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Client loyalty is the only thing you can count on

Remember the 1980s classic Back to the Future? Well, it’s time to go back to the future in business process and remember how service excellence and client loyalty was everything to a business.

There weren’t any websites, social media, Google, LinkedIn, email, etc. There was the phone, face-to-face, posted letters, and they all had to ensure they built unshakable loyalty. If they didn’t, then a financial business needed the local paper, the yellow pages, signage and sponsorships to attract clients. It was very slow and very expensive.

What if the best practices of the past and the digital power of now were combined onto a very unique process of service delivery and client relationships? Imagine the influence available to a smart operator who could leverage both.

Back to basics

If you were to assess the client base of most financial service businesses, you would find a very under-leveraged business model. Rarely does the client base understand what’s on offer and rarely does the business truly understand client needs. Mostly, it’s reactive and compliant business. And if the client doesn’t connect, there isn’t much going on. The reality of complicated compliance and red tape often impacts the best intentions of a financial business, and client experience is reduced to a minimum.

When the market gets tough, professional services are often seen as expensive and unnecessary – but the opposite is the reality and even critical. The key reason for this belief is because their past experiences haven’t been of great value, both financial and personal. “I have to do it, so spend the minimum.” The result is reluctant transactions from the market.

The solution is very simple; it’s just not so easy to implement. In the past, there was a high focus on face-to-face or phone communication; it created connection and was a powerful factor in building trust. Financial professionals took the time to engage with their market and really got to know their clients and their businesses. Partially because they simply had more time, there was less to comply with. This simple process created opportunity as communication was open and trust was there to explore solutions. The relationships were stronger and therefore advice was more open to be given.

The opportunity

Here’s a simple test you can do. Firstly with your team and then with your clients. With your team, ask them to write down all the services you provide and what ratio they believe they generate cash flow. There is a strong chance you will be stunned; the lack of awareness to all of your services and how they are split. Then ask your team to report on how these services are implemented to their clients and the reasons why more can’t be offered. Don’t accept “I don’t have time to do it” as that guarantees it is not happening.

Consider what is possible out of the existing client base if all of your clients could be offered the ideal solution. How much additional revenue is just sitting in your client base right now?

The next stage is to ask your clients what they know about all your services and expertise. This will also be a big awakening. I know of one firm that did this exercise; they had 32 services on offer and the most any one person on the team could recall was nine. When they quizzed their clients, it was even lower. The opportunity from this simple exercise identified approximately 35 per cent of additional revenue immediately available.

The challenge was the standard of client relationships being mostly reactive and the major issue that many of the team were reluctant to offer them as they thought it was hardline selling. When in fact it was their professional responsibility to ensure their clients were at least aware of what they should be doing. They changed the mindset from selling to professional advisory and they were all over it.

Never assume you have unshakable client loyalty; it’s got risk written all over it. The simple solution is how you identify your client service commitment.

Different isn’t always better, but better is always different. Don’t just use technology to be different, use highly engaged client connection to be better.

Darrell Hardidge is a customer experience strategy expert and CEO of customer research company Saguity, working with businesses on developing customer appreciation and optimising service standards. He’s also the author of The Client Revolution and The 10 Commandments of Client Appreciation.

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“Kindness is the language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain