The 10th and final part of our series on how to create a great client experience explains how to meet your client in a professional and well-designed environment by inviting them onto your turf, writes Brett Davidson of FP Advance.
Seeing clients at your offices is a must if you are trying to create a great client experience. Your work premises become part of your service and present an image that must support the positioning of the business.
Why do the large accounting and legal firms inhabit such opulent premises? To position their offering as absolute premium. This makes perfect sense when you think who their clients are: other large companies.
What message do your premises send to prospective clients? If you are deliberately seeking to work with clients of modest means, your premises should reflect that. If you want to work with high-net-worth clients, your premises should reflect that. The décor you use will vary according to the positioning message you want to send and the premises become a proxy for the quality of your advice.
Disadvantages of visiting clients
Advisers who visit clients at home or work miss a golden opportunity to make their service more tangible. It does not make sense to go to people’s houses or places of work to give them advice if you are trying to position yourself as a high-end financial planner. That is not what top firms do and it could confuse your marketing messages.
Then there is the time issue. Travel time is largely unproductive even if you can make a few phone calls. You cannot write or work on your computer while you are driving.
Sometimes advisers make the case for seeing business owner clients at their place of work so they can see the business and get a feel for the client. That is fine but you should not do this for the first client meeting; they must visit you on your turf. Have the second meeting (the discovery or fact finding) at the client’s premises if you must and then present the plan at your office.
Business clients need to get out of their environment to concentrate 100% on what you are talking about. More importantly to make a first impression you need to make sure they see and experience the best face you can present.
A first meeting with a new client is more of a performance than a meeting. In 99% of cases what they say will not be new or mind blowing to you, but you will have to react as though it is. The way you explain some basic concepts to clients and answer their questions may be things you have said hundreds of times before but it will not feel like that to the client.
This has far more in common with a performance given by an actor than we would sometimes like to admit. If you want to deliver a top class performance every time, you have to do it on your home turf. If you visit the client, you cannot control the staging.
How to persuade clients to visit you
If you have always seen clients at their home or work, you will have to work through a period of change. First, you will have to find a reason for people to visit your premises.
The simplest and most truthful explanation is to say something like this: ‘Mr/Mrs Client, if a tradesman comes to your home they can carry their tools with them. Our tools of trade are things like data, research, information and technology that we have here at our fingertips in the office. I need these things to do a professional job and will use them when you come in to see me. What time suits you best: next Tuesday or Thursday?’
Do not be put off by clients who resist; stick to your guns. If they are genuinely keen to obtain advice or have an issue resolved, they will find the time to visit you. Other professionals do not visit clients at home or work (at least not the good ones).
You can use a variation of this script for existing clients, especially if you are doing cash-flow modelling live with them each year as part of the review process.
Some advisers worry about elderly or infirm clients. If elderly clients need a home visit then so be it but do not take it for granted that this is what they all want. One adviser we work with discovered that his elderly clients enjoyed an excuse to get out of the house for the day as long as they did not have to travel during the morning or afternoon rush hours.
The office environment
If you do not have decent offices, make a plan to correct this at the first available opportunity. If your offices are just average, ask an interior design team to assist in creating the right image for your firm. It does not have to cost a fortune. The best marketing firms will do it for you as part of a brand overhaul when they consider the new logo, website, brochures etc.
If your clients who are spread across the UK for historical reasons, you can still control the environment by renting space in the nearest town or a location that is close enough to your clients. This not only enables you to see them on your own turf, but also means that on a road trip you can schedule back-to-back meetings in one location to maximise use of your time.
The only exception to this rule might be for employee benefits and group work for which you tend to see the finance director or managing director at their workplace. However, if one of the senior people at the company wants individual advice, make them come to you for all the reasons outlined above.
Brett Davidson is chief executive at FP Advance.