Whether you are a solo advisor, work with one or two staff, or run a large practice with associate advisors- your ability to build and maintain a strong client focus directly impacts the success of your business. The challenge for many advisors is figuring out how to create an effective and sustainable service culture in which all staff and partners are able to consistently deliver awesome client experiences.
Here are three strategies great practitioners use to embed a winning customer focus throughout their practice.
Strategy One: Define a client-first vision for your practice #
A client-first vision looks forward several years and answers the question, “What does a customer-focused culture look like in my practice?” When you create your vision imagine what you want the customer experience to be every time they engage with your firm. Consider every type of interaction—from phone calls to social media exchanges, face-to-face meetings, and how clients use your website. Also, consider all the reasons why those interactions are taking place—some will be marketing events, or communications you send out. Others will be service oriented initiated by the client. For all those interactions, define your expectations for how the client experience can be made truly awesome. Identify the roles you, your staff, and technology play in making those experiences memorable.
Share your client-focused vision for your practice with your staff and associates. Even consider sharing it with your clients if you think it will clarify how you expect to be able to help them going forward. The more compelling your vision and the more widely shared and understood it is, the more people will buy-in and rally around what you are trying to achieve.
Strategy Two: Define expectations in each stage of the client life-cycle #
When you look at your book of business in your CRM you’ll see a variety of contacts and clients who are in different places in the customer life-cycle. Some will be prospects, people you have had contact with but are not yet clients. Then there are new clients who are in the on-boarding phase of the relationship. Then you have existing clients of different value and length of relationship- some may be small clients you sold a policy to years ago and have not dealt with since, some may be ‘A’ clients who you interact with on a regular basis.
When it comes to developing a clear customer focus, it’s important to define the service expectations for each stage in the life cycle. Sometimes this process is called developing a Service Level Agreement (SLA). Simply, an SLA describes what you will do and how you will do it for each type of prospect or client. Describe what prospects can expect from you in terms of communication and value-added interactions. Outline your on-boarding process and how clients will be helped throughout the journey. And then describe what types of service and reviews and relationship activities clients can expect as your relationship matures.
As you move through the process of creating your SLA it’s a good idea to get your clients involved. Reach out to the various groups you have identified and ask for feedback on what’s working or not working, and what other service activities they would like to see.
Strategy Three: Ensure staff and partners have a customer focus #
Creating a strong customer-focus requires that everyone in your practice is clear on what you will do for clients—and how the service will be provided. So, set clear expectations for each role and staff member. Make sure to sit down with everyone who has contact with your clients to discuss your expectations and ensure they understand what you are asking of them. Encourage them to offer their own ideas and incorporate their feedback as you move forward.
Next, define the types of training you will offer to support and grow your staff’s customer service skills. Define a process for regular review and coaching. Consider what you will do daily, weekly, monthly and annually. These interactions may include quick informal check-ins, daily five-minute team meetings, monthly 30-minute sit-downs to coach and plan, and more formal annual reviews.
Finally, don’t forget the most important part of building a customer-centric culture—celebrate your successes. Find time every day to recognize the great things your staff do for your customers. Often, a thank you and a kind word is enough. Sometimes you may want to go further—rewarding outstanding efforts with a small token. Remember, we do more of what we get encouragement for.
Building a strong, customer-focused culture starts with a clear and compelling vision that is clearly communicated. Good leaders make sure to define clear service expectations at each stage of the client life cycle by developing a Service Level Agreement. And, to make sure expectations continue to be met and all staff make client service a priority, great practitioners implement a comprehensive coaching process and continually recognize and reward success.
Baking a strong client-focus into everything staff do every day ensures that client success becomes the biggest driver of your business.