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Business Strategy

Hearing what’s unsaid: it’s all new for clients

Terry-Bell's avatar
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22 days ago

It’s often said that within the first seven seconds of meeting, people will form a solid impression of who you are and start to determine traits like trustworthiness. 

While this is a truly scary concept – and advisers should be mindful of it! – it’s also worth extrapolating the timeframe out a little and considering how new clients are onboarded and integrated into your business. This becomes especially important if your practice has a growth focus and you’re looking to increase the number of clients you serve. 

Interestingly, our CATScan Client Satisfaction Survey data shows that in the average Australian advisory business, 55% of clients are aged over 60 and 48% are already retired or no longer gainfully employed. For many firms, new client acquisition will be high on their priority list as they address the challenges of an ageing client demographic.

We weren’t particularly concerned when we initially thought this through – after all, your new clients’ satisfaction levels should be through the roof, right? They’ve just been through your full fact-find process and shared with you their most treasured dreams and aspirations for themselves and their family. 

Perhaps, for the first time ever, they have also revealed their innermost fears and concerns for the future. They have confided things in you that they may not have disclosed to any other professional – or even to the people closest to them. And they chose you!

You have then taken all of this intensely personal information and, using all of your experience, training and expertise, put forward a solution that (all going to plan) will deliver the desired outcomes while protecting against the most significant downside risks.

However, as we all know, a cold, hard analysis of the facts will always trump assumptions based on intuition or gut feeling. The following chart plots the satisfaction levels of new clients versus those that have been working with their adviser for longer periods of time: 

As you can see, it clearly shows that the new clients are less satisfied with their adviser’s performance across all nine of the key service delivery areas covered in the CATScan survey. (And remember, this is based on over 45,000 “real” clients currently using the services of an Australian adviser).

So, what does this mean for your business? Before anyone (including you) can answer this, you need to honestly and objectively understand just how your new clients would rate their experiences to date and how this might compare to the satisfaction levels of your longer-term clients.

As you contemplate this, we hope the following insights, drawn from our 20-plus years of helping advisers understand and interpret their own CATScan survey results, might provide a little more context.

1: The first impression

When a client first comes onboard, what happens in your firm? What’s the client’s first impression? If they feel good, confident or (better still) delighted by their choice, you’re on the right track. But if they don’t feel as positive (or you don’t actually know either way), it’s time to get proactive.

A few tips from some advisers we’ve recently worked with about how they create you’re their distinctive “vibe”:

  • Actively seek client’s feedback on what they liked and didn’t like about their onboarding experience and ask for their suggestions on how your process could possibly be improved.

  • Does your “welcome to our practice” pack make them feel special? Perhaps include a handwritten note from the person who will be servicing the client, introducing themselves and explaining how they can work together to ensure the “best” experience.

  • Related to the above, consider including a lifestyle questionnaire asking about celebrating birthdays, their favourite food, favourite sports teams, communities they’re a member of, red or white wine, music preferences and so on.

As the relationship evolves over time, perhaps the most important driver of client satisfaction is communication: its frequency, relevance and level of personalisation all play major roles in keeping clients in the loop, aware and, hopefully, appreciative of their adviser’s efforts.

2: What’s the client expecting from you?

Except in a few very rare and isolated cases, advisers who underperform in this area aren’t generally providing poor service to their new clients. Rather, they’ve usually failed to explicitly set and manage their new clients’ service delivery expectations.

When left to their own devices (and not knowing any better), new clients will expect the world and demand it yesterday. If you do not take a very active role in clearly defining exactly what you will do and by when, you are setting yourself up to fail. No matter how good your work, or how quickly you deliver, it will almost always underwhelm your new client’s set of self-determined and completely unrealistic expectations.

To minimise the chances of this happening to you, ensure you follow up every meaningful client contact in writing. Clients can sometimes forget the full details of your discussions, so every time you commit to doing something, confirm the “what, who and when” in an email.

Also, cut yourself (or at the very least your team) some slack. When committing to timeframes, buy yourself a little time. Unless it is an especially time-critical task, add a day or two to the delivery date. By under-promising and over-delivering you will not just meet but consistently exceed the well-managed expectations of your new clients.

3: Remind me – what do you do again?

We don’t doubt that, in some way, all advisers communicate the ways they can add value to their client’s lives. Understandably, though, most new clients are almost singularly focused on solving their immediate problem – they might not be that interested in your other services unless they’re directly relevant to their current concerns. 

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try! Referring back to the chart above, our analysis shows that providing your new clients with a once-only FSG that contains a long list of product names, or creating a services tab on your website, probably won’t permanently burn your full service offer into the client’s prefrontal cortex. 

Instead, you need to continually educate your clients on the depth and breadth of your solution suite, including the solutions you directly deliver as well as any ancillary services you can facilitate through your strategic alliance network. This will ensure that you and your firm remain the “go-to” solution for whatever changes life throws at any of your clients.

If new client acquisition is part of your plans for the year ahead and you’re interested in finding out more about satisfaction levels of your new clients, please let us know. We have a wealth of experience helping advisory firms better understand what their clients think of the services they are receiving.

For your consideration.

Updated 22 days ago
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