Keeping up with customer expectations can be daunting. Yes, it’s true that they expect a whole lot more today than ever before. Their needs and wants are being reshaped by digital, social and mobile innovation. They want immediacy, simplicity and customised advice – and they want to communicate with their advisor whenever they want.
Contrary to the doomsayers, the trends in digital innovation are not a threat to the future role of the financial advisor. They are, in fact, forcing the role to evolve and become more service-oriented and customer-focused. Advisors need to know their clients well, understand their needs and build a personalised relationship with them. This means being digitally prepared to communicate with their clients on the channels their customers choose. The latest digital tools can help an advisor rise to the challenge and thrive in this new world. One great benefit of these tools is that they save time, allowing advisors to focus more on their clients’ unique needs – and that requires specialised expertise.
Get specific expertise: advise the client with a range of specialists
Clients are well-informed investors who do their own research. But they still want to have a dedicated advisor at their branch, even though the majority say they visit their branch less often now, because of self-service online services. For that rare time when they do go into the branch, clients are looking for expertise they can’t find themselves – advice that is tailor-made for them.
To be well-positioned to respond to clients with on-target advice, advisors need to focus on one area of expertise, rather than hundreds of products. After all, an advisor can’t realistically be an expert on mortgages, retirement planning, tax optimisation strategies and financial savings – it’s more productive to specialise. The advisor can then send a client to a specialist to respond to specific needs that require more expertise.
Use digital tools to support complex interactions
With three parties discussing an investment, the advisor, the specialist and the client all need a platform for seamless conversation, regardless of their geographic locations and their channel of communication. A tool such as unblu’s Secure Messenger allows them to interact in an unobtrusive, secure manner. This informal style of conversation allows for a more natural interaction that is mutually beneficial and ultimately improves client-advisor-specialist interactions.
Video conferencing: closing the expertise gap
While specialists are likely not available at all branches, it’s still important for a client to be able to see who they are talking to when it comes to important financial decisions. This is where video conferencing can solve a lot of logistical issues while making space for a trusted conversation. The mortgage application process is a good example.
When it comes to applying for a mortgage, it’s still preferable to sit down with an advisor rather than discuss it over a phone call, especially since it can be a lengthy process. But there’s also not always a specialist available at every branch. The beauty of video conferencing is that it connects more customers to mortgage experts, when it is most convenient for them. It can also help alleviate the pressure on banks’ resources, by making mortgage specialists more widely available to customers.
Lloyds has been using video conferencing since 2015, to connect customers via laptop, desktop or tablet, with a mortgage specialist. The video service saves customers a trip to the branch and provides them with face-to-face advice on their important financial decision – from the comfort of home. Lloyds is currently piloting an in-branch video service to increase the availability of mortgage advisers during peak times.
Nationwide Building Society launched a similar service in 2014, using a video link service in branches that connects customers with mortgage specialists. The program has since expanded to more than 400 branches across the country. The financial institution says the service has reduced wait times while increasing access to mortgage advice across the UK, as some branches don’t have trained mortgage advisors on site.
What’s the pay-off for using digital tools?
- The advisor can leverage digital productivity to target client communications and concentrate on more valuable actions such as face-to-face engagement.
- The advisor has the opportunity to interact with customers who are unavailable through other traditional channels (such as the telephone); as the advisor builds more a more trusting relationship, they can create more trusted touchpoints and contacts that will eventually turn into more business opportunities.
- Once the client accepts to interact directly with the advisor online, banks can gain insights by quickly measuring the relationship as well as the sales benefits.
Digital application for financial services must be put into the human dimension to be valuable and meaningful. Digital devices have to be means of leveraging human interactions, not vice-versa and rather than replace the advisor, they will empower them.