The unusual global circumstances we have seen over the past year have served to highlight the importance of human connection and service for tech providers and their clients.
Nowhere is this truer than in the advisory industry, which requires advisors to provide exemplary service to their clients through a combination of quick thinking, emotional support and open communication. In a competitive market in which advisors are squeezed for costs, the means for differentiation are an advisor’s time and attention.
As our world has been forced to quickly adapt to an all-digital workforce, the necessity of good, accessible online service has never been so pronounced. In 2021, high-quality tech must go hand-in-hand with high-quality service. Many fintech firms struggle to find the right balance between simple, intuitive design and differentiating-value solutions. Increasingly, the new standard is both – and firms are finding that providing exceptional service to their clients doesn’t require compromise.
Giving advisors the same level of service that they strive to deliver to their clients creates a positive ripple effect, which ends with better outcomes for everyone. Financial technology companies must sit down and ask themselves one simple question: If people can’t easily use our tech, are we really providing anything of value?
Providing Service In A Post-COVID World
Now more than ever before, data is currency. With every online move we make, we leave behind digital cookies filled with data. As a result, the ads and content we are served are tailored to our lives and interests. This intense personalization is so commonplace that we may often to fail to see just how accustomed we have become to customization.
This raises the stakes for advisors, who are now serving a client base that unconsciously expects them to understand and anticipate their needs. And now that advisory service must happen at a distance, it is imperative for advisors to find ways to understand their clients without talking with them face-to-face.
With digital service here to stay, the pandemic has leveled the playing field in a lot of ways. Even as vaccines get distributed, a new set of industry norms have taken root. Firms that preferred to do things in person, or who rejected moving toward a digital service model have been forced to quickly adopt the tools they previously ignored. Wealthtech providers now have an opportunity to help these new adopters best leverage their clients’ data in innovative new ways, empowering them to make a connection with investors that goes beyond big-data algorithms.
For example, given the market fall-out and fast recovery over the past year, features that make it simple and convenient for RIAs looking to mass-customize allocations and monitor drift in client accounts are becoming increasingly popular. The ability to automatically monitor incremental drift and even harvest losses through the volatility can help advisors add value throughout the crisis. Advisors with access to this kind of technology can focus more time helping to alleviate the emotional tax their clients have paid since the start of COVID-19.
Coaching Is Key
Especially during times of market stress and uncertainty, investors need their advisors to check in and make sure they are calm and focused. They want to hear that they matter to their advisor, that their accounts are in good hands, and that they have a plan for getting through this.
But if advisors are having their time taken up by trying to solve niche technology issues, they cannot be there for their clients emotionally. This can potentially cause clients to make rash financial decisions, such as going to cash when the market declines.
Wealthtech providers should give their advisory clients integrated tools and a dedicated relationship manager who can help to smooth out any tech problems quickly and efficiently. Advisors who are empowered with a high level of service from their tech providers will have the time to be present with their clients. They can relate to what keeps clients up at night, celebrate when their clients reach milestones and be there when their clients experience hardships or loss.
Quite simply, providing advisors with quality service enables them to turn around and give that same level of care to their clients, humanizing the digitized experience.
Service Should Add Value To The Experience Of Using Your Product
At the end of the day, service is about an experience. If the customer feels better than they did when they started, value has been added in not only how they completed the task, but how they feel about the overall interaction and the company as a whole. That’s why it is crucial for fintech companies to understand the needs of their clients and anticipate when they will need help.
In our niche, this means understanding the ins and outs of what advisors need to do their jobs, and what their clients need to better achieve their financial goals. It’s not just, “Here’s the product, good luck!” It’s investing in training, building out resources that advisors can use before they reach out for help.
Picking up the phone is often a last resort for wealthtech clients because of their past negative experiences with customer service, so it is essential to create a platform that is user-friendly and has an interface that facilitates learning. When someone does need to call, there should be a real person on the other end who fully understands the problem and can provide all the information needed they need to get the most out of the platform.
Wealthtech providers must consider every moment of contact with a client as an opportunity to shower them with value. When financial advisors are unable to access white-glove service from their technology partners, they cannot devote the necessary attention to helping their clients. Ultimately, the failings of wealthtech service are passed down to the investor. The better the service advisors receive from their tech providers, the better equipped they will be to handle their clients’ evolving needs.
Alex Satterfield is senior director of advisor support at Adhesion Wealth. He may be contacted at [email protected].