David Howell says client servicing is crucial if you are to make a success of your business
When you think of a business, you think of balance sheets and figures. But equally important is client servicing. To ignore this element could prove a dire mistake.
Indeed, in today’s highly competitive business landscape, client servicing is more important than ever. News travels fast and bad service can hamper your chances of keeping your client base or securing new clients.
In fact, a client’s perception of bad service can overshadow the entire financial advice/planning process, even if they enjoy a good outcome.
What our industry needs to be aware of is that client servicing isn’t something that happens by accident; it happens by design. Those businesses that achieve a good reputation and keep their clients loyal are the ones that put the needs of their clients first.
Client servicing is particularly significant in the financial services industry, where reputation and trust have been marred by scandal after scandal and confidence in the sector is at an all-time low.
Developing client relationships
In my opinion, advisers should be focusing on developing their relationship with their clients rather than concentrating so heavily on the transaction and monetary part of the process.
The introduction of the Retail Distribution Review at the start of the year had us focusing very much on charging structures and qualifications. What it omitted to turn the spotlight on, however, was at the very core of the new regulation; restoring consumer trust and faith in the financial services industry.
The focus can no longer be on product and fee competitiveness, it has to be on client service. Advisers must show their clients that they really care and their business and loyalty is valued. As such, an adviser’s business plan, processes and communications should all be centred on understanding and anticipating the client’s needs.
Listening to the client and making a concerted effort to really discover their dreams, hopes and financial goals will make for a better working relationship and is likely to help the adviser be more successful in guide them along the right path.
We always work to a “put yourself in the client’s shoes” approach. That way we make sure the client knows we have their best interests at heart and we treat them as a human being, rather than a number.
It is also crucial to be sincere. It might sound silly, and frankly plain obvious, but honesty will go a long way with clients as it shows strong values and makes you a desirable person to listen to.
Do not pretend to offer them the world, or indeed know all the answers. A lack of sincerity will make the client feel less secure and question your strategy. Ethics, and being able to demonstrate that you stand by these, is an attractive proposition to clients. Over-promising and under-delivering is detrimental to any business, especially one where you are dealing with people’s life savings and who often rely on you to guide them through this financial minefield.
You have to ensure that what you agree with the client is completely aligned with their expectations and your ability to deliver. Promising your client certain services and outcomes and not being able to deliver will only leave them dissatisfied and hinder your chances of recommendations.
Likewise, regular communication is necessary to keep the client happy. Advisers take on what I see as a ‘money counsellor’ role in some instances; helping the client to understand their relationship to money and encouraging them to be more confident and at ease with their financial situation.
This can only be achieved through building a client servicing strategy that allows you to talk to them regularly and educate them about the steps they need to take to achieve their goals.
Only by making sure that your client servicing is where it should be, will you be able to aid client retention and build successful long-term relationships. Without it, you may as well pack up shop and go home.
David Howell is chief executive of Guardian Wealth Management
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