You see it all the time. “Your satisfaction is our goal” or “We’re not satisfied until you’re satisfied.” Consumerism has, for the most part, taught us that satisfaction is the standard. In the financial advisory business, satisfaction is unacceptable. Satisfied clients are not loyal clients and loyal clients are the only good clients. Thus, the myth of the satisfied client.  Satisfied clients will kill your business. The motto should be, “if you’re only satisfied, fire us!”

A fund family survey I recall from a handful of years ago stated that roughly one in ten affluent clients regarded themselves as “loyal”. The others labeled themselves as “moderately satisfied” or “satisfied”.    The moment I read those statistics, I had a “client service epiphany” and realized that there are only two categories of clients.  Clients are either loyal or disloyal. And if we accept that satisfied clients are, in reality, disloyal clients then we accept that our standard has to change. 

Satisfied clients are prepared to break up with you. They’re just waiting for you to give them a reason and eventually, whether intentionally or by fate, you will – a bad return year, an incorrect transaction or just lack of contact. If you’re not yet convinced that satisfaction is not the end pursuit, try this fun little test. Call your spouse today and tell them you’re now committed to making the relationship “satisfactory”.  Next, call a local florist…and possibly a motel for a single occupancy room.    

So the question is, how are advisors building loyal clients who provide consistent revenue and quality referrals? They’re providing a uniquely great client experience. That may sound somewhat vague so let’s get down to some specifics. Note that I won’t address investment management. Not because it’s not important, but because it’s not ultimately controllable. Focus on mastering the controllable aspects of your business and the uncontrollable things will become more interesting than important. Case in point: you trail a comparable index by 5% for a single year. A loyal client finds that interesting, but not critically important.  A “satisfied” (disloyal) client starts writing the Dear Advisor letter. 

Discovery

Stop fact-finding alone and start taking your clients through an engaging discovery process. As you gather important data also ask powerful, thought-provoking questions such as:

  • “As you look back on your life, what role has money played in it?”
  • “What are a few of the things you value most in life?”
  •  “What’s the number one issue you’d like help with right now?”
  • “What’s your vision of a worry-free retirement?”

Whatever you use for data gathering, include questions that get your prospect talking about what they care about, what’s on their mind and why they need your help.  Listen and engage with intention. You have to connect with a prospect before you can convert them to a client. And when you truly connect, clients will do whatever it takes to realize their vision.
Service     

Implement an unmatched service model. Phone calls by all staff should be handled with professional grace. Everyone on your team represents the entire firm when they’re interacting with clients, in any fashion. Haven’t we all told someone, “don’t do business there” based on a single, random incident? Recognize and reward great service by your team. Need a way to reward individual team members for great service and support? Sometimes the little things are remembered the most. That Team Leader who does a great job on the phone with a disgruntled client while you were unavailable today - how would he/she feel if they arrived at work tomorrow with a gift card to their favorite restaurant and a note from you that said, “our clients love working with us because of people like you – thanks.” Small cost, big benefit.

Relationship

Love Affair Marketing is how you can really build long-term loyalty. Make sure you deliver quantity as well as quality here. Implement the must-do things like birthday calls/cards, newsletter/market commentary. In addition, start delivering the nice-to dos as well. Do something special for you’re A clients each year by using information you gather – an anniversary gift or birthday party. Spend time with them doing things you both enjoy. Most importantly, be genuine in all of your marketing efforts. Pursue your passions and interests and your clients, as well as guests, will get involved. Talk to your best clients enough that you don’t have to ask what’s going in their lives – you already know.   

The great advantage you have in all of this is that your clients expect an average, satisfactory experience. They’ve learned that most companies take on customers but very few companies take care of clients. Most people expect a 5-experience with their financial advisor.  So deliver a 10-experience. When you do, you’ll not only build raving fans as clients, but you’ll also sustain passion for doing what you enjoy most. Let your competitors have the “satisfied” clients. Remember, there are only loyal and disloyal clients.  Build a family of loyal clients and you’ll not only improve your business but, more importantly, you’ll improve your life.   

Ron Carson is founder and president of Carson Wealth Management Group, a comprehensive wealth planning firm, and founder of Peak Advisor Alliance, the largest advisor coaching program in the country.He also co-authored the practice management book Tested in the Trenches: A 9-Step Plan for Building and Sustaining a Million-Dollar Financial Services Practice and its revised 2nd edition Tested in the Trenches: A 9-Step Plan for Success as a New-Era Advisor.

Scott Wood, an Executive Business Coach at Peak Advisor Alliance, contributed to this article. He has over 20 years of experience in financial services, and extensive experience in coaching and training advisors in areas including presentation skills, sales concepts, fee-based transitioning, distribution strategies, marketing, branding, and value positioning.