There is not one advice business in the country that would not describe itself as “client centric”. This has become the buzz phrase of the last five years and it is continually trotted out as the key differentiator of many firms. While it’s easy to include in elevator pitches, email footers, marketing collateral and websites, the more discerning consumers (be they clients, prospects or key referral partners) will quite rightly expect more than a well scripted tag line.

When it comes to showing demonstrable proof of their client centricity, many advice practices seemingly have a huge disconnect between their words and actions. Consider the results from our most recent industry whitepaper, Future Ready VIII:

  • Almost half (47%) of the practices do not have a defined client value proposition (CVP) – will make it very hard for the business, its advisers and staff to clearly and consistently articulate their value. Ditto for their referral partners.
  • Two thirds (67%) do not communicate with their best clients 10+ times per year. Hard to imagine when you consider that these very same clients are being exposed to an ever questioning and doubting press.
  • Only one in three (32%) actually seek feedback from their clients.
  • Over a quarter (27%) of the firms have not identified their best clients and offer them a differentiated level of service.
  • Just 26% of the businesses are looking at expanding their suite of solutions/range of services in the coming 12 months to better cater for their clients changing needs. And changing they are – according to our client satisfaction survey analysis (CATScan), 49% of clients are aged 60+ and their need for risk and saving strategies/products are fast being replaced by annuities, aged care, estate planning, ethical investing and philanthropy.

So, while the words on websites and in the various marketing collateral are no doubt comforting to the business itself, the real questions remain – how do your services align to your clients’ needs today? Do your clients think that they are indeed at the centre of your offer?

Here are five strategies which can be easily implemented, and will clearly demonstrate to your clients (referral centres and prospects too) how important they truly are to you and your business:

  1. Proactively seek feedback from your clients on a regular basis – for established clients at least every second year. Confidentially and anonymously, conducted by an independent third party, who can provide you with an objective assessment, complete with benchmarking comparisons to other practices. As I mentioned above, less than one in three Australian practices reported to us that they had surveyed their clients during the last 12 months – it’s hard to justify a claim to be ‘client centric’ when you haven’t actually asked your clients how satisfied they are (with you)!
  2. Continually communicate to your clients – while very much dependant on your business model, our latest analysis suggests that practices who are communicating on at least a monthly basis are achieving a higher level of profitability compared to those who are ‘touching’ their clients less frequently. While this communication can be delivered in a variety of different formats (newsletters, blogs, video, social media posts, phone calls, face to face and group meetings and in fact, variety is a good thing), most important of all is that it actually occurs. Why not entrust a key staff person with responsibility for creating, delivering and regularly monitoring your business’ 2020 Communication Program?
  1. To be able to implement a truly effective (= personalised, relevant and frequent) communication program, you will need to have a comprehensive CRM which holds much more than technical and product data. It must contain the type of info which will allow you to build/maintain your relationships – their favourite hobbies and pastimes, their community causes, next major holiday, their preference for meeting times, the details of any other professional advisers they may be dealing with (accountant, lawyer and broker for example). And finally… don’t forget to collect the names and ages of their children. As keeping this data current and relevant is obviously important, why not make it a specific responsibility of one person within your team – a data ‘champion’ so to speak. Pleasingly, according to our Future Ready analysis, 89% of practices update their CRM within 24 hours of each client contact.
  1. Fully leverage your client meetings – especially your review (progress to plan) meetings. These meetings are where the rubber hits the road! They provide the perfect forum for you to showcase your capability and demonstrate to the client the value they’re receiving for the fees they’re paying. You can control the flow of the meeting, introduce clients to your key staff (thereby breaking down any potential key dependency issues) and generally reassure them of your competence and capability. It’s for these reasons that we favour holding as many client meetings as possible in your office, as opposed to travelling to your clients. 55% of Future Ready VIII practices advised us that they were holding 90%+ of client meetings in their own office.
  1. Ensure the notion of client centricity becomes part your practice’s DNA. By tracking and reporting on client feedback and satisfaction in your regular business meetings (including your annual business planning workshop), while also incorporating these indicators in staff performance objectives and remuneration structure, you will be signalling a clear intention that, in your business at least, client centricity is more than just the latest catch cry.

For your consideration.

Terry Bell

Partner, Business Health Pty Ltd