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When it comes to the much-ballyhooed business of disruption, if you can’t beat them, join them — and do a little disrupting of your own.

That was the message to financial advisors unsettled by the rise of robo-advisors and other industry disruptors from speaker and writer Julie Littlechild, speaking at Charles Schwab’s IMPACT 2017 confab in Chicago.

According to Littlechild, founder of Toronto, Canada-based firm Absolute Engagement, advisors can themselves become proactive disruptors, too, by reimagining how they interact with current and prospective clients.

“If you’re competing against a firm doing all of these things, it would be a challenge if you weren’t also doing something similar,” she said. “I believe it’s the way of the future.”

More from the IMPACT Conference:
The 12 end-of-life-documents you need
The wall of worry advisors are facing
Advisors fighting elder financial abuse

Here are three ways to disrupt the client engagement process to the benefit of both advisors and their customers:

• Co-creation: Feedback is great but advisors need to actively involve clients in the design of their own customer experience from the get-go, said Littlechild. “Instead of talking about what we offer to clients, let’s talk about how we can create the experience with them and how that fits into their lives,” she said, noting that this so-called co-creation makes possible the next disruption: personalization.

Personalization. Littlechild cited tech firm Apple’s customer service approach as a good example of expert personalization. The company’s website asks how customers prefer to be contacted: online chat, phone call, or email. If they choose “phone call,” they’re given a call time. If there’s a wait involved after they’re called, they’re asked what music they’d like to listen to until a rep picks up. “”I think this is how we need to be thinking about service going forward,” she said. “We’re shifting from the past, when we were thinking more about standardization, and saying that no, while we want some efficiencies, we’re trying to personalize.”

Specialization. Advisors may want to deliver extraordinary service to each and every client in a very diverse customer base, but it’s nearly impossible. “The only thing they really have in common is that they work with you,” said Littlechild. “We can deliver good service but we can’t create something that is really deeply meaningful and differentiated around the needs of absolutely everyone.”



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