Stop Worrying About the Risk, Worry about the Client

I just cannot believe we STILL think it’s ok to hand our clients a deck of paper, full to the meniscus with fine print and legal mumbo-jumbo!! Are we just lazy to change this? What keeps us from making this better? I suspect it’s something along the lines of “Oh well, everyone else’s looks just as bad.” And because we’re lazy. And because it’ll need a slightly different perspective, other than purely Legal / Compliance / Actuarial. It might even need the perspective of the client …

I flew to JHB last week, checked in some luggage and got my Boarding Pass printed out, for a change. The document I received was horrible, at least as poor as the stuff we present to our clients  (App forms, Legal Disclaimers, Disclosures, sometimes even the Financial Plan!). We’ll try “paper over” the eye-sore with something like, “Don’t worry about this stuff, it’s just for compliance … just sign here and here.” Equally, the Boarding Pass had the aesthetic appeal of a McDonalds till slip, spat out in the 80’s, on a dot matrix printer. Why BTW, are till slips still so kak as well? There was a scattering of “data” – definitely not what one might construe as pieces of information that would help a traveller go about his duties. For those flying for the first time, I’m sure a Rorschach Chart would produce more reliable interpretations of where to go and what to do. Somewhere between the rows of binary code, innocuous references, acronyms and airport language, I was able to identify the boarding gate and time. What is all the rest of the information for anyway? My guess is it’s markers to help the airport or airline manage it’s arse apart from it’s elbow. Definitely not a document to get a traveller onto an aeroplane with as little fuss as possible. 

Our documentation is the same. It’s stuff created by people who “mitigate risk” as the primary goal in the relationship with the client. Angry clients present as a terrible inconvenience, best avoided upfront. Complex documents make their lives easy as they are incentivised to detail and pre-empt any / every risk under the sun, regardless of how significant or immaterial it might be. Client Documents (i.e. documents to be used by the client, not the business!) turn into Specification Documents, or Legal Contracts, or the stuff on the insert in a medicine package. I cannot exaggerate even, the massive impact this has on the client experience, where the only “tangible stuff” we’re engaging over (everything else is promises) is unintelligible to anyone other than Stephen Hawking. 

“Starting with the Risk,” can’t factor in the fact that clients have feelings. “Starting with the Risk,” also can’t factor in that clients are lazy and probably not going to take Legal Counsel to interrogate the T&C’s that we subject them to, simply for being a client! Don’t get me wrong … no one wants angry clients. But throwing a whole bunch of words at a person doesn’t a happy person make

I’m jumping out my skin here with excitement. Please people … Please can we start viewing the Client as the centerpiece of this relationship. Not the mitigation of our risk. If we can do that, we’ll also find that everything else, even our exposure to risk, will just come together in a rock solid relationship with the client. 



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