Service, good or bad, can make or break businesses of all sizes.
Financial services is no exception of course; advisers, who have to juggle the unholy trio of regulation, client meetings and continuing professional development, need to know that they can ‘do business’.
On a fundamental level this means being able to rely on companies knowing that the i's will get dotted and the t's will get crossed.
But there is more to service than just processes.
In the last 15 years a raft of significant industry changes as a result of legislative and regulatory shake-ups have placed extra challenges on advisers and providers. Some of these changes have revolutionised financial services, pensions freedoms for example, but with great change also comes great responsibility. Responsibility to make sure clients are being given the right choices at the right time. And this is where service comes into its own.
The shift away from product-based to holistic advice has also added another important variable to the advice process. It means advisers will want to spend more time with clients, learning about their needs and aspirations.
The feedback we at Financial Adviser get from our annual Service Awards, shows just how highly regarded service is. It’s a no-brainer that companies who don’t invest in improving their service see their scores reduce, while those who do can expect to get a five-star rating.
On all levels, from support via a business development manager, to information technology (IT) to streamlining paperwork - and in some cases removing it completely, service is going through a fundamental shift. One where automation is replacing humans, but conversely more humans are needed to help pull the advice process together.
Good service is really only about one thing – time. Peace of mind in knowing you are giving your clients the right advice, in knowing that any decisions can be made without having to wade through mountains of paperwork, in knowing that there is someone who can talk things through when challenges present themselves. All these save time.
As one provider pointed out: “our service to advisers is about giving them time, time to do what they do best, which is of course, give advice to their clients.”
Samantha Downes is assistant editor of Financial Adviser.