Wednesday, 3 February 2010

A little more conversation...

I have been presenting at some of the 1st Software user groups this week, about web-based technologies. My focus has been on better client servicing, improved communication and more satisfied clients. So far the feedback has been great and it's good to see advisers and their teams getting excited about the opportunities new technologies are now presenting them with.

Regulatory pressures, particularly RDR and TCF mean that advisory firms must now build a business model that is absolutely focused on the client...and that may seem obvious, something professional advisory firms have been doing for a long time...but today there is a difference. Today this client focus needs to be measurable; it needs to be justified; it needs to be clearly defined. And as we know the demands of the RDR that ongoing income must be justified by ongoing service makes remaining profitable whilst delivering independent financial advice and high quality services to all of your clients difficult. It's just not feasible or profitable to provide face-to-face reviews or to spend time producing high quality reports for those clients who can not afford to pay a fee for such services.

So what is the solution? Drop those clients who aren't currently profitable enough to service? Or look for new ways to service them? The answer I believe lies in the new approach to technology that we are now seeing, a collaborative approach to communication and servicing. Letting the client drive our interactions with them and embracing the internet as a platform for conversation and collaboration. Service is no longer about managing our client, it's about collaborating with them. It's about taking a more social approach to communication. I believe that the internet is absolutely key to the delivery of RDR and TCF. Not convinced? Then have a look at the video below produced by Socialnomics...

I think it says it all....

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Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Communication leads to understanding, loyalty and happy clients

Keeping in regular contact with your clients is essential to ensure satisfaction, loyalty, repeat business and referrals. The contact most valued by your clients is of course the face-to-face meeting or client review but this is something you can only do profitably a certain number of times every year, perhaps quarterly for your higher net worth or ‘A’ segment client, and half-yearly or annually for ‘B’ clients. With this in mind how else can you maintain regular contact with your clients to keep your brand and services at the forefront of their minds? And how can you communicate and nurture relationships with more of your client-base profitably?
Let’s assume that ideally we aim to contact our clients up to 24 times a year to keep a regular communication channel open and to reinforce our brand, values and the great service that we offer. It may seem a lot but with a little effort and using the wealth of different communication technology available it soon becomes easy achieve this. People’s circumstances change quickly and often they forget to tell you about it so implement a communication plan to make sure you are always kept in the loop.
Get your team involved
Client communication in your organisation doesn’t always have to come from the adviser. In fact having different people in your organisation contacting your clients builds your company profile and loyalty to your company and brand, not just you as an individual. Account management calls are a simple and effective way to continue the conversation with your client long after the initial advice process or ‘sale’ is completed. Your client will value a proactive call from your client service team, administrator or paraplanner to see if there is anything further they need or to talk to them about how else you might help.

Quarterly Newsletters
Client newsletters or email bulletins are a great way to touch your clients with minimal effort or expense. A well-worded informative quarterly newsletter positions you and your firm as the experts in your field that you are and is a great way to keep your clients informed about what you are up to, how your business is performing or tell them about new services you are offering. Include articles, news, results of your client feedback programme, and personal stories to make your newsletters inspiring and interesting for your clients.

Email Bulletins
Tailor email bulletins to meet the interests of the different profiles of clients you deal with: are they sophisticated high net worth investors who would be interested in market commentary, business owners looking for tax planning information, or clients who are inexperienced in financial matters so looking for ideas on money management or budgeting? Targeting the information you send out to clients demonstrates that you understand who they are and that you can offer specific services to meet their needs. Offer monthly email bulletins to your clients, perhaps even weekly to your high net worth clients and capture their permission to do this as part of your factfind or initial enquiry process.

Client Feedback
Proactively asking for client feedback is an effective two-way method of communication that lets your clients know that you are serious about service excellence. Asking for feedback after each interaction with a client is not only best business practice, it also brings with it a wealth of other benefits including happier more loyal clients, more motivated staff, marketing opportunities, more referral business and great testimonials. It also gives you some strong marketing material to include in your newsletters and other company literature but publishing your feedback results.

