The weight of servicing clients

06 May 2018

Man with beard and glasses contemplates his company's service offering

Stewart Bell

Stewart Bell is business coach and founder at Audere Coaching & Consulting.

The value of your advice can’t be measured in hours, and neither can your service offering.

Most advice firms only address 50 per cent of the equation when it comes to business improvement.

You know the conversation we have each year. It goes something like this …

“What do you want to achieve this year?”

… and it stops.

There’s a second vital part many miss.

“…and what’s likely to stop us from achieving it?”

In our Leveraged Advice Firm coaching program, this is the ‘outcomes’ and ‘constraints’ part of the planning process.

For many advisers right now, it’s the inability to clear the decks of the obstacles that stand in the way stopping them from making business improvements and enhancements.

  • Lack of time.
  • Lack of support.
  • Unable to get the technology right.
  • Not having enough leads.

As the saying goes, it’s easy to forget you meant to drain the swamp when you’re knee-deep fighting alligators.

Within our program, we work with clients across three key business improvement ‘pillars’, underneath which nest nine core strategies for building an advisory business model that scales.

The key question is often; where do we start?

The answer is usually; by attacking the biggest issues that will stop progress.

Don’t get tied in knots

We also have a tool (one of many) called the Problem Protocol. It’s a dynamic list of 106 of the most common issues constraining advice firms, linked to the solutions we coach to help get our new clients ‘off the beach’.

I’d like to share a few and give you a sense of how to solve them. Here are four:

  • My service offer isn’t differentiated.
  • I’m the centre of everything and it’s killing me.
  • Our servicing is so manual.
  • I don’t know what or how to charge, and I don’t even know if I’m making a true profit on my ongoing.

In most cases, these tie back to one bigger question: How can you build a completely profitable (and compelling) ongoing service offering that doesn’t tie you in knots?

First though, let me share the most common constraints firms fall prey to.

They bring on board a bunch of clients and create a service offer. In the desire to add value, they add in ‘stuff’. Reviews, reports, events, newsletters, things only advisers would know about and ‘stuff’ that no-one really wants, but goes in anyway.

In the face of this stacked offer, some clients love it. Others don’t get it, but they like what you do. Some give pushback on fees.

Meanwhile, as the challenges of tech, legislation and communication in a digital world grow, you get busier and busier, whilst the difference between the revenue received and the cost to deliver slowly converges over time.

Most want the opposite; a lean and tight service offer, price points at all the right levels, a model that can manage more clients as you grow and is profitable at each service level.

It’s not too much to ask, is it?

No, but there are three key things you need to know to get it.

1. 85% of the market are non-delegators

We’ve all heard the statistic; only 15 per cent of Australians get advice.

The reason is the other 85 per cent aren’t ready to hand it all over to someone else to do. They either want help with some of it and the ability to get guidance (validators), or they want to drive it themselves but have the ability to access expert help when it’s needed (self-directed).

So, essentially we’re only getting one part of the market. The offer isn’t working for the other two.

If you’re reading this, thinking, ‘I don’t care. I only want delegators’, that’s fine, but ask yourself this: How does someone become a delegator?

Usually they transition from self-directed (or head in the sand), to wanting someone to do part of it, eventually realising it’s worth the investment to get an expert to do it all.

Robo-advice offerings know this, and they’re seeking to reduce the entry point for younger or less affluent clients today, to reap the benefits tomorrow. They’re damming the river at the source.

What if you could have an offer to capture that lower price point? I know what would need to change.

2. Personal attention doesn’t mean clients get you

We can add in technology to make things faster, but the biggest cost in your business processes is you – the senior adviser.

Each time you pick up the phone, send that email, replace the copier cartridge – costs add up. The amount you need to charge the client to cover the costs of your business, and the lost opportunity cost because you’re not working on the big rocks, all adds up.

Any person starting a business intending to be able to step away over time, must confront the reality they can’t be the main point of contact forever.

As sure as Richard Branson won’t serve drinks on the next Virgin Sydney to Melbourne flyer, you need to sell clients on the idea they’re not buying your expertise. Instead, they’re buying a business-enabled system designed to help them achieve financial freedom.

You’re still there in the background, making sure it all goes to plan. It’s just that you’re the fleet commander, instead of the one driving the ship.

3. Activity isn’t value

This final point is key.

When I do a 90-minute fee model build with new clients, it produces a table outlining services offered, annual frequency and, at the bottom, the fee. Then I explain that this isn’t for the client.

Maybe it’s FDS that’s caused it, but over the last few years, many advisers have become focused on the ‘how’ part of their offer. It’s almost like because that’s what has to go into the envelope on the mandated template, that’s all you do.

But it’s not. Your service offer is so much more than that.

It’s the framework you provide for making sure people take charge of their money and stay in charge.

It’s the watchful eye you keep over legislative changes, economic shifts and the ongoing desire of political classes to pull levers at will with no idea what they do.

It’s being on the end of a phone or email to talk a client down from investing it all into Bitcoin, or dropping everything into cash because their first year in retirement produced negative capital returns.

It’s helping clients change behaviours and keep paying for things they’ll only care about when they need it and realise it’s there.

It’s opening the doors, paying the staff, working weekends, and caring about your clients’ future more than they do sometimes.

Advice can’t be measured in hours

According to the science around the weight of electrons, the internet weighs 50 grams. It’s hard to think of something so transformational on so many levels (good and bad) weighing so little.

Can you imagine if we only valued things based on their weight?

The value of your advice can’t be measured in hours, and neither can your service offering.

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