The superior man blames himself. The inferior man blames others.
I was out to dinner with Kevin Ferriby, MD of and Informed Financial Planning in Hessle and to work up an appetite, we headed into Hull’s “Old Town” for a beer. (Hull’s Old Town hostelries are fantastic).
Kevin related a story about a recent brewery trip he had been on. The guide for the tour asked if anyone had been on a brewery trip before, to which Kev enthusiastically replied…”This is my sixth!” (not on the same day of course).
“Oh, so you must be something of an expert on the process then” said the guide.
“Well actually”, replied Kev, “I don’t really care about the process, I just want to find out what your beer tastes like!”
What’s the relevance of this story to advisers I hear you ask.
Well, I know you are proud of your process, the software you use, your risk profiling methodology, your investment solution and want to explain it to each client in great detail. I understand that. It’s probably the result of years of trying to perfect each part of the advice process. But the fact is, most of your clients aren’t interested… they just want to know what outcomes your process is going to deliver for them.
I know you wish they shared your passion and enthusiasm for your process, but in reality, they don’t. Get over it. Talk about outcomes/results/benefits, not process.
A conversation with an adviser recently about how to help clients see the value of Cashflow Modelling software prompted me to ask Mark Ferris, one of our Associate Consultants and himself a user of this software in his own advisory business, to explain how he gets clients to buy in to the (seemingly laborious) process of analysing their income and expenditure. Here’s what he had to say…
“When I talk to advisers about the benefits of using cash flow forecasting software, the most common objection they have is ‘my clients will never take the time to complete and return the expenditure questionnaire’ or I have the software but don’t use it very often because the clients won’t complete one.
My first response is normally how many clients haven’t returned a questionnaire, to which the answer is often, ‘I haven’t sent any out yet, I just know that they won’t complete it’. Therefore, the problem is often with the adviser’s mind-set, not the clients.
I also ask them how do you currently get the information, because after all, detailed knowledge of their expenditure is vital to making appropriate recommendations for a client?
If you’ve done a great fact find and shown the client what you are going to do for them and demonstrated how powerful the software is they will understand why it is important that this information is completed and returned.
What works for me is to emphasise why this information is so important. I tell them once I have the completed questionnaire I’m going to accurately forecast the future cost of their ideal lifestyle and be able to tell them if they have enough money or if they will run out. Secondly, I give them a date to return the questionnaire by (usually about 7-10 days), as this will focus their minds. This can then be followed up by a quick telephone call after a few days to remind them you are expecting it. This works in 90% of cases for me.
One possible barrier to getting the questionnaire returned may be the charge you are making for the financial plan. If it’s too big you may put the client off before they have experienced the benefits of the process. You need to be paid well and be profitable, but the client needs to see how you can help them before making a big commitment. This is an area we regularly help advisers to overcome.
Another reason you might not receive the questionnaire back is that the client isn’t committed to the process. It’s better to find out now before you’ve wasted any more of your valuable time. As Paul Etheridge would say, ‘once a messer, always a messer!’
You have to think, do I really want this client in my life? If the answer to that question is yes, because they look like your ideal kind of client that you can deal with very profitably, but they’re just very busy, then you have two options…..
1. Offer to send out one of your admin staff to help your client get the information together (if you’re a single person business then you will have to do it). Clients will appreciate the extra mile you are prepared to go to help them and if you send one of your staff, your time isn’t affected and you are on your way to a good relationship with a new ideal client.
2. Estimate the figures for them (initially at least to help them see the benefit of doing it more accurately) – after doing the fact find/discovery meeting, you already know a lot about them. You’ll know where they live, what their mortgage is, how may children they have, where and how often they go on holiday, what their interests and hobbies are etc.
You can estimate their expenditure numbers for each item based upon what you already know about them and your experience of other similar clients.
When using the software at the next meeting, upon reaching the expenditure section, you can tell the client that because they didn’t return the questionnaire, you have had to estimate the numbers. Then simply ask them to go through each item and amend those that they don’t think are accurate. This will enable you to have a good discussion about what they spend their money on and the clients will become even more engaged in the process, because you are spending even more time talking about them and what’s important to them.
The expenditure questionnaire is crucial because it is the foundation to building a comprehensive financial plan for the client that enables them to see the consequences of their current and future lifestyle.”
What are your tips for getting clients to return their expenditure questionnaire?
