Financial advisors business depends on their relationship with clients. In a relationship business, service is king. Providing poor service to clients can be perceived as the equivalent of saying, “I don’t care about your money or I don’t care about your future.” Today’s advisor appreciates that their responsibility transcends building a portfolio and is really about connecting with the person, family and dreams behind the investments.
In today’s fast-paced environment, where technology makes it easier for clients to access knowledge databases and conduct transactions themselves, most firms are able to offer similarly sound investment products backed by equally empowering technology. Undoubtedly in such an environment, what makes one advisor’s firm stand out from others is the level and quality of service provided to satisfy clients’ needs.
A whitepaper on ‘Creating a Culture Service’ by TD Ameritrade Institutional shows the process of creating a client-centric and service-minded organization.
Hiring service minded talent
Once the organization has gained a sense of client needs and has used that insight toward defining the service culture, the next step is to build a framework for hiring service-minded talent. The reality is that if an organization hires associates who are not service-minded, all the planning that went into defining the service culture might end up being pointless. Hiring talent that is not focused on delivering service excellence will mean that client expectations are not met and client satisfaction is not achievable. It can also result in lowering of net advocacy scores, since fewer clients will likely become promoters of the organization, while more clients will become detractors. Hiring associates who are not service-focused will also impact existing associates who will be required to take on a greater workload. Ultimately, this can lead to part ways with a new associate and the organization may incur greater cost in reinitiating the hiring process.
Organizations seeking to hire talent that are service-minded must be sure that the organization has the right people and right mix of skills and competencies on the team. To accomplish this, the organization must engage in “service minded hiring.” It’s important to note that teaching the fundamentals of being focused on service is much like trying to teach someone an inherent cultural value, which can be extremely difficult, if not impossible. A more effective strategy is for the firm to recruit and hire people who are already service-driven. This means that the recruitment process has to be designed to find and attract people who are passionate about seeing things from the client’s perspective, even anticipating the client’s needs. Recruiting takes on deeper meaning and requires looking beyond a candidate’s experience as may be expressed in their resume or online profile. Instead, the hiring process should be built to consider the innate service talent that a person may bring to the position and so to the organization.
So how do you attract service minded talent?
- Develop a hiring plan and adjust based on organizational growth: The first step in service-minded hiring is to make sure that the organization has an effective hiring plan, identifying desired competencies for each position and building recruitment advertising based on these desired competencies. The key to this process is hiring that is informed by the organization’s business strategy. For example, if an RIA firm seeks to attract a more youthful clientele, this organization may need to hire an advisor who is experienced serving the next-generation demographic or who might be representative of this target market.
- Building a culture that attracts service-minded talent: Attracting talent that understands the service vision and can become living examples of the service culture that has been defined requires positioning the organization as an attractive place to work, even beyond compensation and benefits. A real differentiator in attracting the best candidates is to build a culture of service that becomes embedded within the organization. Logically, service-minded individuals will be attracted to organizations where a culture of service, to some extent, already exists. Organizations seeking to build a culture of service focus on treating applicants and job candidates with the same level of service that they will be expected to deliver, if they are hired.
Firms can build stronger, more service-competent teams by focusing on business strategy and desired behaviours or competencies with an eye to developing diversity reflective of the client base that the firm seeks. In particular, a best practice for organizations is to have descriptions of what skills, knowledge and technical qualifications the firm needs at that specific time.
Creating a culture of learning
Once the hiring process has been configured to attract the service-minded talent that matches the organization’s business strategy, the firm must continue the process of ensuring that service remains an integral part of culture throughout the organization. Both the competitiveness and rapid rate of change in today’s business environment dictates that learning is a necessary component of building the service organization. The channels by which clients communicate with organizations and through which they gather information about the world around them is also changing rapidly with the addition of digital and social media. This also means that advisor firms are called on to think through issues like generational differences and rapid technological evolution.
Now, organizations are seeking to build a focus on service need to ensure their teams are ready to respond with the relevant array of “soft skills,” from being clear in their intent and messages, to communication defined by sincerity. Through training, team members gain competence in delivering friendly, attentive service that demonstrates care for clients on a human level. Soft skills training can focus on helping associates develop abilities such as:
- Putting the client first and understanding things implicitly from the client perspective
- Communicating in a way that demonstrates respect and understanding
- Making connections and listening empathetically
But when it comes to learning, one major challenge is complacency, which means getting easily satisfied. Many organizations reach a certain level of success and are content to remain at that level. A major problem with this logic is that if the organization stops learning and growing, it can eventually stagnate, ultimately suffering reversal of the positive growth established in prior years. For this reason, to create a successful culture of learning ensure that at least one person within the organization has the direct responsibility of charting new growth and building business strategy.
Another challenge is that understanding of what defines a successful learning strategy. For advisors, an important component of building a successful practice is the development of emotional intelligence. This is simply the ability to sense, understand and effectively accommodate differences in clients' motivations and personalities. Understanding client behaviour requires recognition of five basic emotional needs that drive client behaviour. It is also important to recognize that each individual experiences each of these emotional needs at different times and that the five needs can overlap with each other. For this reason, advisors find it insightful to recognize that emotions drive client behaviour and that communication with clients should take this into account.
Reproduced verbatim based on whitepaper Creating a Culture Service.