Toward the end of last year, I read Excellence Wins by Horst Schulze, co-founder of the Ritz Carlton hotel chain.
There are so many great examples of outstanding customer service it’s hard to know where to start. (I wrote about a legendary Ritz-Carlton service example in my blog, Sometimes It’s Just Too Hard To Do Business).
So why don’t we start with first impressions?
Horst says, “After analyzing hundreds of thousands of comment cards over the years…I learned that if a customer’s first four contacts with our hotel go well (for example, the phone reservation clerk, the doorman, the bellman, and the front desk), there will be virtually no complaints thereafter. But if something goes amiss in the beginning, the complaints will sprout quickly.”
It made me think of the first impressions we try to make as financial planners. I’m thinking the same principle applies.
What are the first four contacts with you?
Let’s skip past the first impressions created by your marketing and website etc. I’m interested in the “guest experience” once they’ve decided to book a “stay” with your financial planning business.
Contact Point 1: The Reservations Department
I realise we’re not a hotel, so forgive the continual hotel comparisons in this piece. However, we could learn a lot from where hotels get it right and wrong.
When a new prospective client decides to make contact with you, what is the reservation process like?
Can they book themselves in for an initial 20-minute telephone conversation using something like Calendly?
Do they message you using a contact form from your website? How quickly is that responded to? In seconds, hours, days, or weeks? (Clearly, seconds is the best answer)
Or do they call and speak to a human being who answers the phone at your office?
Does everyone who answers the phone have the ability to solve the client’s problem? (A Ritz-Carlton speciality)
For example, can they:
- Transfer them to an adviser straight away
- Book in an initial call with an adviser at a future, mutually agreed time and date
- Screen the client themselves and book in a first meeting with an adviser (if that’s appropriate)
A choice of contact options might be better than just one, to cater to all types of people.
Do the reservations team send good quality follow up information that makes it easy for the client to recall or action whatever next step has been suggested?
Contact Point 2: The Front Desk
When a client arrives at your office for a first meeting how are they greeted?
A high-quality reception would go something like this:
Your receptionist (or the whole team if you don’t have a receptionist), know that Mr and Mrs Miggins are expected for a 10:00 am first meeting with Mary Bloggs adviser.
At 9:55 am two people walk in.
In a welcoming tone, the receptionist says, “You must be Mr and Mrs Miggins.” And upon some form of acknowledgement (which might be non-verbal), continues with, “We’re expecting you. Please take a seat here in reception. Can I get you a tea or coffee?”
After the drinks are prepared, the receptionist ushers the clients politely into the meeting room, which has been prepared in advance. Maybe there are fresh flowers in a vase in the corner. One firm I know seats the clients in the meeting room with classical music playing softly in the background.
Then the clients should be left for just 2 minutes to settle.
Contact Point 3: The Bellman
At this point, the adviser enters the room and introduces themselves at 2 minutes. Not 5 minutes, but 2 minutes; because you’ve determined this is the right amount of time for clients to settle, without feeling lost or ignored.
The adviser conducts some small talk and at the appropriate time transitions to taking control of the meeting by saying, “Would you mind if we got down to business?” or “Would you mind if we started to talk about you?”
They proceed to take the client through 90 minutes of interesting questions that help the client slowly understand that whatever they came in for, is in all likelihood, not the real issue.
The adviser achieves this outcome using questions skillfully and leaving plenty of space for the clients to answer.
Contact Point 4: The Guest Experience Manager
When the first meeting concludes, the adviser magically transforms into the guest experience manager by asking the client, “Can I introduce you to some of the team you’ll be dealing with, if you elect to engage with us?”
They proceed to walk the client through the office and introduce them to the key personnel they’ll be dealing with on their financial planning journey.
The guest experience manager introduces the clients to each team member by name, explains what each person’s role is, and reinforces how important each team member is within the business.
This allows the client to put a face to the name of the people that might subsequently be calling or emailing them about issues.
And it sends a positive message about the way your firm treats and values the staff that it employs.
Both of these are brand enhancing activities.
As Horst pointed out for Ritz-Carlton, if you can get these first four contact points delivered perfectly, you have created a level of trust and engagement that gets the relationship off on the right foot.
In high-trust relationships, if something does go awry, there’s usually enough goodwill on both sides to resolve the issue quickly and to everyone’s satisfaction.
However, if any of these initial steps are “off” in any way, you’re not operating in a high-trust space.
In low-trust relationships, the smallest mistake can be perceived as a slight and can get blown out of all proportion, making it difficult to move forward in the early stages of a client engagement.
I can’t recommend Excellence Wins highly enough.
Have a read and let me know how you go.
In low-trust relationships, the smallest mistake can be perceived as a slight and can get blown out of all proportion
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