I don’t think it’s a provocative thing to say that the expectations clients have of their financial planning relationships is changing … dramatically! In every other aspect of their lives, clients shop around, looking for better and better experiences. There’s the obvious “new-age”, digital type stuff … the Netflixes and Spotifies that have created such intimate relationships with us that I seek their counsel more often than I do my wife’s. They’ve successfully lined up their service to connect so seamlessly with my expectations that the way I consume TV and music can never be the same again – mainlined, intravenous entertainment direct to my cortex.
Then there’s stuff which is less obvious but deeply engaging. My relationship with my dentist feels like it’s shifted from a begrudged, pain-filled gauntlet, to something that is quite cosmetically pleasing and surprisingly feel-goody in nature. I remember seeing the dentist, sparingly, and only for the sphincter-stiffening part of the experience – lying in anticipation of pain while he scratched around, searching hopefully for cavities and tender bits. Anything “extra”, like polishing your pearly whites, would’ve been “outsourced”, as a second appointment (!), to an “oral hygienist”.
Things have changed though, and so has my inclination to visit the dentist as well. I think they’ve realised that I’m more inclined to come to the dentist to be made to look pretty than I am to be put through the pain cave. It’s not so surprising to notice either that the nice part of the process is where great experiences are actually built. It seems that some clever folk deliberately went about increasing the nice parts of what dentists do and reducing the painful ones. In my most recent appointment, the horrible stuff was all taken care of by a quick 360 degree X-Ray machine from the future. The images were quickly cast up onto a flat screen for discussion between me and the dentist. Awesome! The aesthetically pleasing part of the process, the one making me handsome, was then embellished with a rigorous pedi for the teeth. Presto, I was on my bike with shiny whites before I knew it, thinking the dentist is actually quite a lekker oke!
These are not trivial changes. I can imagine dentists of the time fighting hard against changing their day-to-day activities, from “hardcore dentistry” like scratching around with a pokey stick, to “cleaning and polishing”. I can just imagine the resistance, taking on the job of the oral hygienist, recalibrating “what it means to be a dentist” in their heads. But the experience for me as a “patient/customer” is chalk and cheese. If the dentist that I go to is the only one doing this new approach, he’s going to have customers absolutely banging his door down.
To the point of my article, if dentists have been able to change their processes into a feel-good experience for their customers, it has got to be easier for Financial Planners. And in case we didn’t know it, clients are going to start looking around, especially if they feel happier coming out the dentists’ rooms than their Financial Planners’ offices.
What will it take to do this? Is your FNA the equivalent of a pokey stick? Is your Financial Plan akin to a dentistry bill? Do your clients feel like they have a bunch of spanners and pipes in their mouths when trying to tell us what they really deem to be really important in their lives? Is it more pain than pleasure in the dentist chair? Do we have an X-ray machine from the future in our offices? Are we killing our clients with admin, jargon, and stuff that makes us feel validated?
Change is hard. But change is coming. Clients are choosing dentists that make them feel better about themselves – not dentists that find holes. It’s time for Financial Planners to do the same as our dentist peers – look for spaces to increase the nice and reduce the shitty. With a few shifts in how we manage our client engagements, we can change things from “grudge purchase” to one that excites and engages.
If you are a Financial Planner looking to massively enhance your client experience, go here.