We can’t blame everything on the pandemic lockdown. Customer service has deteriorated. Today, it’s far better to be a client than a customer. Businesses have customers. Advisors have clients.
1. Is it easy to get someone on the phone? Ever try calling the cable company? Your wireless provider? You likely go into a telephone tree, where you get directed to recordings or are put on musical hold for a very long time. You are frustrated by the time you reach a person.
Advisors: When a client calls their advisor, they get a live person on the phone right away. Often, it’s the advisor or their assistant. They are happy to hear from you. At busy times, there’s a backup system for rollover calls.
2. Does your personal time have any value? When you call a state agency or a public utility, very often you spend a long time on the phone. It might be because “We are experiencing higher than normal call volume” but it might also be they don’t have enough personnel on hand to answer calls in a timely manner.
Advisors: Your personal time has value. When a client calls their advisor, someone takes down the details of the problem and lets them know they will receive a call back.
3. Does anyone consider themselves accountable? How many times have you heard “We are sorry for the inconvenience” when the power goes out, you lose your wireless signal or you experience another service disruption. You are grouped into a large pool of people with the same problem.
Advisors: You understand the old adage: “A happy client tells one other person. An unhappy client tells ten other people.” Financial advisors understand “the buck stops here.” They try to own client problems and seek to get a resolution.
4. Does that company even have a customer service number? I recently discovered my insurance company no longer has a system allowing you to pay by phone vs. mailing in your check. It’s their subtle was of encouraging you to sign up for automatic debiting. If you have a question for Amazon, it’s not as straight forward as picking up the phone and asking your question. Chatbots can insert you in a never ending loop.
Advisors: Clients can call their advisor during business hours. During the pandemic, calls were automatically routed to their homes. Financial services firms make an extraordinary effort to encourage advisors to engage with clients on the clients terms. This includes phone, e-mail, texts and more.
5. Is your family doctor invested in your health? TV dramas have created the image of the family doctor who knows you personally. Today, family medical practices are staffed with MDs, DOs, Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners. There’s turnover. The feeling you get during your physical is the doctor is reading blood test results on their iPad, looking for numbers in bold type and explaining them to you. It’s lost the personal touch.
Advisors: The client has an advisor. If it’s a team situation, you can reach the lead advisor with some advance notice. Your advisor knows you. They listen.
6. If you go quiet, does anyone notice? Some businesses treat customers like numbers. If you close your account, you stop receiving statements and mailings. They are treating customers as a pool of people, not as individuals. If they lose too many people, they drop prices and create an introductory offer to bring new people in.
Advisors: Clients are called on a regular basis. CRM systems reinforce this behavior. In many cases, if a client falls out of touch, the advisor makes an effort to track them down, confirming they are OK. Some firms have started to implement a “buddy system.” If an older clients falls out of touch, there’s a family member you can reach to follow up.
7. Is your longevity as a client valued? Your credit card might say; “Member since 1993) but do they do anything else? Some credit card companies give free perks.
Advisors: Many schedule client recognition events, bringing them together for brunch or meetings. Advisors often send holiday cards, personally signed by the team.
Advisors: You take the time to explain what clients need to know to make informed decisions. You let them know the risk involved with options, margin and short selling. You want them to proceed with their eyes open.
9. Do you have a personal relationship or a call center? When you call many businesses, your call goes to a centralized location. Well trained people, working from scripts, attempt to answer your question or solve your problem. This often takes lots of time. I’ve learned to allocate at least 30 minutes when calling the cable company or wireless provider. The most maddening part is after they haven’t solved your problem, they ask if there is anything else they can help you with today.
Advisors: You have a personal relationship with a person, a team or both. Since they seek long term relationships, they have a keen interest in treating clients as individuals and keeping them happy.
As customers, we’ve become used to diminishing customer service. Being a client of an advisor should be a different experience.