The Era of Consumer Convenience is Here: How Advisors Can Keep Up
We live in an increasingly convenience-oriented age. Need Thai food delivery? A car at the airport? Heck, do you want to buy a car and have it delivered? Just pull out your phone, type in some info, and it’s all taken care of, and fast. You don’t even have to leave your sofa.
Modern technology has changed the way we source just about everything, and the pandemic has accelerated the process. All over the world, consumers’ minds are quickly being reset to expect convenience and expediency. We can have what we want, when we want it, on our terms. And this raises a pressing business question for financial advisers: What should advisors do to ensure their service meets consumers’ expectations for convenience?
It is extremely important that advisors think about how they will make themselves available to clients in this new age. As convenience becomes a tabletop issue, the old relational model of holding quarterly, annual and semi-annual meetings has quickly become obsolete. Counselors must decide how they will overcome barriers to convenience and be available when and how clients need it.
Over the past year and a half, the Herbers & Company team has heard more and more that end clients of advisors in our network are opting out of full annual or semi-annual meetings. Instead, they’re looking for a different kind of access: information broken down into smaller chunks and delivered on demand.
For example, a wealthy customer might call or text their advisor at a car dealership, deal with sales pressure, and ask for feedback on whether to pull the trigger and buy the vehicle, sleep on it or move away. While this isn’t the kind of scenario advisers will love (it’s about reacting rather than planning, after all), it’s the inevitable reality that lies ahead.
If your clients fall into the high net worth category, they might be looking for a video chat to understand how concerned they should be about the tax laws taking shape in Washington, DC Tomorrow would be great – no later than the end of the season. week. Very wealthy clients are increasingly turning to private investments. If you are their advisor, you may have to give it all up to weigh in on a pressing private equity investment opportunity. And, having caught the convenience virus, these high net worth clients might ask you if you are able to pay their bills and provide other family office services.
Adapting nimbly to new standards of client convenience is critical to the future growth of advisors. While many businesses have been slow to adjust, those that have pivoted quickly have already started to see stronger growth in customer referrals.
As the culture of convenience grows, the responsiveness and flexibility of consulting firm client experience models will become an increasingly important factor in attracting new clients and referrals. Additionally, we expect many existing business customers to base their continued loyalty on the convenience factor. If your client is forced to wait for advice and their friend from a rival company doesn’t, don’t be surprised if the client decides to switch.
The good news is that technology that is readily available and easy to implement will allow businesses to quickly facilitate a convenience-driven customer experience. The most important of these technologies is the one that has been around for years: the digital calendar. Calendar apps, which businesses have adopted widely over the past few years, allow customers to schedule their own meetings on your calendar, eliminating the back and forth of trying to figure out immediate schedules.
The digital calendar ticks the convenient box. But they also go beyond. Customers get stressed out when they need to discuss a certain issue, but don’t know when or if the conversation will take place. If this meeting is on your respective calendars, most of the client’s stress tends to dissolve. They know an answer is on the way.
The key to making the digital calendar work is for the advisor to make room for clients to schedule meetings. If the client checks their advisor’s calendar and sees that the first availability is in three weeks, that’s a problem. And that brings us to another piece of software essential to building a customer comfort model: time tracking software.
I have never been a fan of the demands that counselors follow their time. The arrangement undermines the autonomy and internal motivation of team members and can lead to unnecessary micromanagement. But time tracking software is critically important in the age of consumer convenience, as it allows businesses to ensure that adequate uptime is built into their advisors’ work weeks.
If your advisors are so busy that they can’t adapt to their clients’ impromptu planning, you can’t expect your business to thrive in the age of convenience. Your business may not be falling behind in a year or two, but over time your service will increasingly lag behind your customers’ expectations. And it’s not a good place to be from a growth standpoint.
Your advisors should not be working at 100% of their capacity in any given week. Time tracking software should be used to track availability levels over two-week periods, which can then be compared to identify trends. If your advisors don’t spend 20-25% of their time responding to incoming customer issues and inquiries, you need to create more space in your system and make it more compact.
With timing and time tracking under control, companies should look into communications technology. The communication technologies that most people think of first are the telephone, texting, and perhaps chat software. However, in financial services, the most useful communication technologies are those that allow clients to view their data while meeting with their advisor. Imagine a mass rich client meeting in which a visual representation of their client’s cash flow is the centerpiece. For high net worth clients, investment portfolio data may be front and center, and for wealthier clients, tax projections. The software solutions behind visual data must be dynamic so that customer information is updated on a daily basis.
Financial planning data is the most important data that can be transmitted digitally during meetings to keep clients focused on their planning in a responsive world. Frankly, we’re surprised at the number of financial consulting firms that don’t have client-centric financial planning software. It is true that planning software for clients can be expensive. While this is laudable from a cost savings standpoint, growth-oriented businesses will eventually need their own software so that they can tailor programs to their own customer experience model.
As businesses head into the 2022 budget season, I recommend that they take the global shift to a convenience-driven consumer culture seriously. They should think carefully about investing in schedule improvements, time tracking software, and more robust, customer-centric financial planning software.
Technology, the pandemic, and capitalist innovation have combined to rapidly change consumers’ expectations of how and when they can get the things they want and need. Convenience is fast becoming an essential part of any successful business. This toothpaste will not return to the tube once the pandemic is over. Financial advisory firms that are at the forefront of the consumer convenience trend will be the big winners in the years to come.
Angela Herbers is the founder and CEO of Herbers & Co, a consultancy firm for financial advisers.