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Your Clients Have Changed, And So Have You

The other day, a friend shared a recent — and not great — client service experience. She had a scheduled annual portfolio review with her financial consultant, which took place via Zoom. From a technical standpoint, everything went off without a hitch. But the advisor had a face mask on during the entire presentation, even though she was clearly alone in her private office.

When my friend asked why she kept the mask on, the advisor said: “We are required to wear face masks while we’re in the office. Our computers monitor whether we’ve got our masks on. If I take my mask off, I’ll be called out for not wearing it.”

This incident got me to wondering: As we begin to move beyond responding to the pandemic and enter the “new normal,” are we thinking enough about the experience we’re offering our clients? Have the last couple of years — with lockdowns imposed/called off/imposed again/called off again, “Zoom” becoming the newest verb, and the challenges of the “Great Resignation” — blinded us to the fact that no matter what, we’ve got to provide our clients with the best possible experience?

Unfortunately, I think so. It’s understandable that the upheavals of the past couple of years have left us all a bit off our usual game. But now’s the time we’ve got to get back in it. And I have a few suggestions to help.

Financial Services Companies

“Institutionalizing” work arrangements that started out as in-the-moment responses to the pandemic are placing significant demands on financial services companies. With more employees working virtually or in some virtual/in-office hybrid arrangement, companies are going to have to work harder than ever before to foster a common culture — and ensure that they have the appropriate compliance systems in place. Fortunately, technology and digital tools have advanced and will keep advancing in the years ahead. I’m confident that firms will do what they need to do to keep pace.

What I’m less confident about is the ability of companies to keep the customer experience at the forefront amidst workplace and digital developments. How to do this will be specific to each firm, its sales model, and the demographics of its client base (among other factors).

One thing I think each firm could do right now is take an inventory of its sales and marketing enablement tools from a client-service standpoint to make certain that:

  • They are reaching their targeted audience(s) with the right message(s), at the right time(s).
  • Those in client-facing functions are fully and effectively utilizing the tools they have at their disposal to give clients the best possible experience. (Need I add that this includes not wearing a face mask during a virtual meeting?)

One of my clients is taking an innovative approach to the challenge by creating a “virtual engagement group” that is used both as a vehicle for attracting new/diverse talent and partners with client-facing employees to enhance their virtual and digital marketing capabilities. By any measure it has been a true success.

Financial Advisors

For their part, financial advisors have got to make an extra effort to ensure they are enhancing their client relationships.

One basic way advisors can do this is by using their client relationship management (CRM) platforms to make certain that they have the most current client preferences recorded. Does Mrs. Smith only want to meet virtually? Does Mr. Jones prefer to meet in person for his annual portfolio review? And — maybe more realistically — do Mrs. Smith and Mr. Jones prefer both approaches and might change their minds the day before the meeting?

Of course, the style and approach needed for a successful in-person versus virtual meeting is very different.

For virtual presentations, it’s important to have seamless screen sharing and split screens so the presenter and the client are always visible. In addition, lighting and positioning is key. (Keep an eye on the improving technology in this space.)

And here’s a tip: For important meetings, have a member of your team go home and be on the receiving end of a practice Zoom presentation. From personal experience, I promise that you’ll get a lot of real-time suggestions on how to “up your game!”

The Way Forward

Let’s face it: We’ve all been finding our way in “unchartered territory” over the past couple of years. And this transition time can prove to be just as challenging as the toughest phases of the pandemic. Princeton Financial Consultants can help you become more resilient and ensure that you’re delivering the best possible experience for your clients, no matter what. Contact us for a personalized consultation today.

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