This is one of the most universally pondered questions in business. Rather than wonder, many businesses simply ask. However, as with any form of customer research, you need to be cautious about how you go about gleaning your answers and the insights you draw.
As Henry Ford famously said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. Don’t get me wrong, engaging your customers in order to deliver greater value is a good thing. However, rarely does asking them the direct question lead to meaningful insight. And, if you do and fail to deliver on it, you may be unknowingly fuelling your own client’s discontent.
What’s important to understand is not what people necessarily say they want but why they want it. One of the most celebrated books on this topic is written by a much-loved Australian psychologist, social researcher and writer, Hugh Mackay. In his book ‘What Makes us Tick’ he delves into the ten desires that drive us and while these talk about motivations beyond business, they lend an interesting insight into consumer psychology and the perceived value of service providers.
Mackay’s ten desires that drive us:
Overall Mackay says that these desires are intertwined and intricately related. The frustration of one can lead to overcompensation in another. However, one desire, to be taken seriously, sits above them all.
The desire to be taken seriously, “is a cry from the heart that underlies so much human behaviour”, he suggests. He adds “Not being taken seriously feels like the ultimate insult, and insults tend to fester…. Ignoring someone when they desperately need not to be ignored or treating something they’ve said too lightly when it seemed to them worthy of more serious attention, can sow the seeds of bitter resentment that might take weeks or even years to germinate.”
In simple terms, it’s about people feeling seen and their circumstances heard.
So, if this is the ultimate desire, then how in the financial advice business do we best do this sustainably from a cost and resource perspective?
Undeniably, the overarching theme here is scalable personalisation. The ability to provide bespoke service and attention to detail that if delivered without technology would be unsustainable. The client feels that you have paid specific attention to their circumstance and developed a plan tailored to their unique circumstances and aspirations. Not only that, but you continue to monitor their situation with the same granularity and provide real-time insight on how to keep them on track.
Breaking this down further, we need to consider how scalable personalisation applies to both the macro and micro.
At a macro level, this starts with a single view of your client’s financial universe. By having the full picture, it mitigates clients’ feelings that you aren’t seeing or factoring in important aspects of their situation.
With a full view, you are then able to deliver a comprehensive advice strategy and not only that, with the right tools, provide real-time reporting on how they are tracking to said strategy, allowing you to deliver timely and relevant insight into their bigger picture.
As we move into more uncertain economic times, the confidence of having this immediate view for clients acts as a safety net and gives them confidence as they can see beyond today’s challenges to the bigger picture they are striving for.
From a macro level, one recurring theme that we hear from advisors is that clients want to just know if they are ‘on track’. This might be distilled down to a figure as simple as the clients net financial position and whether they have the sufficient assets (minus liabilities) to fund their future goals and lifestyle. By keeping the client up to date and informed on how they are tracking to plan provides clients a level of comfort and confidence that their financial future is being taken seriously. Anecdotally, speaking to one Financial Advisor recently, they advised that they were able to identify through regular reporting that one client’s actual financial position was falling well below their projected plan through regular drops in their bank balances, thereby subsequently putting their future financial goals and lifestyle at risk. This resulted in some difficult yet important conversations with the client and allowed to get the client back on track.
At a micro level, it’s about task-driven, practical advice i.e. explicit direction. Once the strategy is set, what most people yearn for are the practical ways to implement it to ensure there are constructively moving toward their objective. This could be as simple as directing and helping the client’s setup a streamlined banking structure, with the recommendation that $XX goes into an Investment Portfolio, $XX into a Hub account, Mortgage etc and $XX into a Spending account. Simple, clear instructions that the clients can follow with the assurance that if they meet their tasks, they will be on track to meet their financial objectives. And then having this backed by reporting tools that not only give you an insight into your high-level objectives but go a level deeper and inform you why you may be deviating from your desired course, means you can efficiently deliver valuable insight to your clients and in many cases automate it.
Practically, this might be a shift in monthly spending in a certain category, say, entertainment. Highlighting that there has been a shift in spending here can pose the question to client’s about whether they can revert back to their previous levels, or if not, other categories of spending they could reduce to balance it out.
Or, in the case they are ahead of schedule, highlight the positive position and how that could be used in other ways.
Now, of course, every client is different. Some will be more macro-focused and others more micro. However, with the ability to scale personalisation, you can deliver both and ultimately exceed expectations. After all, that’s what we all value, we just don’t know how to articulate it.
Let’s talk scalable personalisation
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DISCLAIMER: The XY Adviser website and all content contained on the website is limited to general information. It does not constitute legal, financial or other professional advice. XY Adviser does not hold an AFS licence and does not provide any financial services. Nothing on this website should be interpreted as financial advice. Before making any investment decision, XY Adviser recommends obtaining financial advice from a qualified financial adviser.