Journal of Financial Planning: June 2016
Beware the new reality—marketing is no longer in control of your brand. Rather, customer experience (CX)—the actual experience your clients are having—is.
Because client expectations are at their highest levels, CX has become a key driver of retention and acquisition. Consequently, a brand’s success hinges on creating personalized experiences and delivering them in an authentic manner that resonates with clients and makes them feel valued and appreciated.
Astute and innovative companies are swiftly diverting significant budgeted dollars from branding and marketing initiatives toward CX. In this new paradigm, customers dictate all aspects of their relationship with your brand, thanks to the ubiquitous mobile, social, and web technologies. In the words of customer service expert Jack Mackey (jackmackey.net), “You can say what you want about who you are, but people believe what they experience.”
Global research and advisory firm Gartner (gartner.com) defines CX management as the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations and, thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy. CX is the emotional representation of how your audience perceives your brand; it is about listening to your customers and acting accordingly. Delivering a successful CX is crucial for a financial planner to achieve three strategic goals: (1) drive customer loyalty; (2) create brand evangelists who will promote your brand; and (3) attract and retain new assets.
When it comes to competing on CX, engagement is of paramount importance. Consequently, begin by making CX the best product your firm provides. Make your message memorable, entertaining, and valuable, and leverage any available client data to extract maximum value from the interaction at any touchpoint of the sales journey.
Here are five basic steps financial planners can take to create a meaningful and rewarding strategy that will help improve client satisfaction, expand your book of business, and increase revenue:
Establish your vision. The easiest way to define your vision is to create a set of statements that act as guiding principles and that will drive the overall behavior of your financial planning practice. Every member of your team should know these principles by heart, and they should be embedded into all areas of training and development.
Become customer-centric. Put your client first and at the core of your business. Becoming customer-centric means you use any client data available to better understand your clients and align your business growth strategies and policies with their needs. This is not only a sound business strategy but, as Deloitte research has suggested, it also empowers a company to become up to 60 percent more profitable.1
Listen to the voice of the customer. If the secret to attract and retain clients and assets is not fees or products but the CX that a financial planner offers, then taking into account the voice of the customer (VOC) is of crucial importance. The “voice of the customer”—a phrase first used by researchers Abbie Griffin and John R. Hauser in 19932—is the process of capturing client feedback to formulate a detailed understanding of their requirements. Client feedback is an invaluable asset for a financial planner. It provides crucial intelligence to gauge what works and what needs improvement. VOC allows you to leverage one of the skills clients value the most: your willingness to listen.
Build an emotional connection. In the words of Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Therefore, make emotional connections with your clients your competitive advantage.
The best customer experiences are grounded in emotional connections. Research confirms that emotions shape attitudes and drive decisions. Loyalty is directly correlated to a customer’s emotional attachment to a brand. According to leaders at the consumer intelligence firm Motista, “When companies connect with customers’ emotions, the payoff can be huge.”3
Deliver omnichannel customer experiences. Clients expect from you the same level of multichannel engagement they receive from companies like Amazon and Zappos. To be effective, your omnichannel engagement must go beyond the mere distribution of information through different channels and must match clients’ preferred means of communication. The line between online and offline engagement is blurring, and clients demand engagements that allow them to seamlessly switch channels or devices while interacting with your brand.
Consumers have developed high expectations as a result of interacting with brands that offer them a user-centric CX. As a result, financial planners should switch their focus from customer service to CX as a way to prove to their clients a genuine commitment to customer satisfaction. Allocating time and resources today to deliver an engaging and compelling CX will put planners ahead of the curve.
- See the 2014 Deloitte report, “Customer-Centricity: Embedding It into Your Organization’s DNA,” available at www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/ie/Documents/Strategy/2014_customer_centricity_deloitte_ireland.pdf.
- See “The Voice of the Customer,” in the Winter 1993 issue of Marketing Science, available at mit.edu/~hauser/Papers/TheVoiceoftheCustomer.pdf.
- See the whitepaper, “The New Science of Customer Emotions,” by Scott Magids, Alan Zorfas, and Daniel Leemon, published in the November 2015 issue of Harvard Business Review and available at hbr.org/2015/11/the-new-science-of-customer-emotions.
Claudio Pannunzio is the managing director of Cürex Group Holdings. He was formerly the president of i-Impact Group Inc. in Greenwich, Conn.
This article originally appeared on the Journal of Financial Planning’s Practice Management blog. Read more at OneFPABlog.org.