Today I had the pleasure of attending the Nucleus Conference Deviate 2019 (as a marketer I love the concept and the strap line - Without Deviation, Progress is Not Possible - a quote from Frank Zappa).
An overarching theme reflected in several of the presentations, and a topic close to my heart, was the importance of client experience. At a time when machines will automate repeatable processes in our businesses, with AI playing a greater role in service delivery (I'll share more on this in a later post), the way to truly differentiate is by engineering an unforgettable client experience.
Sheri Fitts, in her presentation How to Out-Care Your Competition, said:
No matter what, your clients' always have an experience. And that experience will make them feel something, be that good, bad or indifferent. How can you craft your client experience to engage clients more quickly and encourage them to take action?
One thing is for certain: you have complete control over the end-to-end client experience, which - perhaps frighteningly for some - begins before the client will even make contact.
The businesses and brands thriving in today's market are those that realise, as service providers, we are selling experiences and not products.
Story telling is an incredibly powerful tool to engage clients. In fact, evolution has wired our brains to respond directly to story telling. When we tell stories our brains fire in a different way; scans show certain parts of the brain become visually more active (here's a more detailed explanation).
Rather than furnishing your clients with hard facts, consider how you can use stories to engage them in a different way. Following the presentations I've come up with a number of mental story boards for videos an advice firm could create to explain complex ideas or concepts, which if published front and centre on a website could help to improve initial engagement.
We are living in an age of authenticity. In times gone by the adviser/client relationship was founded on an equation where on one side the adviser would 'think' (i.e. provide technical information, analysis and planning) while the client would 'feel' (i.e. have an emotive response to the planning process). Today, the equation must be balanced, with emotion and feeling on both sides. We therefore need to be more feelings-orientated in the way we deliver our messages and craft our content.
Essentially this means being more human. As a financial adviser, you change people's lives. Every day. That's what you do. Surely there's a better way to communicate this to clients?
Upon reflection, I think there's a lot we can learn from the retail sector. Given current challenges, players are beginning to realise the importance of client experience. As a result we've seen a surge in experiential retail, as illustrated by these examples:
The House of Vans (you know, the skater shoe brand) in London adheres to the company's vision of being “off the wall”. It's a location where art, music, BMX, street culture and fashion converge. Visitors can find almost everything you can imagine in the 30,000 square feet building. There's a cinema, café, live music venue and art gallery, however the bottom floor holds the most unique feature of the building - a concrete ramp, mini ramp and street course.
This is one of my favourite stores for client experience. If you don't know the brand, it's a fashion label and each store uniquely curates pieces from 400 established and emerging menswear and womenswear designers. The dressing rooms are linked to a fully stocked cafe and bar with a sitting area, so you can take your partner (Mr K says a G&T on the sofa while I try on item after item, takes the pain out of shopping). The brand has turned the usual boring waiting time into an experience. They also have a large selection of designer shoes in all sizes to complement any outfit, which make the clientele feel a million dollars (and encourage them to spend!).
Ikea brought to life the dreams of many – to sleepover in a shop. Over 100 fans, lucky winners of a Facebook challenge were allowed to spend a night in the warehouse in Essex. They were offered massages, salons, and even able to select the mattress, sheets and pillows they used to give them a fully tailored experience. A sleep expert was also on hand with tips for getting a good night’s rest, including how to find the perfect mattress for your sleeping style.
While integrated bookshops and coffee shops are quickly becoming the norm, the concept of a pub in a bookshop is far more novel. Beerwolf Books in Falmouth offers a broad range of literature, both new and secondhand in one corner, while in the other a bar stocked with a range of locally brewed beers and ciders.
By day it's a cosy coffee shop and by night, it’s the perfect pub to pick up a pint and browse the bookcases before heading home. Beerwolf Books is the perfect example of how to create somewhere people will make as a destination.
Have you ever audited your client experience? I encourage you to do so, then think out of the box for ways to surprise and delight your clients. You'll be glad you did.
This article was originally created for the DISCUS website (Discretionary Investment Services Coming Under Scrutiny), an information resource for financial advisers interested in outsourced investing. The weekly DISCUS newsletter became Embark News on 31 October 2019.
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