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Acanthus insights:Dropping the catch: first impressions and your brand

Posted on 1 August 2016.

As Seth Godin says in All Marketers Are Liars: “It’s every point of contact that matters…..if you can cover all the possible impressions and allow the consumer to make them into a coherent story, you win.”Acanthus Consulting client experience

So why are professional services firms and wealth managers often so terrible at catching the first impressions ball?

The problem for many firms is that the number of touch points any firm has as grown significantly - either through their own doing (adding social media channels) or driven by market forces (see my blog on the client referral journey) without them having fully considered the need for consistency, let alone quality, across the piece.

In many firms no one person or department has responsibility for client experience.  Typically “everyone wants to own the client but no-one wants to own the client experience”. Marketing departments are increasingly coming to understand their role in this but may be thwarted by cultures that prioritise the fee earners/front office who have traditionally “owned” the client and batted off marketers’ valiant attempts to get closer to their clients.  A seamless client experience is hard to create where silos exist.

Even if, for the sake of argument, your new business comes largely through referrals rather than other lead generation activity (although many firms I speak to don’t actually track or have a plan to support this dynamic) even referred prospects are increasingly likely these days to “check you out” primarily online first before confirming you on their mental or physical shortlist.  The potential is there for even very warm referrals to fall fowl of poorly managed client journeys such as a website that’s unconvincing about what you offer, no phone number on your home page, not hearing back from a web form (or losing the will to live trying to fill it out on a mobile phone), not having phone answering before 9 or after 5 (more common than you might think particularly in smaller branch offices) and/or well-meaning but under-trained reception staff unable to reroute your enquiries and so on. 

Anyone who thinks this sort of thing doesn’t still go on should read Shopper Anonymous' most recent survey of the legal market  which highlights still poor rates of call back, effective contact details taking, follow up on enquiries and so on.

Similarly only recently a top ten wealth manager took 10 days to call me after my positive reply to their email offer of a “free advice consultation” and I had to listen to the phone message three times to get the name and number to call back. Even worse was the branch office of one firm that was still answering the phone under the name of its previous firm name six months after the merger…

Money and time spent on legal directories and a host of lead generation activities is wasted if it’s not accompanied by effective systems, processes and regular coaching and training for staff.

It’s not just support staff too.  Busy fee earners can get flummoxed by out-of-the-blue referrals, ignore LinkedIn messages that matter, drown in their inbox, fail to follow up with prospects, and forget to thank the person that referred them.  The list goes on.

Equally very few firms give much thought to “front of house” brand leaving it, in effect, to facilities or even worse their landlord (and security guards) if they are in shared occupancy buildings.

First impressions aren’t everything you might say but early wins in this area are relatively easy to create and embed, and they can engage and enthuse everyone embarking on more ambitious end-to-end client experience projects.

For FCA-regulated businesses extending client experience and feedback programmes through such things as service disclosure and advice processes can also be a useful check back as a support to TCF outcome and wider conduct risk programmes.

contact@acanthusconsulting.co.uk 

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