In the 1997 Australian movie classic, The Castle, friend and local (inept) solicitor Dennis Denuto strives to answer the judge’s questioning of his action on behalf of the Kerrigan family with the wonderful ‘catch all’ response – “it’s the vibe of the thing, your honour”. Unfortunately, the judge didn’t accept Dennis’ carefully constructed legal argument.

Twenty years on, it seems that the vibe is now a hot topic for any number of service providers. For example, a recent survey from KPMG estimated that 50% of automobile dealerships would disappear by 2025, while those that survive, it predicted, will have evolved from transactional hubs to a very personalised level. The Report went on to describe the transition of the front-line staff, from sales focused to client focused – their attitude, training, skills and incentivisation are all now in play.

The days of car yards with 100’s of models on display, it seems, are well and truly on the way out. Companies like Hyundai and Mercedes are transitioning their traditional sales rooms into ‘brand stores’ (e.g. Mercedes me café in Melbourne’s CBD), with no traditional salespeople and, in the case of Hyundai – no cars! Clients will be able to search online, organise a test drive from home and have their car picked up for maintenance servicing by dedicated ‘brand valets’.

The article concluded by stating that today ‘the customer is clearly in charge – dealerships must provide choices, personalization, and exceptional ‘experiences’.

Of course, this new world isn’t restricted to car dealerships. Think Uber and the taxi industry, department stores and online shopping, restaurants and Deliveroo, hotels and Air BnB – all great examples of a newcomer disrupting the established world. And the common denominator for all these ‘newbies’ is that not only do they provide great value for money, they also offer their clients a great experience – convenience, friendly/professional staff and smart technology just for starters.

Yes, the ‘vibe’ is well and truly alive for these service providers, but how about financial planners, risk advisers and mortgage brokers? What’s the vibe their clients feel? When a client first comes onboard for example, what happens in your firm? What’s the client’s first impression? If they feel ‘good’, ‘confident’ or better still ‘delighted’ by their choice of adviser, then you’re on the right track. But if they don’t feel this way or, perhaps worse, you don’t actually know, it’s time to get proactive.

Here’s a few tips from some of the very best advisers we’ve worked with recently about how to create your own, distinctive, experiential vibe:

  • Actively seek client’s feedback on what they liked and didn’t like about their onboarding experience and, ask for their suggestions on how your process could possibly be improved. Remember, this is all about them, not their adviser or his or her practice.
  • Does your ‘welcome to our firm’ pack make them feel special? Perhaps include a handwritten note from the person who will be servicing the client, introducing themselves and explaining how they can work together to ensure the ‘best’ experience? Or, how about including a lifestyle questionnaire asking how your client likes to celebrate birthdays, favourite food, favourite sports teams, communities they’re a member of, red or white wine, music preferences etc?
  • And as the relationship evolves over time, perhaps the most important driver of client satisfaction is… communication. It’s frequency, relevance and level of personalisation all play major roles in keeping clients in the loop, aware and, hopefully, appreciative of their adviser’s efforts.
  • Do you know how your clients rate their various interactions with your firm – face to face meetings, seminars and the wider range of events your practice conducts? Are your clients welcomed to your office by empathic, competent and professional staff? Made to feel comfortable (it’s good to see you)? If they’re driving to the appointment are directions provided to the closest parking area or, better still, do you offer a specific parking spot for them?
  • Do your staff know their names (as well as those of their family) and generally what’s been happening in their lives of late? Do they prefer tea or coffee?
  • Do meetings start and finish on time? Are they held at ‘client friendly’ times?
  • Increasingly, advisers are utilizing technology to deliver a memorable and engaging experience for their clients. How easy is it for your clients to book an appointment online, or hold a meeting through Skype or Zoom? Or access their plan details whenever they wish? Online account access for clients has gone from nice-to-have to must-have. According to the US Adviser Technology Study undertaken by Investment News last year, 78% of advisory firms surveyed offer some type of client portal. Moreover, 21% said their typical client uses it once a week, 35% once a month and 22% once per quarter, indicating, as the Study concludes, a substantial adoption on the part of clients

If clients today are accustomed to receiving personalised and exceptional ‘experiences’ from their service providers, surely they’ll expect a similar experience from their financial adviser?

For your consideration.

Terry Bell

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