With people becoming more demanding, businesses are increasingly coming under pressure to bring "client delight" to their existing and potential customers, delegates to the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (Cisi) conference were told late last month.
Business consultant Andy Hanselman, who was speaking at the Accredited Financial Planning Firm Conference 2018, reminded conference goers that although some clients’ expectations will never be met, it is much easier now than ever before for clients to walk away if they are unhappy with the service they receive.
The internet has played a key role in making it easier for prospective customers to find out how a business is performing and whether it is meeting the needs of its existing clients. Also, with client expectation on the march, customers are looking for the same high level of service from all companies they have dealings with.
Mr Hanselman used examples of the various actions being carried out by retail firms to attract clients. For example, Pret A Manger staff are allowed to give free cups of coffee to customers they wish to reward. Although these examples are not directly transferable to the world of financial advice, a model based on loyalty requires that businesses rethink how they deliver client satisfaction.
Mr Hanselman said: “I did some work with a financial adviser. As I turned up at their office the office junior offered me a coffee [and knew exactly how I wanted it]. When I asked her, ‘how do you know’, she said, ‘it’s my job to know’.
“It will not make you spend lots of money, but it will make you feel valued. It is the personal touch. Just asking, how things are, is a great way to delight clients. You can also plan spontaneity.
“Client delight is about surprising them with the level of service you provide. It is not just saying ‘have a nice day’. It is about exceeding client expectation.”
Having said this, some businesses will struggle to keep clients because they may have staff whose behaviour might deter customers from wanting to use a particular company, Mr Hanselman added. He described these individuals as "sales prevention officers".
These individuals are often found in companies where the training and support is lacking. It could also be the result of poor hiring, time constraints and staff not knowing what is expected of them.
Additionally, some companies have processes and systems which are cumbersome and can deter clients from doing business with them.
Mr Hanselman acknowledged that legislation and regulation can add to these complexities, but he said that this should not filter down to the customers.
He added: “There’s lots of legislation in this industry, but a client would say, 'I don’t care about the legislation. You need to find a better way to educate me'.
Another thing advisers need to consider is how they can add value. They can find this out by continually speaking with staff to find out if clients are unhappy about anything – and also talk to clients.