Blogs - The Referral Doctor
Process, Performance Separate Elite Advisory Firms From Competitors
Monday, July 9, 2012
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It's not your people that make clients happy. It's what they do.

When someone asks you what's special about your practice, is “our people” part of your response? Well, it's not. It's what your people do. And the distinction is important.

You may hear from clients that your staff really sets you apart from other advisors. I hope you believe that yourself as well.

But what is it about your people that makes your clients love you? It is a question you will need to answer if you ever need to hire someone else or if you ever have to replace someone on your staff. It certainly is not as deep and broad (and undefined) as their character, although that probably has an influence on it.

Good and caring people usually do good and caring things, but I have known honest, gracious people who had integrity and provided lousy service. I have also served as expert witness against advisors who did reckless or unconscionable things to clients and provided good enough customer service to keep them coming. So, it must be more than just who those people are.

One of the secrets of obtaining usable client feedback is knowing how deep to dig. When you ask a broad question like "What is it about us that you find particularly valuable?" or "What do you like most about working with our firm?” the first answer you will get will most probably be the most superficial.

When I facilitate client advisory boards, two of the first things we want to find out is what clients appreciate most about their relationship with the advisory firm and what they find most valuable about the experience of working with them. The most common answers often include some variation of statements like these:

“Your assistant is just amazing.”

“We love working with your staff.”

“Everyone in your firm takes such good care of us.”

One mistake advisors make is that they stop there. At this point, though, you have practically nothing you can use. These comments will provide you very little guidance when it comes time to hire more staff to accommodate growth or to replace someone when they leave or when determining what to include in your marketing. It is not who your people are that makes the difference. It's what they do.

When I hear comments like the ones above, here are some of the questions I like to follow them up with:

-- Why do you love working with the staff?

-- What is it that they do that makes you so happy?

-- Give me an example of an experience that best demonstrates why they are so good.

You may need to ask two, three or more follow-up questions to really get at what drives client satisfaction. That last question is one of my favorites. If you have a group of clients in the discussion and one person brings up a story, it can set the stage for other clients relating similar stories.

Once you have several stories, you can look for what they have in common and figure out the particular things your staff did that held so much meaning. Maybe it's how frequently they follow up when the client owes you something, or what they say when they do. Maybe it is greeting them with a smile and a personal question when they arrive for the appointment. Maybe it is volunteering to take some extra time to explain paperwork that they sent for signature.

Uncovering the specifics like this is when the feedback yields treasure. Once you know what your staff does – specifically the things that clients really appreciate –  you can include them in your office processes. You can write them into your training program. You can incorporate them into your interview process. You can talk about them with prospective clients.

Saying that you have "great people" does nothing to make your marketing more effective. People expect you to say it, and they do not see you as particularly credible when you do. It communicates nothing about why a client should do business with you rather than the advisor down the street who also has great people.

But communicating important and meaningful details about the client experience your firm delivers can speak directly to what your target clients want most from you and give them concrete reasons for choosing you as their next advisor.

_________________________

Stephen Wershing, CFP® is President of The Client Driven Practice. He coaches financial advisors to be more effective and successful, and attract more clients and referrals, by developing more client-connected and client-driven practices. 

 

 

 

 

(13) Comments
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Posted by ylbyluke b | Monday, July 09 2012 at 11:59AM ET
It is not products that add value it is what you do with investment products--or process--that adds value. Edwards Demming, who revolutionized global auto manufacturing to the chagrin of US manufacturers, observed "if you can't describe what you do as a process, you don't know what you are doing."

By the brokerage industry denying brokers render advice entailing fiduciary duty in the best interest of the investing public, it has crippled the broker's ability to add value. To no one's surprise, the brokerage industry does not have the process, technology, work flow management, conflict management and support infrastructure in place to support expert advisory services so it is safe scalable, easy to execute andmanage as a high margin business at the advisor level.

As Charles Eames observed, "art is the quality of doing, process is not magic." Thought the industry is not prepared to support expert advisory services, much less address how well it executes advice--those questions at least are on the table now for open discussion.

As someone once sais if you think education is expensive, try ignorance. Hold on, we are about to witness a rennaissance in advisory services that outdates everything tht has come before it.

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Posted by Stephen W | Tuesday, July 10 2012 at 9:47AM ET
Stephen,

Right you are! What you do gives you a means of demonstrating your standard of care. I am not overly optimistic about the new regulations because most government action results in higher transaction costs without any discernible benefit to consumers, but it certainly hold out the hope that it will continue to nudge our business in that direction. If it triggers a renaissance, everyone wins! I will keep my fingers crossed.

In the meantime, firms recognizing that it is the actions that make clients more loyal to them may get them to move more in that direction on their own.

Posted by Stephen W | Tuesday, July 10 2012 at 11:22AM ET
Hi Steve - The Referral "Doctor"

Maybe it should be what you "know", that really sets an advisor / planner apart?

That's why the R&D efforts of our governing board of physician-directors, accountants, financial advisors, academics and health economists identified the need for integrated personal financial planning and medical practice management as an effective first step in the survival and wealth building life-cycle for physicians, nurses, healthcare executives, administrators and all medical professionals.

Now - more than ever - desperate doctors of all ages are turning to knowledge able financial advisors and medical management consultants for help. Symbiotically too, generalist advisors are finding that the mutual need for extreme niche synergy is obvious.

But, there was no established curriculum or educational program; no corpus of knowledge or codifying terms-of-art; no academic gravitas or fiduciary accountability; and certainly no identifying professional designation that demonstrated integrated subject matter expertise for the increasingly unique healthcare focused financial advisory niche ... Until Now!

Enter the Certified Medical Planner(TM) charter professional designation

Ann Miller RN MHA [Executive-Director] http://www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

Posted by Ann M | Tuesday, July 10 2012 at 12:31PM ET
Hi Steve - The Referral "Doctor"

Maybe it should be what you "know", that really sets an advisor / planner apart?

That's why the R&D efforts of our governing board of physician-directors, accountants, financial advisors, academics and health economists identified the need for integrated personal financial planning and medical practice management as an effective first step in the survival and wealth building life-cycle for physicians, nurses, healthcare executives, administrators and all medical professionals.

Now - more than ever - desperate doctors of all ages are turning to knowledge able financial advisors and medical management consultants for help. Symbiotically too, generalist advisors are finding that the mutual need for extreme niche synergy is obvious.

But, there was no established curriculum or educational program; no corpus of knowledge or codifying terms-of-art; no academic gravitas or fiduciary accountability; and certainly no identifying professional designation that demonstrated integrated subject matter expertise for the increasingly unique healthcare focused financial advisory niche ... Until Now!

Enter the Certified Medical Planner(TM) charter professional designation

Ann Miller RN MHA [Executive-Director] http://www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

Posted by Ann M | Tuesday, July 10 2012 at 12:31PM ET
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