Online Servicing
What better way to keep your clients informed and involved than 24 hour access to your brand through online servicing. Giving your clients access to their portfolio online is a great way to keep them interested in what you do, and if it includes their bank accounts, credit card statements and spending habits then you are giving them something that they are likely to log into every week. Incorporate a messaging function to allow you to chat to your clients and suddenly a whole new virtual world opens up allowing you to communicate with your client and give them a complete picture of their financial life.

Social and Internet Media
Social networking sites are a great way to keep a regular dialog going with your client so ask your clients whether they are signed up for any of the social networking sites like Twitter or Linked In. These offer opportunities for your to engage in a dialog with your clients, show your expertise, or drive traffic to your website or blog…and the easy part is that your posts can be short, making it a quick and easy way to get your message across. Try it and see the impact that 140 characters can have on your clients. You could also try writing regular weekly blog posts on your website to keep your clients updated and informed, with free blogging tools available such as Blogger or Wordpress, getting your blog started is quick and easy.

Seminars or Networking Events
Getting a group of your clients in a room together is a great way to extend relationships and uncover new opportunities. Such events could be focused around a specific, topical theme or more general. Use events to educate your clients about financial advice or planning, pension matters, tax planning or investment strategies. Include a lighter more entertaining section and make sure your brand is featured in presentations and hand outs. You could even follow these up with a promotional offer while you have your client’s attention.

When you implement these different communication channels you will find that making contact with your clients 24 times a year becomes much easier; 4 quarterly newsletters, 12 monthly email bulletins, 4 client questionnaires, daily tweets, weekly blog posts, 24 hour access to online servicing …. Before too long your clients will look forward to and make time for your communications. Whatever contact approaches you use, the key is to keep it consistent; a structured contact and communication plan is a good idea to keep track of how you are communicating, when and who with. Put this in place and stick to it. Once you are in regular contact with your clients they are more likely to contact you as a result. You will create stronger relationships and cement your brand in your client’s mind.

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Monday, 4 January 2010

Resolutions for 2010: Satisfied clients, better marketing and improved business results

As 2010 gets underway, businesses up and down the land are setting out the plans for the year, be that plans for growth, new services or retaining new clients. There's no room for complacency as we move out of recession and a strong brand and client experience will be critical to business success this year. Getting your business profile, brand and most importantly your client experience right takes effort and all too often the assumptions we make about how our clients want to be dealt with can be some way off the mark. So here are just a few resolutions to consider to help you strengthen and grow your business in 2010...
Resolution 1: Know your client....and really know them
For financial services firms, knowing your client is a core part of day to day business. But how far does your 'know your client' approach go? Your factfind tells you about your clients key information, their current holdings, attitude to risk, income and expenditure but when it comes to service approach there is much more you could be asking and here are just a few ideas...
  • What communication methods do they prefer?
  • Do they use the internet? Do they use email?
  • What other technologies do they use?
  • What about internet banking, site comparison sites or social networking?
  • What are their favourite websites?
  • Would they be interested in seminars?
Knowing all this in addition to those facts you need for financial advice or planning opens up new opportunities to communicate and service your clients.
Resolution 2: Ask for client opinions
Basing any plans, for marketing, communication or service proposition on guesswork works out to be a costly strategy if you get it wrong and so listening to what your clients tell you is all important. It ensures that you can shape what you do to directly meet the demands of your clients, a simple concept and one that works. Proactively ask for feedback from your client regularly, ideally after each interaction with them. That way you can really understand what they like or don't like and ensure that you can continue to shape your services to meet their requirements.
Resolution 3: Get ranked and get noticed
These days Google, Bing or Yahoo are more often than not the first places people will go to find out more about you or your business so it's vital that you keep your web presence up to date and interesting with new content. Make sure people can find out not just about what you do but what other people say about you. Publish feedback results, comments or testimonials on your website, on your blog or via social networks like Linked In or Twitter. Try and personify your website too so that the personalities in your organisation shine through, after all those looking for financial advice or planning services are buying a person, your expertise, your advice.
Resolution 4: Keep innovating
The world changes fast, especially where technology is concerned so keep on innovating, explore new technologies, change your service approach, try new communication methods, have a go at social networking. Simple solutions that are easy to get started with can make a huge difference in a short space of time. Don't be afraid to try something new and you will find that more opportunities will present themselves to you.
For more information on how FinQS can help you with this and more contact us on 01564 711153...

