Communicating the client experience – #1. Onboarding: creating a customised welcome

This is the first in a series of articles from Jon Pittham, Managing Director at ClientsFirst, aimed at improving how you communicate your client experience. This week’s article deals with the onboarding period, where you can define the relationship your client has with your financial planning firm.

Let’s not beat around the bush. Ultimately, financial advisers provide a very similar service. Of course, the level, specialism and quality of this service varies between firms. However, unlike companies who sell products, financial advisers are unable to show how their firm stands out through an overtly superior ‘thing’ clients can hold in their hands, weigh up and make a decision on.

Whereas BMW, for instance, can develop a car with greater fuel efficiency or more responsive handling than its competitors, financial planners are unable to promise significantly greater investment return than alternatives because of the necessity of regulation, as well as the complicated background of balancing economic trends, shifting personal and global market forces and the client’s comfort with risk, to name but a few.

Regardless, you’ll doubtless be sympathetic to the fact that it takes a great deal of trust to place your life’s earnings in someone else’s hands.

This means that as a financial adviser, a major part of your job is making clients feel comfortable with your firm. The best place to build this confidence is during the onboarding stage.

For those who aren’t familiar with the expression, ‘onboarding’ refers to that period at the start of a client relationship. During this first six months or so, your communication with them is likely to be more frequent. Your client has already chosen to become a client, but this early period, where they get to know you and you them, has plenty of room for buyer’s remorse.

Looked at in a different light: you have an excellent opportunity to ‘woo’ your client with your bespoke and tailored service and prove you’re a firm they can trust for the long-term. This is an opportunity far too good to waste.

The process begins right from the first time you welcome a client into your firm. At this point, you should establish the cordiality that should mark your premium customer experience throughout.

Good onboarding is about doing your utmost to ensure you treat the client in an individual manner. A personalised service evokes responsibility and makes the client feel significant.

The best way to create an individualised service is through small things that either allow your client to make a choice, or have been tailored to fit them. Note – these tailored touches are most effective if is clear to the client that they have been fitted to them. If not, their personalisation loses all meaning.

This is because personalisation feels special to the client as it makes them aware of the thought that has gone into making their experience unique – it is actually the recognition of the work that lies behind a bespoke service that makes it so special.

At a basic, psychological level, all of us want to feel that we are worth other people’s time and consideration. By tapping into a universal human need, an individualised service, then, is going to be almost universally endorsed and liked by your clients.

What’s more, attention to detail communicates your care for the client. And if your firm radiates care, your client is likely to think that this thoroughness and rigour will carry over to your management of their wealth.

Establishing confidence here is likely to dispel any potential buyer’s remorse and is key to avoiding investor panic if their shares take a temporary fall in value.

When people mention the good service they have received from a company, it tends to be the little touches – received at the onboarding stage – they talk about.

A well thought-out onboarding experience will pay dividends when you start attracting new clients based on these recommendations (a recurring theme in this series of articles). You can effectively turn your existing clients into promoters if you provide a service they either directly recommend or even just discuss as having excellent qualities with friends.

So far, I have addressed the importance of a individualised experience. Now it’s time to turn to the practical side of this article. What are some of the ways of communicating a personalised client experience in your firm’s onboarding stage?

These are just a few suggestions, but I’m sure you can work out how to adapt the personalised experience they evoke across all your client-adviser touchpoints at the onboarding stage.

Having plenty of good, accessible online reviews is a great way to make your new clients feel comfortable and familiar with your service. Online reviews give a second opinion on your service and they reinforce clients’ trust in your firm.

What’s more, if a client’s holdings take a temporary dip in the very short term, having online reviews can provide a form of counsel and reassurance which can back-up the trusting environment the rest of your onboarding stage should emphasise. You can provide these reviews to the client at any appropriate stage. ‘Let me show you this Client A, because Client B went through a very similar process with us’.

Another important factor is the welcome your clients first receive; in person, online and offline. When a client signs up with you firm, how do you welcome them? Is it an email, a letter or a comprehensive welcome package?

A welcome package that makes your client feel special and important is a good way to ensure that your bespoke service comes across right from day one. It ensures that you and the client ‘get off on the right foot’ so to speak. This can be as simple as some premium chocolates.

I’m sure you get the idea – radiating the aura of a bespoke service throughout all your client touchpoints is essential during the onboarding process. The ultimate goal of all this is crucial to your business; it helps to secure more clients, for longer… happier clients that are going to generate future referrals.

About Jon Pittham

Jon founded ClientsFirst in 2010, having previously worked in both plc and SMEs. Having started in what he describes as a ‘broom cupboard’, Jon has grown ClientsFirst from the ground up and continues to take an active role in both our own marketing and that of our clients, as well as setting the strategic direction of the business.

Jon’s most difficult ‘management’ task away from the office is keeping three young offspring busy but, when he’s not doing this or anything related to ClientsFirst, he heads out into the great outdoors, with tennis, golf and running the occasional half-marathon amongst his hobbies.

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