Why Automation Is the Enemy of Financial Advisor Client Experience

05.16.19 | Patrick Brewer, CFA, CPA | 0 Transform post img

One common mistake advisors make — and 3 ways to get it right

With the recent explosion of FinTech, it seems that there is no limit to automation inside an advisory firm. Advisors are racing to streamline their workflows. If there’s an app to automate the financial advisor client experience, they must have it!

What’s the problem?

If you are not careful, you can streamline your client experience so much that your clients will have no experience at all. All they’ll be interacting with is these cool apps, portals, interfaces, workflows, and blast emails. 

And that will leave them with something to be desired. After all, they’ve hired you for a personal service. If what they get is a robotic, automatic, impersonal service, they will eventually question whether they’ve chosen the right advisor. 

How did we get here? For one, the technology conversation is everywhere. Just scan through an industry blog or do a headcount of vendors at the next conference you attend. Advisors think that they need all this stuff to create an effective client experience. And they do need … some of it. 

However, there are two parts to the client experience — and they don’t lend themselves to automation in the same way. 

The front end 

Everything that your client is present for and interacts with is the front end of the client experience. Touchpoints in this category should be highly personal and designed specifically for that client. 

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you have to get a message out to the client to schedule his next quarterly review. 

Option 1 is to send him an automated email with a link to his client portal to check out performance reports, and another link to your online scheduling tool. 

On the surface, this looks clean and efficient. The trouble is, most clients won’t respond to this email, visit the portal, or schedule the meeting. After you’ve sent a few of those quarterly emails, the client may even stop opening them. 

So, what you are supposed to do if you want to run an efficient practice – but still build strong client relationships?

You have to personalize financial advisor client experience.

Send him a personal email that references something specific about him. Maybe a recent article he has posted on LinkedIn, an appearance in the local media, or an upcoming special event. That personal touch make the client feel like you saw him and shared his experience. Personal connection cuts through the noise. 

What’s the outcome? For one, the client is more likely to accept your invitation to the meeting. You will also become more likable in the client’s eyes. Let’s be honest, you would go the extra mile to impress an important prospect. Your efforts should not stop just because the client is already a part of your practice. 

Another example? Instead of just sending them a standard newsletter, add a hand-written note. It could be as simple as “I hope the family is well”, or a specific mention of an upcoming special event (like the client’s daughter graduating from college in 6 months).  Suggest a meeting for coffee and mention that you will call the client to confirm the date and time. 

Both ideas (and there’s lots more!) will advance, accelerate, and deepen the client’s trust. 

See also: Building a Financial Advisor Value Proposition that Someone Will Buy

So, if you can’t automate the front end of your practice, what can you automate?

The back end.

Think of all the activities that must happen behind the scenes in order to deliver the experience that’s visible to the client. All these activities are a great opportunity to leverage technology, standards, and workflows. 

Is there a way to get this wrong?

Yes. I have seen advisors make one of two mistakes here. 

The first one is not having well-defined workflows and standard operating procedures. This causes advisors to feel like they are always behind. Their client service is mostly reactive, and there might be a sense that the client isn’t getting the experience they have signed up for. 

The second mistake is taking flawed workflows and supercharging them with automation. That makes a bad process go faster, but doesn’t make it good. 

What’s the solution?

First, map out your processes. Who does what? What technology is used to support it? What keeps people accountable? 

Next, document your processes in a manual that’s shared with your team members. We have used Google Drive for this, although we are transitioning to a new platform called Trainual. Both allow teams to collaborate, improve processes, and understand what’s expected. 

Finally, resist the temptation to add automation just because a tool is available. That can get expensive and too cumbersome to manage. 

Automate the back end, personalize the front-end of financial advisor client experience

To reiterate…

Automate the back end of your practice to make yourself more available to clients and prospects. 

Personalize every client-facing touchpoint. Doing this consistently will build trust, accelerate organic referrals, and turn your clients into raving fans. 

Want more ideas on how to impress your clients and show them that you see and know them on a personal level?

Check out Cameo.com.This website has a number of athletes, stars, and celebrities who will record a personalized video for your client’s special event (or just because). Maybe your client is a big Green Bay Packers fan. He would probably love to get a birthday video message from Brett Favre. Every single person that your client shares that video with will ask who sent it. When he tells him it’s from his financial advisor, his friends and family will be impressed — and might even ask for your name. 

Or maybe you look at your client’s interests listed on a social profiles and discover that they love jazz music. A page from your local magazine that’s advertising a big jass act coming to town, along with a personal note, would be perfect. You might write that you’d love to see the show with the client and will call in a few days to confirm. 

In my experience, the effort to become extremely personal in building relationships with clients is remarkably effective. What unusual personal touches have you tried recently? How did it go? Please share in the comments. I’d love to hear it!

Patrick Brewer, CFA, CPA

Patrick Brewer is the Founder of SurePath Wealth, a NextGen ensemble practice with offices across the country. Patrick is also co-founder of Brewer Consulting, a marketing agency for financial advisors, and host of “The Model FA” podcast. Together, the three companies empower advisors to remove financial anxiety from the world by combining human-first investment advice with cutting-edge marketing and practice management strategies. Patrick is a CFA charterholder and a CPA. You can connect with Patrick on Facebook or LinkedIn!