining how to do what you do better or more efficiently, you’ll need to turn the tables. What are the stages that a client goes through on his or her journey to finding solutions and how can you support them each step of the way?
Hint: The client’s journey doesn’t start when they begin to work with you. It starts when they identify a challenge or need in their lives.
#3 What does extraordinary look like through the eyes of your clients?
Assumptions are helpful things to get us through our day, but less so when it comes to client experience. Once you have mapped out the stages of the client journey, validate those with your ideal clients and go deep on what makes an experience truly extraordinary.
Hint: Rather than asking clients about what you can do differently, ask them to describe an extraordinary client experience and understand why they thought of it.
#4 How can you structure a communications plan that sets you apart?
With a clear view into the needs and goals of your ideal clients, you can design processes and a communications plan that actively supports them. Rather than focusing only on efficiency, design processes that respond to the challenges your clients are facing at each stage. As for your communications, think ‘active support’. Rather than sending out communications that will be vaguely interesting to everyone, focus on actively helping your ideal clients to solve the real problems that they face.
Hint: When designing processes, take a walk in your clients’ shoes to understand how every aspect of that process either supports or detracts from an engaging experience.
#5 Is your client experience reflected throughout your business?
We often think about client experience in terms of outbound communications, such as reviews or educational events. Those are important but we also need to look inward. The needs of your clients should be reflected in every corner of the business including: who you hire, the expertise of you and your team, the technology you use, the partnerships you establish with other professionals, and your office environment.
Hint: Audit your business to ensure that you can ‘see’ your ideal client throughout. Ask what you do differently in each area as a direct result of wanting to support your ideal client.
#6 Do you know if you have succeeded?
Measurement matters. If you are going to invest the time and effort in designing something extraordinary, you’ll want to know if you’ve hit the mark. Use client feedback to measure success and ensure you’re always assessing what’s working and what’s not.
Hint: An annual survey is a great way to measure success and you may want to add qualitative interviews from time to time, to ensure that you’re getting the depth of information you need.
So what do you think? Is your client experience designed to make you a magnet or simply to deliver good service? The latter gets you a seat at the table, but the former is the purview of the most progressive firms.
Thanks for stopping by,
P.S. We’d love to work with you to take action on designing a client experience that will set you apart. Join us starting on October 19 and we’ll guide you through the process, step-by-step, and give you the tools you need to take action. Learn more here.