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Friday, 11 December 2009

All aboard the big dipper...

Is it really that time of year again? It can't be, I'm nowhere near ready! Business is busy and these last few weeks have seen more new firms signing up to TCF Centre taking us over the 100 registered firms mark. Brilliant stuff! I can't believe we've come so far, it seems like only 18 months ago since I was hopping up and down with excitement having secured our very first pilot site...oh hang on it was only 18 months ago and I still hop up and down when we win new clients now! Doesn't time fly when you are spending every hour of every day building a new business, forgetting what weekends used to be like, with elated highs over the successes and tears of frustration over the failures, no matter how small! This I am sure must sound familiar to any business owner out there...they say life is a roller coaster and in the case of business life I think it's reminiscent of a ride on Nemesis, or maybe Oblivion in some cases!

All in all we've had more roundabouts than swings, and I look toward 2010 with a sense of optimism and excitement. Despite 2009 being a really tough year for many firms out there, I think 2010 brings new opportunities as we move closer to a profession that is more qualified, respected and understood. There's much work to be done to educate consumers on the value of independent financial advice and to make financial advice accessible to a wider range of people but lots of initiatives in this respect are already making in roads. And for technology providers like us the future brings huge opportunities....

Technology is progressing faster than a runaway ghost train and technologies like MS Silverlight will take business application useability to a new level. I truly believe that interfaces can be intuitive and user friendly. The days of cumbersome pop up dialogs, tabs within tabs within tabs, and clunky navigation are numbered...and no, it isn't smoke and mirrors.

We are also seeing a shift in the way clients are serviced. A shift from managing the client, to collaborating with the client, letting the client drive how you interact with them. This is exactly where innovations in technology solutions can help and also why it's so important to understand what your clients really think about what you do, how you communicate and the services you deliver.

And so as the festive season gathers momentum I'll be spending the last couple of weeks of 2009 working with more progressive financial advisory firms to make client feedback technology a core part of their service, marketing and communications approach and looking at new technology that is coming in the new year to change the way we communicate with and service our clients..... so all aboard and scream if you want to go faster!

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Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Top 10 Tips for Better Response Rates from your Client Feedback Programme

There are a number of things you can do to encourage better response rates from your client feedback process. With thanks to our users who have told us what works for them, here are our top ten tips for increasing your response rates…

1. Make sure your advisers are telling your clients about your client feedback programme
Set an expectation with your clients so that they are ready to respond to your questionnaires. Make sure your advisers mention your client feedback approach during meetings and conversations with clients, telling them how important feedback is and when they will be receiving a feedback request.

2. Make your request for feedback timely and relevant
Don’t leave it too long after an interaction with your client before you ask for feedback. Make sure you send a request while the service they have received is fresh in their mind, perhaps just after you complete the suitability report, as a follow up to a client review or as part of the new business process.

3. Include reference to your client feedback programme in your client documentation
Why not add a sentence to your suitability report, introduction letter or other client documentation about your client feedback approach to encourage your clients to respond?

4. Provide an incentive such as a donation to your company charity
Make a small donation to a charity of your choice for each response received and tell your clients about this by customising your email text or covering letter for paper questionnaires.

5. Publish your feedback results on your website or in your company newsletters
Demonstrate to your clients that you are responsive to their feedback by publishing the results and most importantly what actions you have taken as a direct result of client feedback. Showing your clients that you listen to and take action on their feedback encourages them to give you their opinions.

6. Chase up outstanding responses
If your client doesn’t respond to your request for feedback, chase it up. This is important customer intelligence for your business, so send your client a gentle reminder if they don’t respond within a certain time frame.

