How to Improve Your Customers' Experience:  Implement a Structured Planning Process 

  • Originally published January 10, 2018, last updated April 10, 2018
  • Annuity

No matter the industry, everyone’s talking about the importance of the customer experience. But the insurance and financial planning industries especially need to pay attention, according to several trade publications reporting on critical trends in the new year.

A Financial Planning article on the three trends transforming advisor practices said that the customer experience — defined as how an investor and advisor interact at all points in their relationship — is a key competitive advantage that can drive greater growth and enhance profitability. The customer experience, the article states, must be consistent, with all touchpoints conveying your firm’s unique character and your commitment to put clients first.


Ignoring Customer Experience is Risky 


Why all the fuss over the client experience? You’re not Amazon, after all. 

Thanks to the internet and other technological advances, today’s clients feel empowered to tackle everything themselves, whether it’s buying insurance online or investing with the help of a robo-advisor. They figure why pay you a fee or commission, when they can educate themselves online and do it themselves for free or a lower fee? 

Also, today’s consumer doesn’t have different expectations for their experiences with different brands. They expect that companies will know and understand their needs and that they’ll exceed their expectations — an increasing customer expectation actually called the “Amazon Effect.” So even if you’re not selling retail products, you’re expected to deliver a customer-centric experience. 

For those in the insurance and financial planning space, this is troubling because financial advisors, registered representatives and insurance agents consistently fail at communicating the real value they bring to retirement planning services, according to a new white paper from Senior Market Sales® (SMS). The result is that the public’s perception of low value is driving prices for these services lower. You risk a dwindling customer base if you don’t find a way to show clients you have value worth paying for.


A Systemized Process Provides a Framework to Show Your Value


But the industry’s unique challenge is that the value is often delivered or realized years in the future. So how do you show your value now?

The SMS white paper, “The Journey: Showing Clients the Way, Not Just Returns,” asserts that the ultimate value an advisor delivers to a client is confidence, so ensuring that you maintain the client’s confidence in your process should be your highest priority. Having a systematic, repeatable process that is centered on important retirement journey milestones and that communicates your value at each milestone will ensure that you do this with each client. 

Much of your process already exists. But do you have it documented? Can you guarantee that one client goes through the same process as the next? Did you cover all possible solutions to act in the client’s best interest?

Perhaps you just need to examine different parts of your process and refine them. In a nod to the importance of a streamlined customer experience, InvestmentNews suggests seeing if there are any steps in your new-client onboarding experience that could be eliminated. 

The SMS white paper also includes other suggestions of ways to improve the customer experience, from explaining your process upfront to asking questions to uncover client needs and desires. It also expands on how to show your value at the different touchpoints, leaning on innovative technology and partnerships such as those available at SMS to help you. 



Make This the Year to Improve Your Customer Experience


ThinkAdvisor’s Maria Ferrante-Schepis asks “Who Controls Your Customer Experience?”

“Your customer experience efforts must include deep insight on a wide ecosystem of people and their roles, pain-points, attitudes and behaviors to fully understand the opportunities to innovate and continuously improve the experience,” she writes.

She urges advisors to commit to understanding the customer experience more fully. 

“It could do wonders,” she writes,” for your competitive advantage in the New Year.”

To learn more about using a structured planning process to improve your competitive advantage, download the white paper

SMS also has a client-facing brochure and PowerPoint presentation — featuring a timeline with important retirement decisions — that can help you demonstrate your value in a structured planning process. To discuss your process or to ask about those materials, call an SMS marketing consultant at 1-800-786-5566