4 steps to elevating client experience

4 steps to elevating client experience

Lisa Joyce | February 11, 2019

Greg Menefee encourages advisors to make their firms extraordinary

Client experience is a hot topic for advisors, evidenced by the standing-room only crowd for Greg Menefee's session Elevating Your Customer Experience at LINC 2019. Menefee, director of Business Consulting for TD Ameritrade Institutional, stressed how important client experience is to advisor success, helped advisors identify where their client experience falls short and offered strategies to improve the experience.

“Your client base is changing and has different needs, expectations and desires," said Menefee. “You need to elevate the client experience not just for your existing clients but to cater to the next generation." He added, “A focus on client experience creates desire--not just willingness—to refer you to others."

Menefee told attendees that there are three ways to create an emotional connection and build brand loyalty with clients—and two of them don't make sense for advisors.

The first way is to compete on product. While companies such as Titleist have built a successful business based on product, advisors don't manufacture golf balls. The second way is to compete on price—but no one wants to be the Walmart of advisory firms.

The third way to compete for clients is by delivering a great client experience, an approach embraced by firms such as Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, Disney and Apple. It's a popular strategy, with 89% of executives surveyed by Gartner saying that companies will compete on client experience in the future.[1] But Menefee warned advisors of a perception gap: while 80% of companies believe they deliver a great customer experience, only 8% of their customers agreed, according to Bain & Company.[2]

Welcome to Buc-ee's

TD Ameritrade Institutional has worked with the Ritz Carlton to deliver an extremely successful series of client experience workshops, but it wasn't the high-end hotelier that Menefee chose as his model of exceptional client experience. Instead, Menefee held up Buc-ee's (pronounced buck-ee's), a chain of convenience stores in Texas, as an example of a company that gets customer experience right.

While other convenience stores compete on the price of gas, tobacco and snacks, Buc-ee's competes on experience. Each 68,000 square foot store—big enough to fit 22 7-Elevens, said Menefee—has 80 to 120 fuel pumps so customers never have to wait in line. Its 80 stall restrooms are immaculate, with floor to ceiling tile, hand sanitizers and a cleaning attendant.

In 2012, Buc-ee's was awarded the title of cleanest restroom in America by Cintas.[3]

But wait, there's more!

The food is prepared on property—and there's recipes for some of Buc-ee's most popular food on its website. Customers place their orders on an iPad, visit one of 80 drink dispensers and pay at one of 30 cash registers.

Buc-ee's is big, clean, fun and memorable. It's so much fun that customers often take selfies with the Buc-ee the beaver statue and post the photos on social media.

“Buc-ee's takes the Walt Disney approach to gas stations," Menefee told advisors. “As a customer, you feel an emotional connection." He noted, “You don't have to be high end like the Ritz Carlton to have a dedicated focus to competing on experience."

Elevating the client experience

Menefee highlighted four steps advisors can follow to lay the foundation for delivering a truly great client experience.

1. Know your client

Menefee isn't talking about knowing clients individually but thinking about client segments based on demographics. He recommended grouping clients into three buckets: distributors, accumulators and HENRYs.

Distributers are Baby Boomers ready to or already drawing down their nest eggs. The majority of advisors have built their client experience and business model around serving distributors, but advisors should be wary of catering only to this segment. Menefee shared that 90% of advisors have 50% or more of client accounts in the distributor category, according to a study by TD Ameritrade Institutional. But distributors are not the future of your firm, noted Menefee.

Instead, Menefee encouraged advisors to focus on accumulators—Generation X and older Millennials—since they are a huge referral opportunity. However, advisors will need to elevate the client experience to win those referrals.

Finally, HENRYs (high income not rich yet) deserve special focus since they are the future of your firm, said Menefee. HENRY's want to do business with a firm that works with them the way they want, which typically includes digital.

2. Analyze the client experience

TD Ameritrade Institutional defines four phases of the client lifecycle: universal (research), prospecting, onboarding and ongoing. Menefee stressed that advisors need to elevate the experience in each phase for distributors, accumulators and HENRYs.

Advisors can create scenarios to analyze how to improve the client experience in each phase for each segment. Menefee offered a universal scenario of a HENRY: A 30-something year-old prospect has heard about your firm from a friend and she is doing research on Google and Facebook. Does your website portray other 30-year-old's she can relate to—or does she see images that would resonate with her parents or grandparents? Do you even have a Facebook page?

She's probably visiting your site from her cell phone. Is your site mobile responsive?

She wants to make an appointment with your firm—but she's probably doing her research at night. Can she schedule a meeting now—or does your website instruct her to fill out a generic contact page or call during business hours? For the generation that expects instant access, not being able to schedule an appointment is a turn-off.

3. Go beyond expected to delighted

An expected experience—such as being able to view account balances—is table stakes. The only time clients notice an expected experience is when you get it wrong. Menefee recommended that advisors instead look to delight clients, such as delivering account balances on a mobile device. “Advisors need to think about how they can elevate client requests," he said.

Menefee related several personal experiences that elevated his experience from expected to delighted. After checking into a hotel, he realized he left his phone charger at home and went to the front desk to ask where he could purchase one. Instead, the hotel staff handed him a phone charger—no questions asked.

His young sons—like most children—are anxious at the dentist office. Menefee brought his sons to a pediatric dentist that has video games in the lobby and videos for the kids to watch during dental cleaning and x-rays. It was a delightful experience for his sons—and for Menefee and his wife.

4. Create a culture of elevated client experiences

To create a culture within your firm in which elevated client experiences are the norm, ensure that every employee understands and commits to your mission, values and vision, said Menefee, noting that only 40% of employees know what their company mission is.

Next, give employees the autonomy to get creative. “Don't be a transaction based culture," said Menefee. “Instead, adopt a strategy of delivering a best of class client experience."

Quoting from a Buc-ee's t-shirt that reads, “Saving the World from Ordinary," Menefee told advisors, “Figure out how to be extraordinary."


[1] https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/customer-experience-battlefield/

[2] https://www.bain.com/insights/closing-the-delivery-gap-newsletter/

[3] http://www.bestrestroom.com/us/press/press-winner-eleventh-annual-abr.asp

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