In the classic 1997 Australian film, The Castle, a judge asks the well-meaning yet inept solicitor Dennis Denuto what section of the Australian Constitution he alleges has been breached, to which he replies: “there is no one section, it’s just the vibe of the thing”.

Unfortunately, the judge didn’t accept Dennis’ carefully constructed legal argument.

More than twenty years on, it seems the vibe is now a hot topic for service providers. A recent survey from KPMG estimated that 50 per cent of automobile dealerships would disappear by 2025, while those that survive will evolve from transactional hubs to a highly personalised level.

The days of car yards with hundreds of models on display, it seems, are well and truly on the way out. Companies are transitioning their traditional sales rooms into ‘brand stores’ – note, for example, the Mercedes me café in Melbourne – with no traditional salespeople and, in the case of Hyundai, no cars! Clients will be able to search online, organise a test drive from home and have their car picked up for maintenance servicing by dedicated ‘brand valets’.

Editor’s note: this is the second in a series of columns Business Health founder Terry Bell will write exclusively for Professional Planner, leveraging insights from the consultancy’s Future Ready VIII report on the state of the advice industry which it will release in February. The first instalment is here

Of course, this new world isn’t restricted to car dealerships. Think Uber and the taxi industry, department stores and online shopping, restaurants and Deliveroo, hotels and AirBnB. These are all examples of a newcomer disrupting the established world, with the common denominator being that the disruptor provides value for money, convenience and a better overall experience.

These companies thrive on making people feel better about the service they are being provided. They have an attractive vibe.

As time marches on, clients will expect the same from their financial planners, risk advisers and mortgage brokers of choice.

So, when a client onboards at your firm what are their impressions? Obviously, if they feel good about their decision you’re probably on the right track. But if they don’t feel this way – or, perhaps worse, you don’t actually know – it’s time to act.

Our latest industry white paper, Future Ready VIII, reveals a few interesting findings around the client experience and what practices are doing to gauge and improve the ‘feel’ clients get from interacting with them. Like Dennis said, it’s about the vibe of the thing.

  • Only 53 per cent of firms stated have a fully documented Client Value Proposition. In my experience it’s very difficult to create the client experience you’re looking for, without a CVP to provide the guidelines.
  • A record 67 per cent of practices are contacting their ‘A class’ clients less than ten times per year. Given this contact can come via newsletters, meetings, seminars and phone calls, it’s a particularly worrying stat.
  • Other than in the course of managing their clients’ plans, only 32 per cent of practices sought feedback from their clients in the last 12 months. Disappointingly, this percentage has hardly moved over our last few reports.
  • 74 per cent of practices are not intending to expand their suite of services in the coming 12 months to better cater for their clients’ changing needs.
  • While 93 per cent of firms are using some form of advice software to maintain client information, we believe only 6 per cent are collecting the necessary data to enable ongoing relationships to be developed/maintained.

Further to this research, we’ve collated the information received from advisers to come up with a few tips on how to create your own distinctive, experiential vibe:

  • Actively seek clients’ feedback on what they liked and didn’t like about their onboarding experience, and ask for their suggestions on how your process could possibly be improved. Remember, this is all about them.
  • Make your clients feel special, especially when they onboard. Include a handwritten note from the adviser in the welcome pack, and consider a lifestyle questionnaire asking how your client likes to celebrate birthdays, their favourite food, favourite sports teams, community memberships and music preferences, red or white wine, coffee or tea etc.
  • Find out how your clients rate their various interactions with your firm, including face-to-face meetings, seminars and events. Make sure they’re welcomed by empathetic, personable and professional staff. Go the extra mile; for example, if they’re driving show them where best to park.
  • Keep a record of whether clients’ meetings tend to start and finish on time and plan around it. Regularly check whether they are being held at client-friendly times.
  • Try to gauge how easy is it for clients to book an appointment online, or hold a meeting through Skype or Zoom. Or access their plan details whenever they wish? New technology may work easily for you, but the client experience is what matters.

These tips are far from comprehensive, and won’t apply to every practice. What they should do, however, is spark the kind of thinking that firms will need to be at the forefront of advice service provision in 2020 and beyond.

If clients today are accustomed to receiving personalised and exceptional ‘experiences’ from the other service providers they interact with, they’ll surely expect a similar experience from their financial adviser.