7. Customise your feedback process and make it more personal
The Customer Feedback Centre provides you with lots of customisation options to make your feedback requests relevant to your clients and personalised to your business style. Choose your own email text, sign off or subject, customise additional information pop ups and include your own branding on the questionnaires to encourage your clients to respond.

8. Thank your clients for their feedback and tell them how it helps
Use the Submission Successful page to customise a thank you message for your firm and educate your clients about how you use their feedback (as well as directing them to your company website or other services you may offer)

9. Publicise your client feedback programme when pitching for new business
Tell prospects about your client feedback programme. Show prospects that you care enough to proactively ask for client opinions and set an immediate expectation about how you will be managing and measuring the relationship with them.

10. Use positive feedback to motivate your staff and encourage them to promote your client feedback programme
Positive feedback is a real motivator for your team, encouraging them to continue offering the very best service and gaining their buy-in to your client feedback programme.

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Monday, 11 May 2009

From Cyberspace to CRM: Technology Delivers Results

Effective client management and service has always been a key driver for business success but in today’s climate it really is absolutely vital. Customers expect far more than just a competitive price, when times are tough they demand excellent service and it is this that will set you apart from your competitors. Technology eases the way, providing slick solutions to help you deliver customer service more quickly and effectively. The continuing expansion of the internet, social networking and email communication makes getting your message to your clients even easier. So which technologies should you consider to maximise the opportunities within your client bank?

A website gives your business presence
If a client is looking for a particular service today they will more than likely ‘Google’ it. The World Wide Web is the largest shop window in the world and the internet savvy consumer has millions of company profiles and brochures at their fingertips so make sure your website stands out. An interesting website is a great way to clearly state what you do and why customers should choose you.

Feedback technology ensures you can really make client opinions work for you
The only way to really understand what your customers want is to ask them for their views. Doing this enables you to benchmark your service proposition and set a solid foundation on which to build your client proposition and marketing strategy. Good client Feedback technology makes the process of gathering feedback simple so that you can focus on the results; and it’s a much more cost effective way to understand what your clients think than manual, paper-based methods. A timely email received by your client with a simple click through to your personalised, branded client questionnaire ensures rapid, relevant feedback. Feedback that you can measure, analyse and act upon.

Social Networking drives referrals
Social networking sites like Twitter provide a free, easy way to get your message across. If you have a really great meeting with a client, ask them to tweet about it. Soon their friends and family will hear about you, along with their work colleagues, and their followers too. This is viral marketing at its most powerful, passing on your message and building awareness of your brand.

Email communication delivers your message efficiency
Email is fast, it’s cheap and it’s an effective way to communicate with clients. If you profile your customers you can send targeted promotional messages to different groups quickly and easily. If you don’t hold many email addresses as yet, start gathering your client’s email addresses as part of your factfind or client review process. It may take a few months but before too long you’ll have an email marketing list that you can use to communicate with clients quickly and easily, perhaps to update them on events you are running or to send out a regular client newsletter.

A CRM or Back Office solution keeps you on top of your client relationships
A solid back office system keeps your client records in one place, manages leads, sales and business activity, and gives you an audit trail of all communication. There are lots of solutions out there to suit all types of organisation so shop around; and when doing so make sure you focus on your business requirements not the functions offered by a particular solution. A good back office solution will integrate with other tools or provide the ability to export your client data so you can use it elsewhere. So make sure your data is accessible so that you can also exploit the power of other essential business tools such as Microsoft Office, Google Docs, Business Intelligence or Customer Insight solutions.
So if you are not making best use of the internet and technology to enhance your service proposition and build an effective marketing and communication strategy, ask yourself a few questions….
Do potential customers know who you are?
Do you know who your customers are?
Do you know what your customers really want?
How well are you servicing your customers right now?

Technology is there to help you build and maintain strong relationships, generate repeat business and grow your business. Thanks to technology business can now be conducted more efficiently, online; it connects us with our clients and allows us to communicate in a more immediate way than ever before. So take a small step into cyberspace and watch your business take a giant leap into a better way to do business.

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