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Leveraging Digital to Deliver a Consistent Financial Planning Experience
• Brett Tharp • November 17, 2020
Have you ever received a service that fell short because you expected one thing and the actual experience was something else? I think almost anyone can recall a time when a service left them frustrated, and more often than not, it’s likely what was delivered didn’t meet what was expected.
When expectations are met you can create satisfied clients, which is central to the service business model. Satisfied clients translate to retention and referrals.
But how do you achieve client satisfaction time and time again?
You dissect and analyze the service—your partners, processes, and preparation—in such a way that you can ultimately define a consistent, repeatable experience that will meet or exceed the expectations of your clients.
Because financial planning is a collaborative and deeply personal service, it requires both parties—the financial planning professional and the client—to take on certain levels of responsibility to align expectations.
It is the responsibility of the financial professional to educate the client on their service offerings. Because money and goals can sound quite abstract, this information gives clients valuable insight into whether their expectations fall in the scope of the engagement or service.
Clients should also be open about their motivations and goals so you, the service provider, can anticipate their needs. With a deeper understanding of the client, a financial professional can arrive at a realistic plan. Emphasizing the collaborative nature will help you to engage and have a greater impact for a positive financial planning experience.
Partner Integration Is Not Optional, It Is Optimal
Leveraging digital capabilities can certainly help you to gain efficiency and scale to achieve that consistent level of service across your book of business. It’s not atypical to have a tech stack with several different tools, each with their own unique features and purpose. But what if all of your wealth management tools were integrated so you can access them via one portal?
Integrating your investment management and business development tech into one platform could create a lot of efficiency to allow the technology partners to each serve their unique purpose, but with the benefit of centralized information. And since this can really increase your efficiency so that you aren’t spending time reconciling data sources and aggregating workflows, you have more time to spend with clients.
Integration among outside partners or “centers of influence”—insurance brokers, lawyers, CPAs, mortgage lenders, etc.—can also help to deliver a consistent client experience. Consider how all these relationships are working together for your client. Is the client receiving a different message from one professional to the next? Remember, a conflicting message from one source to the next is frustrating, but a consistent message or plan is satisfying.
Sharing client information with technology partners and centers of influence allows you to be the quarterback for your clients and make sure other meetings are producing consistent outcomes.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel—Automate Processes
It’s clear that having a repeatable process will help to ensure that your overall planning workflow leads to a consistent experience.
A detailed workflow yields both external (client) and internal (team) benefits. As your practice grows, a well-defined team structure can scale efforts to deliver a consistent client experience. Think about how to maximize your tools to document and share processes, ideally through a single platform, to enable team collaboration.
Bringing it back to expectations, when clients are aware of your workflow and the planning process they will go through, limits the margin for misalignment.
For example, adoption of a client portal or site can be a challenge, but if you make it part of your process, you can stay top of mind with your clients and provide answers 24/7. Introduce the technology to clients as the how you are doing planning. You can bring this up in the first meeting: Here is our wealth management tool. Take the time to show the technology and the digital experience, and chances are it will increase their understanding and adoption.
Preparation Is Ongoing
Another integral piece of the service is the relationship itself. You don’t want to complete a plan for someone, then nine months go by without a word and you realize there was a change to their income stream that has affected the plan’s outcomes.
Do you have ways to keep communication lines open, such as dropping an updated report containing this revised income projection in a place that’s secure and only accessible to the client? Leveraging digital capabilities like this can help you gain efficiencies in a number of ways.
Consider segmenting your client base by those with complex planning versus simple planning needs, then map out the interactions and associated workflows for each of those client tracks to ensure you have touchpoints and planning reviews, based on their needs. Send out client surveys to different client segments to gather more feedback on how to improve.
For instance, if your CRM allows reminders for reoccurring engagements or touchpoints, you can make sure you’re not missing key opportunities to deliver a great client experience. By automating as much as possible, you can follow through on what has been promised to clients, at scale.
Continuously Manage Expectations
Just because consistency suggests reliability and harmony, it doesn’t mean your approach to delivering client satisfaction should be without flexibility or change. Since no financial plan is static, the relationship with clients will be dynamic and evolve over time as well. Create feedback loops or ways for your clients to voice their expectations so you can continuously tailor that consistent experience.
For additional approaches to help you engage and have a strong impact, listen to the on-demand webinar from my colleagues Mike Hemmert, VP, Enterprise Sales and Celeste Revelli, Director, Financial Planning at eMoney.
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.
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