Steven R. McCarty
Afew months ago, a good friend of mine — let’s call him Jerry — met with an investment advisor at a local
property-casualty insurance agency. He had
used the agency for his home and car insurance for decades. So when the owner asked
him whether he needed help with his investments, he was open to meeting, especially
since he was looking for ideas about generating retirement income.
A few weeks later, Jerry met with the
agency owner and investment advisor. The
next step was for the advisor to send Jerry
a data-gathering form to fill out, along with
information about the firm’s annuity portfolio. All in all, Jerry was happy with how the
meeting turned out.
Then a few days became a week, and Jerry
never receive the promised items. A week
became two weeks and then a month and still
no information. Finally, about six weeks later,
a package arrived. Jerry felt let down. Eventually, the advisor e-mailed and then called to
set up another meeting. But Jerry ignored
his repeated efforts to re-start the process. In
short, what started out as a promising interaction unraveled due to the advisor’s complete
Welcome to the brave new world of client
service (aka, customer experience), where every interaction with a prospect or client holds
great potential for either unalloyed success or
This is what I meant when I wrote previously that advisors must simply own up
to — and execute — their service responsibilities. When this happens, they’ll experience
powerful benefits such as more cross sales,
better retention, more referrals and, of course,
a higher income.
But promising to do something isn’t
enough, of course. Advisors need to address
two additional — and pivotal — concepts:
accountability and standards.
Accountability is important because advi-
sors should resist making verbal commitments
alone. They make both advisor and client feel
good in the moment, but tend to vanish when
life gets busy. To fully differentiate yourself
as a service-driven advisor, you should try to
make your commitments in writing — the
ultimate way to hold yourself accountable.
What’s more, a written accountability
statement must incorporate standards. These
should detail quantitative factors such as
timeliness, accuracy and the appropriateness of the service provided. Ideally, advisors
should only commit to a limited number of
standards, but they must be highly descriptive, relevant and easy to track. Bottom line:
when advisors commit to specific written
standards, it will become totally obvious to
clients whether they’re fulfilling their commitments or not. This is a good thing!
So how to hold yourself to a higher service
standard? Consider these pointers:
• Start by confirming the types and
level of service clients desire at key
touch points. For example, how exactly will
you onboard new clients, communicate with
existing clients and handle client anniversaries and milestones?
• Define expected standards around
routine client communications. For
example, will client phone calls always be
handled by a live person or by voicemail?.
How quickly will you return calls? How long
will you take to research and respond to technical questions? How many newsletters and/
or e-mails will you send out during the year.
• Consider how you will convey your
service commitments, using a formal
Client Service Standards document.
When will you discuss these commitments
and what will you do for the client if you fail
to uphold them?
The point is this: Never become complacent about client service, either during the
sales process or afterward. Holding yourself
accountable to a higher standard will yield
remarkable dividends for sure, but you’ve got
to deliver every time.
statements are the key
to client satisfaction.