Creating a Consistent, Exceptional Client Experience

Nate Biddick, CFP®, AVP, Practice Consulting
November 12, 2018

In order for a CPA firm to successfully function and provide the highest quality service experience to its clients when incorporating wealth management into its business, many changes will be necessary. However, there is one thing that should remain constant — putting clients first in the client experience.

Expanding to offer wealth management may mean that clients begin to work with more than one individual at the company. The role of the primary advisor who owns the relationship will change as the firm expands areas of expertise, whether through internal sources or resource partnerships. It then becomes crucial for that advisor to take on the vital role of relationship manager to ensure each client has the best experience possible in every aspect of the relationship.

Utilizing an integrated team of specialists can allow a firm to better serve its clients because the engagement process feels smooth and comfortable for them. For this to happen, though, the individual serving as the relationship manager for the client must remain involved at all times and call upon the appropriate professionals to show ownership of the relationship as well. Whether the experts working with the client are other advisors of the same firm or professionals from outside of the company, the client experience should not change. An engaging, intentional client service experience should strive for consistency.

Ensure Consistency

In order for clients to be part of a consistent, comfortable environment each time they interact with the firm, it’s necessary for all components of the client experience to align with one another. Advisors and CPAs must understand that they are partners in the client experience process — the advisor’s relationship to the client should not be viewed as subordinate to that of the CPA. Rather, the two need to see one another’s roles as complementary contributors to the entire client experience, working together to provide all of the necessary services the client requires to achieve his or her financial goals.

CPAs must believe in and support the wealth management business and be willing to have strong partnerships with the financial advisors in their firms. There must be a sense of familiarity — CPAs should become aware of what financial advisors do, get to know the individuals who will also be working with their clients, and even experience the process themselves by becoming clients of the firm’s wealth management team. There is no better way to advocate wealth management services to a CPA client than by the CPA being a client himself or herself.

Additionally, it’s important for firms to have a sensible and repeatable process that leads a client from a CPA to an introduction to a financial advisor. Clients are more likely to trust referrals from their CPAs, and it’s especially convenient for them when they can address their financial planning needs within the same organization. A systematic approach to introducing these clients to the financial advisors will help make the client more at ease and more consistent throughout the firm. Thus, the best practice is for the CPA and financial advisor to meet with the client together.

One way to help ensure that your firm provides all clients with the same rewarding experience is to have a specific process and workflow for the client experience, including the personal preferences of each relationship, for recording all of the information about each client. Proper customer relationship management will help everyone in your organization be able to better serve your clients. That CRM should contain even the simplest of facts — such as what beverage the client enjoys — and should be easily accessible and available for each meeting with that client. Leadership in your firm must set client experience standards and uphold them; the best way to do this is to create a written set of policies and procedures around the client experience and hold firm team members to these standards.

Another strategy to help bolster the client experience for the individuals who trust in your firm is to perform audits on the overall process. Have friends and family members who can act as a variety of constituents take part in your firm’s practice — from the moment the client enters your doors until he or she leaves. Obtaining the valuable feedback from those you trust will help you ensure you are offering the most worthwhile experience possible for each client you serve.

The Key? Communication

Communication is key during the entire process of working with individual clients. Advisors should be willing to maintain an effective communication system with CPAs in regard to client issues, and all parties involved must work together to retain the existing clients of the firm and promote long-term relationships with those individuals. In making genuine efforts to keep each other informed on key client information, CPAs and financial planners take one step closer to ensuring the best client experience is provided for each individual who enters the firm’s doors.

In an increasingly commoditized business, an exceptional client experience can be a differentiator for your firm that increases referrals as well as client loyalty and retention.