Here’s a tale of two technologies. First is a video conferencing platform. When the pandemic broke out, we all went into quarantine, and the market dropped 30%, clients had a sudden need for increased contact with their advisor and no way to meet in person. Technologies like zoom, GoToMeeting, and Skype made it possible for clients to see and hear their advisor as well as share plans and presentations interactively in real time.
When we converted all of our client advisory boards to virtual last year, we asked clients about their experience using videoconferencing. It uniformly came back positive. For advisors who embraced it, they could provide service at almost the same level of interaction. In our surveys of advisory Board participants, many see an ongoing role for videoconferencing in their advisory relationship. Some are open to replacing in-person meetings with virtual, but most see it as a replacement for a portion of the meetings or a way to get together if a sudden need arises and an in-person visit to the advisor’s office is difficult or impractical.
It was not always the case. When we polled advisory boards before the pandemic, many groups were ambivalent about meeting virtually.
The second technology is secure document storage and sharing. One advisor we work with replaced physical reports with electronic documents placed quarterly in a secure client vault. Storage and delivery were more secure, historic records were easier to maintain, reports were available more quickly. Two years after implementation, the advisor reviewed the records and found that four people had logged in over the past six months to get their reports. Members of their advisory board indicated they could not remember the last time they had seen a report on their portfolio.
In the first case, an advisor could implement a $240 technology and provide clients welcome peace of mind and clients responded with increased satisfaction and loyalty. In the second case, the advisor invested thousands of dollars in a system that delivered no benefit to clients and had no effect on the relationship. What was the difference?
The pandemic provided an unfair advantage for videoconferencing. If client and advisor wanted to actually see each other, this technology was about the only way it could be accomplished. However, the more important take away is that it solved a client problem. It provided something they desired. Whether the secure filesharing system could have been positioned that way is an open question. Because it was not approached from that perspective, clients found no value in it and did not embrace it.
Technology can revolutionize your client experience. It can vastly increase your potential market of clients. And if you are not incorporating the voice of the client in your tech stack, you are running a huge risk.
Most advisor technology is more on the operational side. It can increase efficiency and profitability. Increasingly, technology can enhance your client experience, too. It will to the extent it answers a client need or want.
A client driven practice is guided by what clients want. Technology decisions are often driven by what advisors want or what the advisor thinks the client will like. We have found anticipating client preferences is not particularly reliable. If you are considering implementing client-facing technology it is an ideal opportunity to leverage your client advisory board.
Here’s how to do it:
Ask your board hypothetical questions about benefits you think you can deliver. If you find an intriguing technology, describe the benefits it can deliver and see how your board responds to it. Ask questions that begin with “what if we could…”
Show it to them. Assuming you get positive feedback on the proposed benefits, do a demonstration of a technology you are considering. Test whether the technology delivers the benefit the board responded to. See if they find the interface and navigation clear and understandable.
Ask them about anticipated usage. Even if they think it’s cool, would they use it? Would it become a meaningful part of your experience? Is it something they would likely return to consistently?
Get their guidance on a rollout. Ask them to evaluate your communications and training materials. Confirm they are understandable and easy to follow. Make sure that the way you describe the benefits creates the same level of interest as what you showed them. Try to assess that the feelings you created in the controlled environment of an advisory board meeting are likely to succeed when you broadcast the technology to your broader client base.
The firm of the future will leverage new technologies. Innovation is critical to the survival of your firm long-term. The most successful evolution will include clients as partners in the process.
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