As business paradigms constantly shift and change while the technological revolution continues at a breath-taking pace in a rapidly changing world, extensive research shows that client servicing and the client experience have become the key dynamic for any successful business.
Companies and service providers who do not subscribe to this tenet, are fast realising the cost of their own folly. Compelling research conducted by NewVoiceMedia in the United States and quoted in Forbes magazine, shows that an estimated $62-billion is lost by US businesses each year following bad customer experiences. The study highlights the considerable impact that customers have on the success of a business, and states unequivocally that customer servicing and customer experience are the key differentiators.
Research has further shown the considerable impact of the digital revolution on the way we do business. The more the digital revolution manifested itself in business, the more removed and distant clients felt, feeling cut off from the ‘personal touch’. When Accenture, a global management consulting and professional services firm, surveyed 4,000 consumers in the US and Canada about consumer attitudes, they found that 79% of North American consumers felt that their relationship with their financial services provider is largely transactional, and not advice-based. They also found that 40% of banking clients would be more inclined to stay with their bank if it offered more personalised service.
There has been a distinct shift with clients these days having much greater expectations than before. They want to feel appreciated and looked after as individuals and not merely as a ‘client number.’ Companies that don’t recognise this will fall by the wayside.
Financial advisory firms in particular need to be acutely aware of this and their ethos should be to act proactive and not reactive to their clients’ needs, to a degree pre-empting what they will want out of the relationship, underpinned and strengthened by ongoing personalised interaction with their clients. When looking after people’s wealth and their financial future as we do, the level of service and attention to detail is critical to build and maintain the correct relationship. This, I believe, holds true for any kind of business wanting to be successful and have happy customers or clients.
How have expectations shifted?
Technological advances are a big factor in client expectations, with new innovations and fintech companies offering clients ever better experiences that are convenient and easy to utilise. But while technology is responding to consumer expectations for convenient and fast experiences, it has simultaneously reaffirmed the importance of human contact when technology cannot fulfil that vital interaction.
It emerges from Accenture’s research that companies that prioritise both are those that will excel. It was found that despite reliance on technologies, 83% of US consumers prefer dealing with human beings. Where this was lacking and resulted in perceived poor customer service, 52% of those customers switched to other companies. And 68% of those who have switched, will not go back. Customers switching due to poor service have cost those US companies $1.6-trillion in lost business.
Technology has also intensified competition and narrowed the margin for client retention: comparing service providers is just a Google search away. But clients are not always just looking for a ‘better price’; in fact they are more often motivated by finding a better overall experience with a brand, and it is here where client servicing has a bigger impact than any other branch of your business. This is what drives client satisfaction, according to the Accenture study.
So while companies have to be innovative and stay abreast with new technologies, they also need to invest heavily in improved levels of client servicing to deliver the best possible overall client experience. Happy clients build and spread brand awareness; do not underestimate the power of word of mouth, especially in a world driven by instant digital and social communication.
Consumers now dictate how they engage with brands via social media and consumer chat rooms which allows their voice to be heard by a large audience. Happier clients stay and mean more referrals, greater loyalty, and ultimately increased revenue. And they tell others about this. Unhappy clients leave and also spread the word, but with obvious negative consequences. Retaining clients is far cheaper than having to replace them when one considers the cost of canvassing and recruiting new business, building up and nurturing the new client relationship, and eventually expanding the value of the new business to the same level of those who had left.
When it comes to brand perception, a natural extension of this is that people want to work for and be associated with companies that treat their clients well. And other businesses are more likely to do business with a company that treats its clients and employees well – with integrity, transparency and professionalism. This in itself attracts new clients and makes existing clients proud to be associated with the company.
Research, as well as Carrick’s own experience have shown that improving client service and increasing client satisfaction, depend on a number of key actions:
- Treating your customers respectfully
- Rapidly following up on feedback
- Handling complaints gracefully and promptly
- Understanding your customers’ needs and wants
- Exceeding customer expectations and
- Going out of your way to help customers
Today, new technology offers a unique opportunity for companies to measure and improve their client experiences. It is important for a business to track and measure how well it is doing in respect of its customer service. Request feedback from your customers through surveys or online questionnaires. Act on the feedback received or risk losing the confidence of those you asked for it. Stay abreast of what can be learnt from consumer review websites. Online questionnaires can also help you track results against goals, allowing you to identify problem areas and resolve them.
Correctly matching technology with customer experience is very important too. In a study done by leading global business research and advisory firm Forrester, they found that while 72% of businesses say improving customer experience is their top priority, only 63% of marketers prioritise implementing technology investments that will help them reach this goal.
“A customer-obsessed operating model requires your technology infrastructure to evolve at the customer’s pace. To respond, firms must build a flexible technology architecture that continuously adapts to changing customer expectations with the capability to deliver new sources of customer value…” the study concluded.
From the outset we here at Carrick identified that poor client servicing levels were hampering our industry. We understood that delivering excellent service and putting the client at the centre of our business would lead us successfully into the future. Our efforts were rewarded as winners of the International Adviser Best Practice Adviser Awards 2017 in the category Excellence in Client Servicing. And because we believe so strongly in this with our client-centric ethos, Carrick has a dedicated client service team of Wealth Specialists whose role is purely to service our clients.
All things considered, it simply makes good sense that those businesses that will be successful, are the ones with a strong service-orientated, client-first culture.
Director: Client Servicing