Defining vs. Delivering a Great Client Experience: What's the Difference?

When we think about delivering a great client experience it’s easy to go straight to the tactics. But for the individuals charged with designing and implementing an experience, it’s as much about how that experience will be delivered, supported and measured across the organization as the specific tactics.  

For the most progressive firms, the questions are clear.

  • How do you create a consistent experience across a firm, when advice is so personal?
  • How can you actively involve the broader team without getting stuck in 'decision by committee'?
  • What is the scope of the experience you are trying to deliver?

Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with the individuals who have responsibility for all – or some – aspects of the experience at their firms.  

  • Joe Martin, Chief Client Experience Officer at Summitry
  • Travis Rychnovsky, Chief Growth Officer at Foster Group, and
  • Lindsey Williams, Chief Client Officer at Vista Capital Partners

Below are my seven takeaways and you’re welcome to access the full recording here.

The Big 7: Laying the right foundation for your client experience

1. Creating consistency with the 20% rule

One of the key goals for those charged with designing the experience is to ensure it is being delivered consistently across the firm. And that’s a challenge when you have multiple advisors, each with their own experience and preferences.

But let's keep in mind, the ‘experience’ is the experience of the firm rather than an individual advisor.  

The most successful firms find a way to embrace the individuality of advisors within a consistent framework. Think of it as an experience that is 80% defined, with 20% open to interpretation. An example might be implementing a consistent process for booking review meetings and creating and sharing an agenda; the individual magic comes with how the advisor connects with the client during a review and addresses those issues that are most important.  

Balancing structure with flexibility empowers advisors to work their magic while upholding organizational standards.

2. Ownership: Navigating the Experience Ship

As firms expand, someone needs to steer the ship when it comes to client experience. For many firms, accountability is given to a senior advisor who ultimately has a split role. The largest firms are giving that responsibility to someone on the leadership team and that is his or her only role.  

At a minimum, having this role in place ensures consistency across key touchpoints and is the connective tissue between different parts of the organization. Any change in process can have a knock-on effect for other teams and someone needs to understand those implications.  

3. Committees as Catalysts, Not Captains

Client experience committees can be invaluable forums for brainstorming and collaboration. And that’s particularly true for firms who are actively seeking to hear a diversity of opinion. Defining the role of that committee is key. Those having the greatest success with this approach use the committee to provide insight, feedback and guidance. It does not make decisions or the danger is, of course, that no decisions will be made.

4. The Seamless Continuum: From Prospect to Client

Recognizing that the prospect and client experiences are intertwined is fundamental for those firms who are innovating. The client journey starts the first time a prospect visits a website or hears about your firm; it does not start when they become a client. And the most progressive firms are intentionally creating consistency at every stage of the journey. We should, perhaps, stop talking about the ‘client experience’ and instead focus on the ‘experience.'  

5. Personalization: Where Technology Meets Empathy

Personalization is a key driver of client experience innovation. In the past, personalization was more about segmentation (e.g., delivering a different level of service based on the value of the client). Today, personalization is about understanding and delivering an experience that reflects the individual needs, preferences, and challenges of individual clients and prospects.  

Technology will, of course, play a critical role if the goal is delivering bespoke experiences at scale. We need a way to capture and then use personal sentiments to guide the experience.  

6. The Power of Conversation

While a great deal of the industry's focus is on efficiency and process, the role of the conversation is critical. We know that clients place the highest value on the review meeting and getting that right is foundational. Booking and running meetings efficiently is table stakes. The future is about helping advisors co-create the agenda to have more meaningful conversations.  

7. Understanding the Dynamic Duo: Couples

While we pay lip service to engaging couples, they are often forgotten when the focus is on efficiency. A truly engaging experience needs to reflect the needs, concerns and challenges of ALL clients and the reality is that couples don’t share a heart and mind. The future is not only about trying to encourage couples to attend meetings but delivering an experience that reflects the individual needs within a couple.  

Next Steps

So yes, continue to exchange ideas on client experience tactics. But for those that are focused on delivering the experience across an organization, you’ll need to focus as much on the foundation. Consider these questions as a starting point.

  1. Is your experience the experience of the firm or the individuals at the firm?
  1. Who ‘owns’ client experience?
  1. If you have a client experience committee, is the role clear?
  1. Does your client experience start when the client is a prospect?
  1. Are you using technology to capture and track the sentiments that will drive a personalized experience?
  1. Do you have a process to co-create meeting agendas with prospects and clients?
  1. Does your experience actively reflect the needs, concerns and challenges of both people in a couple?

‍Thanks for stopping by.

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