By Earl Glasgow senior partner at True Potential LLP
Retailers really do set the standard when it comes to customer relations, particularly the big supermarket chains. They are the very epitome of the term ‘mass-market’ – and financial advisers should be learning an awful lot from them.
Retailers may have reported mixed results in recent months, but the bigger picture is the way they treat their customers and focus on building long-term relationships in a highly competitive market.
The successful retailers are those who have really paid attention to their online offering; those who have listened to the ways in which their customers want to be reached and dealt with.
Customers today are different even to those of three years ago. They are more connected and have a huge expectation of having services tailored to their needs. They want the option of using their PC, phone or tablet to do their grocery shopping, and they want the option of having their purchases brought to their door at their convenience.
Regardless of what sector people work in, the winners in the long-term are clearly going to be those that successfully implement technology and deliver services to people in a way that the customers want.
I’m not for a second suggesting that advisers start making door-to-door ‘deliveries’ – I know a few people who started out that way, selling washcloths, and they’ve admittedly gone on to become very successful! However, I doubt they’d have made so much money had they carried on selling clothes pegs from a duffle bag.
What is crucial for advisers to understand is that those who don’t adapt and start giving the end user exactly what they want will be left behind. Why shouldn’t a client be able to check the latest status of their investments from their phone? Why shouldn’t they have all their investment information in one place and be able to check the status of their investment against a specific goal?
We live in a fast paced, technology-filled world, where many things can be done in an instant. Take Amazon, for example. Purchases can be made at the click of button, offering customers the speed and ease that we have come to expect from such services. The financial advice industry needs to adapt to reflect this behaviour, and that is why we have launched a new feature for True Potential Wealth Platform users, ImpulseSave® that gives investors the ability to ‘top up’ investments that have been previously advised upon at the touch of a button. Sums of as little as ten pounds can be added to keep investments on target to meet financial goals, whether this is to buy a house, pay for education or to have enough put aside for a comfortable retirement.
This is a great way for advisers to add value to the service that they are offering, breaking down barriers between clients and their existing investments. In the same way retail customers now don’t have to spend time queuing at checkouts to make purchases, clients should not be made to jump through hoops to top up their investments.
Simply put, the three things that the best supermarkets have achieved are scale, customer retention and the adoption of technology – and it is absolutely within reach of advisers to do these as well. Customer retention hasn’t traditionally been an issue – lifelong relationships are formed and people can be very loyal to an adviser that helps them achieve their investment goals.
But the other two areas are, for some, in need of improvement. Post-RDR, many feel that scale can’t be achieved, and that there are a lot of potential clients who carry too much of an administrative burden to be worth dealing with.
But at True Potential we still believe scale can be achieved if technology is harnessed in the right way. Make the most of the best tools available on the market and the job of an adviser, even with stringent RDR reporting in mind, will just become easier and easier. The clients and the growing portfolios will follow naturally.
The size of the advice market should be increasing, not shrinking, as the need for individuals to provide for themselves in the future is getting critically important. Despite this, I still know of some advisers who are trying to pedal that bike around; trying to provide a “very personalised” service proposition with no client technology, the equivalent of door-to-door selling.
They are in real danger, and will be overtaken very quickly by organisations who are turning to technology to find new, faster, better ways of servicing their clients. I can see no reason why financial advisers should not provide clients with very modern servicing “options” that are now very much part of our daily lives and are how we like to access information.