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What made service great in 2020?


Technology and communication levels have been challenged during 2020 as the pandemic unfolded.

But these were two of the most crucial elements to ensuring top-class client and adviser service, panellists taking part in the Financial Adviser Service Awards 2020 podcast have claimed. 

Stuart Wilson, corporate marketing director at more2life; Verona Kenny, managing director of intermediary for Seven Investment Management; and Jamie Smith, partner at Foster Denovo said while the need for top-quality service in financial services has not changed in 30 years, the way in which service provision is delivered has undergone a dramatic metamorphosis.

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And this change has been most noticeable in the past few months, where technology improvements - and disasters - and pandemic responses have been put to the test.

But if companies thought that consumers and advisers would forgive poor service during these times, the panel dispelled that as quickly as the advisers who voted in the 30th Anniversary Financial Adviser Service Awards 2020 did. 

Ms Kenny said: "This year has made us all look at how we deliver service in every single way. What really good service looked like last year is completely different to what it looks like this year."

Mr Smith agreed: "Hats off to all the providers who have maintained great service during the pandemic but I look through the lens of the clients."

He said when providers get it wrong, the client will view the adviser less favourably, but when the provider gets it right, the adviser-client relationship is also strengthened.

"I think back in March and April, it was reasonable for clients to expect that perhaps service was not what it would have been previously, but now providers cannot use that excuse. They have had time to adapt, and should have done so."

The panel also discussed the way in which providers across all the sectors - mortgages, pensions, protection and investment - need to make sure that advisers and their clients are put at the heart of the service proposition. 

"It's a challenge to live up to that; to walk the walk", Mr Wilson said, adding that the mortgage industry really pulled together to help clients during the first lockdown.

"Advisers expected providers and lenders to step up and sort things out and, to a certain degree, elements of our industry were well prepared; certainly having a fully online portal stood us in good stead to deal remotely with applications.

"But where the industry was caught off-guard was the interruption to ie physical valuations of a property - remote valuations were not a thing - but the industry found a solution. On April 1, we launched a remote valuation proposition and other lenders quickly followed suit."

Where there was a need, there was indeed a way for providers to put processes in place to help advisers do their jobs better - and those who adapted quickly were able to show great customer service despite the pandemic.