Generally speaking, advisors are quite satisfied with their fund company partners, but is that satisfaction simply isn't enough. Satisfaction gets you a seat at the table but it doesn't win you the right to do more business and if that is the case then we need to set a higher standard, one that reflects a deeper level of engagement.
Over the last several years we have been gathering data on the drivers of engagement, looking both at the relationships between advisors and investors and between advisors and the fund companies with whom they work. There are striking similarities. In both cases, we find that satisfaction has a rather tenuous connection to both loyalty and growth.
Based on a study of clients of four fund companies, if satisfaction is high, just under half of advisors said they were planning on increasing assets, about the same percentage planned on staying at the same level and up to 10% planned on decreasing assets. They were happy enough with the firm, but were sufficiently engaged to do more business. In order to understand engagement we need to take a hard look at the relationship that advisors have with the firm and also with their wholesalers.
If satisfaction were the goal, then focusing on investment performance would be the only priority. Of course, everyone focuses on investment performance so that doesn't necessarily set you apart. However, when we look beyond investment performance, the role of the wholesaler plays a critical role. It's at this level that true engagement takes place. When advisors are satisfied, they describe their wholesaler as trustworthy, knowledgeable and service oriented. When we examine the advisors who plan on increasing business with a firm, they are more likely to focus on whether the wholesaler really understands their business.
So how do you measure engagement and help to build deeper relationships with advisors? Client feedback is a great place to start. Consider the following:
1. Craft a survey that asks advisors about their satisfaction, needs interests and business goals.
2. Provide access to advisor-level results to your wholesalers who can use the feedback as the basis for a deeper conversation
Using this process, you can use feedback both as a way to drive deeper engagement, to uncover opportunities and to support a meaningful conversation between wholesaler and advisor. The connection to engagement is based on the fact that feedback creates a sense of partnership and ownership while demonstrating commitment to the relationship. When clients are asked for feedback they are reminded that you care - as long as you actually follow-up on the results.In the final analysis, you need to set and track the right metrics if you want to create a great client experience. Based on the data we've gathered, that metric needs to go beyond satisfaction and focus on engagement, value or some other high standard. Client feedback is one of the few things that plays double duty. It helps to drive deeper engagement with your clients and allows you to measure how you are doing. The process of measurement actually drives the outcome.
Julie Littlechild is the president of Advisor Impact, which conducts research for investors and advisors.