Last Updated on February 28, 2023 by John Prendergast
Introducing new technology to clients is a challenge.
Let’s face it, whether you are a technophile with all the latest gadgets or someone who has just started to hear about a new company called Instagram, most of us are not experts at consumer behavior with technology. So rolling out new systems for your clients may create a little apprehension.
Will they like it? Will they use it? Will it help my business? That’s a lot of questions to answer. So let’s take a look at how to incorporate new client facing technology and roll it out successfully to your clients.
What Your Clients “Want” Doesn’t Matter
When advisors are thinking about new client-facing technology, a common first instinct is to ask clients what they want.
Getting clients involved in the process is critical, yes, but asking them will send you down the wrong path. As it turns out, we’re all terrible at knowing what we want if it’s not close to what we already have. Think Henry Ford “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse.” Essentially, you’re asking them to predict the future, which isn’t so easy. It’s one of the reasons that the best product companies on the planet (particularly in technology) never ask “What do you want?” or “Would you use this X product that you haven’t even tried yet?”.
Understanding Problems is the Key
Instead, ask clients about what their problems or challenges are. Focus on how they are currently handling the scenario you hope a new system will help them with. For a client portal it might be a series of questions like, “How challenging has it been for you to get a complete financial picture?” or “How much time do you spend gathering your financial information?”questions that identify problems and challenges are the magic questions to learn more about your clients.
People tend to be very specific and vividly aware of what is painful, time consuming or expensive for them. That specificity is golden. You may also want to include a few questions that may indicate the conditions that create the problem you’re trying to solve. In the client portal example, it might be a question like “How many institutions hold your assets?” The answer “a lot” indicates a potential need, “one” less so.
By getting clients to discuss their challenges and frustrations, you’ll be in a much better position to think clearly about what solutions can help solve these issues. Even if you’ve already picked a technology, starting this way allows you to frame what you’re doing in the context of the challenges they’ve just shared with you. e.g. “We’re about to roll out X and I think it might solve some of the challenges you just mentioned. What do you think?”
This approach will help make the conversation much less abstract and you may even learn something new about your clients. There is a lot more to say about how to offer new services and we’re planning to write a lot about it in other posts. For this post, we’ll focus on rolling out a new service, after you’ve done your homework and made the decision.
Aim Small, Miss Small
The simplest way to start is by picking a few clients to talk with. These clients should be representative of your base and be people you think will be able to give good feedback.
What is ‘good feedback‘? Good feedback is clear, specific, and focused on answering the question “Did we solve the problem we set out to solve?”, and “Have my changes made clients happier?”.
The key is to set yourself up to get feedback from actual client experience that is focused on solving a problem. With a client portal, you may be setting out to solve the problem of seeing everything in one place or more easily sharing information with you, or having clients feel a sense of clarity and transparency around their money. Whatever it is you set out to do, ask the clients about their related problems.
In general, actually rolling out a system is straight forward. The amount of work needed per client depends on the complexity of the system and that, in turn, governs how quickly you can roll out without an overwhelming amount of support requests. Even with the simplest systems and/or the handful that directly support clients on your behalf, like at Blueleaf, you’ll probably want to divide your client base and roll the system out in pieces. With easy-to-use systems, 20 clients per week per advisor is a reasonable roll out pace with minimal disruption.
Communicate and K.I.S.S.
A good roll out process starts with communicating clearly with clients; what you’re planning, why you’re doing it and why it benefits them. Focus on a handful of key benefits that solve the challenges your clients have. Good systems can do many things. Roll out isn’t the time to share a laundry list of all the features of the solution. Keep it simple. Make a list of 2 or 3 bullets (not paragraphs) and tell clients, “The system does A, B and C and lots more. It’s fantastic and we’re excited about how it will help you.” That’s it. Less is so much more.
In the roll out process, DO NOT anticipate concerns in your communications, another common mistake. Among advisors this is particularly true with the topic of security. In an effort to be thorough or save time, advisors frequently raise issues they think clients “should” or “probably” care about. STOP NOW. By doing this you are creating issues not solving them. If your clients have concerns, they will ask. Have answers ready, but don’t force the concerns of the few on the many. It merely complicates otherwise simple issues.
Eliminate as many sources of friction and client effort as possible. If you’ve written 3 paragraphs in an email, get it down to 3-4 sentences. If you’re thinking of a process with 3 steps, make it 2. However, and maybe counterintuitively, DO NOT do all the setup work for your clients. For client facing technology, client involvement in setup is critical for their future engagement.
If a client is unwilling to take an hour to do something, they may be too busy. If a client is unwilling to take 5 minutes (which is all that descent client technology should require), then that should be a signal about the value that this client sees in what you’re doing. Double down on your communication, clarify and try again.
Lastly, don’t expect 100% adoption of any system, no matter how good. Great systems see adoption around 50%. While better can happen, and I’m proud to say Blueleaf sees it often, focus on an achievable target. If you get 55% of your clients to adopt, you’ve done well and improved the lives of over 1/2 your client base.