How to introduce new technology to your clients

Introducing new technology to clients can be 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 Facebook, 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? Lot’s of questions. 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.

Big mistake.

Getting clients involved in the process is critical, yes. But asking them what they want will send you down the wrong path. It turns out, we are all terrible at knowing what we want if it’s not closely related to what we currently have. Essentially, you’re asking them to predict the future. Not so easy. It’s one of the reasons that the best product companies on the planet (particularly in technology) never ask us “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 their problems and challenges. Focus on how they currently handle the thing 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?” and “How much time do you spend gathering your financial information?” Questions that identify problems and challenges are magic questions for learning more about your clients.

understand client problems

People tend to be very specifically and vividly aware of what is painful or expensive for them. That specificity is gold. 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 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 those 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 once 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, or having clients feel a sense of clarity and transparency around their money. What ever 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 that provide great support, 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 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 much 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, 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. 










Also published on Medium.

John Prendergast John Prendergast is the co-founder and CEO of Blueleaf. He serves on the board of WiredTiger, a developer cloud optimized databases. He is also the founder and organizer of the Lean Startup Circle Boston. In addition to his decade and a half as an entrepreneur, John spent nearly a decade as an investment banker and financial advisor.