As you know, I can get a bit obsessive about “client experience. This week’s blog comes courtesy of my eldest daughter, Natalie who had a bit of a rant over the phone this week about the “experience” she was having from one of the big 4 grocery retailers. I’ll let her explain in her own words…
I’m generally quite a loyal shopper. Don’t get me wrong… I shop around to make sure I am getting a good deal but I tend to use the same retailers where possible and appreciate the benefits loyalty can generate (like frequent flyer miles or loyalty coupons). However, I was recently tempted away from my usual online groceries retailer as they didn’t stock an item I was after, so I looked elsewhere. The new supplier had also been performing much better on price comparison of my shopping.
It actually felt quite good to try something new at first. There were new products that are not usually available to me and the prices did seem significantly cheaper! It had its drawbacks though. When I normally order my groceries I know the website like most shoppers know their local supermarket aisles. I know the key search words and my favourites are all saved for ease, so I can complete my order in a few minutes.
After battling for some time I finally submitted my order and thought I might regularly do a monthly shop with this new retailer.
I received a two hour delivery slot (7pm-9pm). This was longer than my usual one hour slot but I knew I would be available so this wasn’t an issue for me. I was also very pleasantly surprised to receive an email on the delivery day with an updated one hour slot (7.30pm-8.30pm).
You can imagine my frustration then when at 9pm there was no sign of my shopping. What is the point in providing a one hour slot if you can’t actually guarantee that…never mind the two hour slot.
I called customer service (who were based abroad, some 6,000 miles away!) in order to get an ETA for the delivery. I was promptly advised, with no apology, that “as per T&Cs” I needed to wait another hour. So apparently my one hour slot had actually become a 3 hour slot?? Not ideal. I was also offered a voucher for a future free delivery – “very kind” I said- “but all I want is my shopping”.
I waited until 10pm – thinking it was unrealistic that my shopping would arrive as surely I would have heard something. On the rare occasion that my usual supplier has been late, I promptly receive a call advising me of the delay, reason for it and estimated time of arrival. I don’t think that is too much to ask.
With no sign of my shopping, I called again and was told that they would call the store to find out what was happening and I would get a call back shortly. At 10.20, knowing the call centre was closing at 10.30 I called again and asked to speak to a supervisor. I was told that they were busy and would call me back tomorrow. All I wanted was a new slot for tomorrow morning and to find out where my shopping was. The advisor attempted to book a new slot but I was told all he could offer me was click and collect. Living over 30 miles from the store and with plans the next day this was unacceptable to me.
I said I was happy to hold for the supervisor paying the extortionate telephone charges but was told he refused to speak to me! I was promised a call back from both the store and a supervisor the next morning and after more than 20 requests to hold, the call centre attempted to end the call. I asked for the name of the manager and was told he wasn’t allowed to give me that information. So I gave up.
The next morning, still not having received either of the two calls I was promised – I called again. I asked yet again to speak to a supervisor and was told they don’t take calls, only escalations. I advised that my concerns had already been escalated and I was due a call back. The advisor promised to chase up the call back and I could expect a call in 2-4 hours. This wasn’t satisfactory to me having already waited over 12 hours for a call back. So I asked to hold. I was then asked… “but what about all the other calls I should be taking?” I reminded the advisor that this was her supervisors problem – not mine.
After repeated requests I was put on hold without notification. A few minutes later I was told there was nothing she could do but I could call the shop myself and she gave me the number – why had no one offered me this option before now.
On calling the store I immediately got through to the groceries manager, who apologised and told me my shopping had been returned to the store but he didn’t know why and he would send it out again that evening. I received the shopping on time that day… but they had been unable to fulfil the items that had lead to me using the new supplier in the first place. Oh… And I’m still waiting for the call back from a supervisor…..!
It’s fair to say I will never be using that retailer again. What did I take away from the experience
1) don’t make promises you can’t keep
2) if you are going to have a customer service team – allow them to actually provide a service and equip them with tools, training and empowerment to be able to contribute positively to the customer experience
3) listen to consumer needs and concerns
4) be proactive. Why could none of the people I spoke to just called the store on my behalf?
What an example of how not to treat the customer. We can only hope that said retailer uses the recording of the call for training purposes, as a case study of how not to do things.
I doubt they will somehow!
So what lessons can we learn from Natalie’s experience? Look at each and every client interaction and ask yourself… is this how I would want to be treated? If not, change things!