When less is more: improving the client-advisor relationship with FinTech

October 20, 2016 by Julie Posh

about the author:

Julie Posh

Associate user experience designer

Julie began her career in FinTech creating client reports for Advicent's NaviPlan solution, and she now works with the UX team to establish user-friendly workflows and interfaces across the product suite. She is passionate about using design to improve communication and day-to-day experiences.

Financial planning is all about “more”: accumulating more, funding more goals, providing more peace of mind. But sometimes the thing that can make the most impact for clients is providing less – less pain.

Do you know when your clients experience pain? What causes them frustration, confusion, fear, or annoyance? That may seem like an impossibly broad question, but I am not talking about pain in everyday life. I am talking about the pain points your clients experience specifically in the process of working with you and with their financial plan. Even the best client-advisor relationships can benefit from taking a closer look at potential pain points that may exist.

Our team recently took the time to document some typical user journeys through the financial planning process, asking ourselves questions about what interactions occur and what could make each of them either a great or a painful experience in turn.

What we discovered? Less pain means more opportunity.

Pain point 1: Data gathering

One of the most common pain points we identified was within the data gathering phase of the planning process. Data gathering is often rife with frustration for financial advisors, but they are not the only ones. A lack of proper preparation and priming can lead to a lot of anxiety for the client as well. Clients want to know what financial information they need to provide, the time frame in which it should be provided, and the level of detail desired by their advisor. This goal is potentially further complicated by a lack of financial literacy or concerns about privacy and security. Beyond the stress this situation can cause, clients might also lose confidence that if their provided data is not correct or properly interpreted, the end plan will not be accurate or valuable either.

This creates an opportunity for the advisor. Setting clear expectations around the data gathering process from the beginning, keeping the lines of communication open for questions, establishing context for specific data requests, and providing documentation about security policies and measures are all small shifts in behavior that can greatly smooth the data gathering process for clients, and in turn, build overall confidence in the plan and in the client-advisor relationship.

Pain point 2: Data presentation

Data continues to be a pain point for many clients even after it has been gathered. It is unlikely that any single presentation of data will be easily comprehended by a wide variety of clients. Some people respond better to visuals than to text while others are detail-oriented and prefer extensive charts. Without a solid understanding of the data being presented, it is unlikely that a client will follow through on your recommendations.

Being cognizant of these differences and proactively asking clients the style they prefer can be a major step toward reducing this pain point. It demonstrates an important understanding of the challenges clients might face, and it enables a more impactful presentation of the plan. In order to follow through, the flexibility to communicate that message in a variety of ways – whether in reports, results displayed on screen, or another medium – can make all the difference.

Pain point 3: Continuous engagement

As our team mapped the client journey, we found ourselves repeating the same step several different times: “Wait.” Whether it is waiting for a plan to be created from the provided data or waiting for a follow-up after a meeting, lack of engagement in these waiting periods can be a huge pain point for clients throughout the entire financial planning process. It makes it harder to connect the plan with real life and therefore makes it more difficult to stay on track with their financial plan in the long run.

Communication is clearly the key here, but there are other ways to reduce this client frustration. Giving clients a way to meaningfully interact with their finances independently can enhance their experience and propel the relationship forward. Providing a deliverable at multiple points in the process or scheduling regular check-ins are other ways to convey a sense of urgency, keep the flow of information active, and keep the client engaged.

Pain point 4: What will you find?

Every advisor is different, and so is every client. Finding the pain points in your individual process or for a specific segment of your client base will open the door to new opportunities for improvement and growth.

To get started, describe the steps in your practice for a specific flow of client-advisor interaction – the more well-defined the scenario, the more helpful the insights will be. Look at it from both your perspective and that of your client – do the steps change? Is that intended? What does that tell you about the planning experience you provide?

Next, define the goals of each step. Ask yourself: What do I minimally need at this point in the process in order to move forward? What is the ideal version of this step and its outcome? Compare the difference between your ideal and your baseline for each step. Ask the same questions from the perspective of a client.

At this point, you will have the context to really identify pain points – fears, annoyances, and confusion that might occur at each step. Think about pain points that might correspond to the specific goals you listed – what blocks the ideal situation from happening? What might prevent even the baseline from happening? Expand from there using the emotions and thoughts you experience and those that your client experiences.

Finally, consider what you can do to help minimize the pain points you have found. How do your process, your tools, and your communication style and channels help or hinder your client? What opportunities exist for you to make the financial planning journey better?  

Even small changes can have a big effect. Take action and see how less can lead to more.

Narrator® Clients and Narrator® Advisor, the client portal and advisor dashboard from Advicent, give clients 24/7 access to their plan and give advisors the actionable analytics they need to provide the most accurate plan possible for their clients' success. To learn more about how you can use these FinTech tools in your practice, click here or call (855) 885-7526 to speak with an Advicent representative.

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