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5 Aspects of an Exceptional Client Experience

Celeste Revelli February 10, 2021

great client experience
Updated on: July 20, 2022

The client experience is at the core of successful, profitable financial planning services. It is key for retaining loyal clients and securing new business for your firm.

With investment management margins shrinking, financial planning offers important new revenue streams. There is a major opportunity available to those who can exceed client expectations—a recent study1 isolated a group of firms delivering a great client experience and found they’re seeing remarkable returns:

  • Increased assets under management (AUM) by 20 percent (double all others)
  • 25 percent growth in new client acquisition (70 percent higher than all others)
  • 95 percent client retention rate (vs 50 percent for all others)
  • 20 percent growth in total clients (double all others)

Building your client experience is an essential step in growing your firm. To start delighting your clients, it’s important to first understand what they want.

What Financial Planning Clients Want

While every client is different, there are a few universal things that most people desire. Cerulli research shows that above all else, clients value trust, transparency, and the overall relationship they have with their advisor.2 The most important factor in choosing an advisor is transparency in all interactions. Further, the same study showed the top two factors for client satisfaction are trustworthiness and the overall relationship.

This is particularly important when you consider how the investor of the future will expect financial planning that accounts for their total well-being. Financial professionals will have to fully engage with both the personal and financial aspects of their clients’ lives—trust and transparency will be critical to forging these deep relationships.

But even by today’s standards, clients want to work with someone they trust, someone who makes it clear how their information is being used and how recommendations are developed.

With this in mind, you can start orchestrating a superior experience by focusing on five essential areas.

1. Digital Brand

Your brand is all about setting authentic, deliverable expectations. In many instances, it may be a client’s first interaction with your business, which makes it a great starting point for improving your client experience.

Start building the foundations of trust and transparency by ensuring all messaging in your digital presence is consistent, honest, and unique while outlining exciting, but realistic, expectations. Making important information like fees and services readily available on your website improves transparency. Catering to clients’ increasing desire to educate themselves by offering informative content can further build trust with prospective and existing clients.

A strong digital brand sets you and your firm up to deliver on expectations further down the road.

2. Client Onboarding

Manual onboarding processes can be cumbersome for clients. The onboarding experience is at the very start of a planning relationship when impressions are at a premium, so it’s important to get this part right. Creating trust and transparency at this stage can set the tone for the rest of the relationship.

Powerful data aggregation technology that relies on API connections goes a long way in making onboarding a smoother experience for clients. But beyond an investment in technology, communication is key.

You can share content with clients that sets expectations for the fact-finding and onboarding process. You can proactively address client concerns about data security while showing them ways to communicate safely. You can even give them a way to track their own progress through the onboarding stage.

All of these types of communication will introduce transparency into the potentially confusing onboarding phase, while also creating trust by demonstrating you’re in tune with their concerns.

3. Financial Plan Creation

Great financial planning doesn’t happen in isolation—it’s a collaborative effort. Inviting clients into the planning process assures them you’re working in their best interest and gives them confidence in their plan.

Offering a client website with easy access to investment and plan performance, along with progress towards their most important goals, is the most direct way to loop clients in. You can also go a step further by explaining the basic assumptions behind a plan and demonstrating the reasoning behind all of your recommendations. This makes the process of planning completely transparent, which helps build trust in the relationship.

4. Communication

Effective communication is essential for reassuring clients that you’re caring for their best interests. It keeps them engaged and loops them even further into the planning process.

Your communications should span the whole journey for the client. It starts with being upfront about your services and how you’re paid. It includes quickly and promptly answering all questions a client may have, setting alerts for items that will need attention from the client, and even providing educational resources to help clients learn more about their financial situation.

Staying in touch with clients at the right frequency with the right information helps them trust in your commitment to their well-being and demystifies the planning process for them.

5. Client Service

Service is an essential component of the client’s experience. Every client will inevitably have questions or concerns about your services—the way in which you answer will play a major role in their perception of you and your business.

Once again, offering a client portal with 24/7 access to information is a great start. You can offer them training on how to use the tools at their disposal as well—this will help them answer a lot of their own questions. But when they need further guidance, ensuring your whole team is well-versed in the technology you use, and being available to assist, will help ensure you’re addressing any potential client issue.

When a client need arises, you must be prepared to satisfy that need to continue delivering on the expectations you’ve established at the beginning of the relationship. It helps to send out regular financial advisor client surveys to get feedback on what you’re doing well and where you can improve.

The Experience Is More Important Than Ever

Portfolio performance isn’t enough anymore—clients have higher expectations for an excellent experience centered around personalized, holistic advice.

Financial professionals that are delivering exceptional planning experiences for their clients are seeing remarkable results. For more information on how the client experience translates to revenue, why the experience is important now more than ever, and a deeper dive into building your own client experience, read our ebook “Building Your Client Experience: A Look at Why the Experience Matters and How You Can Stay Competitive By Creating An Exceptional One.

Sources:

  1. eMoney Heart of Advice Research Report, September 2019, Advisors n=439, Investors n=605

DISCLAIMER: The eMoney Advisor Blog is meant as an educational and informative resource for financial professionals and individuals alike. It is not meant to be, and should not be taken as financial, legal, tax or other professional advice. Those seeking professional advice may do so by consulting with a professional advisor. eMoney Advisor will not be liable for any actions you may take based on the content of this blog.

Image of Celeste Revelli
About the Author

Celeste Revelli is currently Director of Digital Planning at Fidelity Investments, where she works on digital financial planning experiences for Fidelity advisors and clients. Starting her career as a registered advisor for a few years, Celeste has been in the financial services industry since 2009. She worked at eMoney Advisor for almost 11 years, where she led advanced planning support escalation, product research support, and eMoney’s financial wellness and financial education strategy as Director of Financial Planning. Celeste received her bachelor’s degree in communications and marketing from Loyola University Maryland and her certificate in financial planning from Boston University. She is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and is currently pursuing her MBA specializing in financial psychology and behavioral finance from Creighton University. Celeste dedicates time to serving her community in the areas of pro bono financial planning and financial literacy, and she also serves the industry through her support of next generation planners, diversity and inclusion efforts, and exam and technology committees for the CFP Board. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and son.

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