An Evidence-Based Approach to Driving Engagement

In last week’s post on the real return on client engagement I suggested that the concept of client engagement is little more than a platitude – unless we can define it, measure it and understand what drives it.

It seems to have hit a chord.

In that post I shared our definition of engagement as well as the data that demonstrates the tangible return on focusing on engagement. 

The Great Client Engagement Disconnect

While the data is clear on the real return on engagement, it’s not terribly helpful if we don’t understand the activities that will drive engagement. 

This is where the disconnect begins.

Everyone has their own idea about how to engage with clients and more than a few will tell you it’s exactly what they are doing today. And while that sounds like a happy coincidence, it’s hard to argue if they are right or not, without evidence.

We believe, however, that if you can define and measure engagement, you can also understand the drivers of engagement. Those drivers are hidden in the data.

The Drivers of Client Engagement

So what exactly does the data tell us? Based on our analysis we have identified the core characteristics of an Engaged client relationship.

A caution before you review these drivers. It’s easy to work through a mental checklist in your own head that reinforces that you do these things already. I know you want to do these things and may believe you do them now.  

But ask yourself if you are tangibly demonstrating each driver. Can you point to specific activities that demonstrate these qualities to clients, in a way that is clear and consistent? If it's too vague, the benefit may be lost.

1. Driving engagement means broadening the scope of the relationship.

Engaged clients are more likely to say they have a deeper personal relationship with their advisor, one that goes beyond investments.

Engagement Lesson #1: The quality of the advice drives satisfaction. However, putting that advice in the context of your clients’ lives drives engagement. And their lives are about more than money.

2. Driving engagement means having a process to tangibly demonstrate that you understand, and are responding to, client needs.

Engaged clients are more likely to say their advisor has a deep understanding of their life goals and is proactive in understanding how those goals and needs have changed.

Engagement Lesson #2: 

Tangibly demonstrate how you understand and respond to client needs over time.

  • Have a formal process to connect with clients about if and how their life goals and objectives are changing. Consider doing this outside of a conversation about investments and money.
  • Be specific about that process by telling clients that it’s important to hit pause, from time to time, to understand what has changed and to examine if and how that might impact their plan. 
  • Dig deep to help clients understand and articulate the changes they are experiencing. Simply asking if anything has changed, won’t get you there. We’re human and that’s a hard question to answer.

3. Driving engagement means transforming your review process from a ‘need to do’ to something more inspired.

Engaged clients are more likely to say they feel more engaged during reviews and that their partners feel the same. However, there is a persistent gap with partner engagement.

Engagement Lesson #3: Focus your reviews on the things that are most important for clients and don’t assume that those are the same things that are on your agenda. There are times when what clients need to hear and what you want to share are different. The former is all that matters. And remember that the only way to truly engage partners who seem otherwise disengaged is by changing the agenda, not by explaining why the existing agenda should be more interesting or important.

4. Driving engagement means having a formal and consistent process to capture and use input from clients on what they need right now.

There is a reason that we focus our work on helping advisors gather direct input from clients. The data makes it clear that driving engagement starts with a deep understanding of client needs, concerns, challenges and aspirations. And more often that not, it’s about helping them understand these things about themselves.

So we aren’t surprised by the last driver in the least. Engaged clients are more likely to say their advisor has invited them to provide feedback using a formal survey/poll.

Engagement Lesson #4: Design a client experience – from the conversations you have during reviews to the communications your share to the scope of service you provide – that reflects what your clients have told you is most important.

A Final Thought

Driving engagement isn’t necessarily about doing new things, but about examining if and how what you are doing today reflects what is most important to your clients. 

As you look at your client experience today, ask an important question. Am I missing opportunities to demonstrate leadership? Ultimately, your ability to tangibly demonstrate leadership through the client experience is the hallmark of engagement.

All of the work we do at Absolute Engagement is premised on the idea that clients will highlight the path to engagement if we only ask the right questions. And that’s exactly what we’ve been doing with our ongoing investor research, as well as the work we do to help advisory firms capture and use this data from their own clients.

Related: What Is the Real Return on Client Engagement?