With phase two of the Canadian Securities Administrators' (CSA) and IIROC’s Client Relationship Model (CRM) rules looming for most advisors, now is a perfect time to consider what you can do to add value to your client experience. This year starting in July, Canadian firms will have to provide pre-trade disclosure of charges and also disclose their compensation from debt transactions in trade confirmations to clients.
For some clients seeing how much is being paid out in fees will be just part of doing business with a professional that is making recommendations on what to do with their assets. For others it will be time to consider- what value are they getting from their advisor? Since value is “perceived” it is time to focus on the client and see what that means to them.
Asking clients for feedback on how you are doing can be set up formally or informally- by just simply checking in or by means of a survey. Be sure to take the feedback as objectively as possible and make changes as you see fit. You may find that a few clients want newsletters in larger print or have quarterly meetings at their home instead of coming to the office. Try to customize your service to each client without having a wide range of additional services that make it difficult to maintain. Focus on the top tier clients first for feedback and make those changes first before moving down to the middle tier.
Below are four steps to jump-start your client experience- enabling you to feel confident about the value you are offering.
1. Review your current client service level
Client service levels for some advisors can be very random, so before you start adding a lot of new structures, examine what is currently happening. It’s important to see the big picture, so involve your team and lay out exactly what clients are experiencing. Look at all aspects of your business; marketing, communications, financial planning, firm events, seminars and lunches. If you haven’t already segmented your clients into top, middle and bottom tiers, take the time to complete that task. Then, look at each segment and examine what each tier is receiving.
For example, your middle tier clients may receive: financial plans, a monthly newsletter, quarterly reviews and a small gift for making referrals while your top tier receives all of that plus a client appreciation invite as well as quarterly lunches.
Once you have completed your review of the current service level, do a simple analysis of how you are doing. Check in and see what’s working, what could work better and what’s not fitting into your budget. Once you have tweaked it and you’re happy, answer the following questions:
• Would clients see a noticeable difference in service if they moved from one tier to the next?
• Is there a sustainable level of service so that if the client base doubled, you would still be able to offer the same level of service?
• Is there a clearly written process for your service levels, so that if admin staff changes you can easily train someone new?
• Do your service level agreements resonate with what your niche market is looking for?
3. Discover opportunities
Consider what your clients’ goals, wants and needs are and everything they hope to achieve. Match that with your new client service level and everything else you deliver such as products/services. If you find gaps, investigate and see how you can fill them.
For example, if you have a few top tier clients that are planning on selling the family cottage to their children and are not sure what to consider, make that a highlight in your monthly newsletter or offer a seminar that deals with that topic and bring in the experts to answer questions.
4. Get started
The key ingredient in any new plan is implementation. You may have a great idea of what your new service level will look like but getting the ball rolling always seems to elude you. Or worse you start for a few months and then stop. Think about what your resources and budget are for implementing this new service level. How do you plan to maintain it in the future to when your business grows?
If you have a team, decide who is responsible for certain tasks and create a file or binder that explains how each task is implemented and monitored.
During your meetings this week, start researching what clients are really looking for in terms of value and service from you and start to focus on how you can begin to add value to your client experience.