In Full View - How to improve the client experience for competitive advantage

Financial Advisory

05 October 2023

advisersClient ExperienceCompetitionDataFinancial AdvisoryTrustWinning Advisers

Expert: Rowan Jackson, Promising Outcomes Facilitator: Gilly Green, FoxRed Insight


  1. Given the degree to which personalisation is one of the most critical factors informing a client’s decision when choosing an adviser, client experience should have a place at the centre of your client strategy
  2. Trust leads to loyalty, which leads to advocacy. These are the desired outcomes that every firm wants
  3. The first two result in converting and keeping clients, the third generates another level of engagement - a willingness to refer new business (for some firms 60% of new business comes from referrals)
  4. How to find out what clients expect – ask them! There is a right way to ask clients for feedback
  5. Even having asked the right questions, we need to hear the answers and deal with them



When it comes to why improving client experience matters so much the stats speak for themselves, with research showing that:

  • 5% retention of existing clients can mean 90% increase in profits (this is the financial services figure)
  • 70% of clients move due to poor service (not investment performance or cost
  • Within that 70%, 48% move due to a poor client experience, and another 20% a lack of contact

This means that firms need to focus on building trust and loyalty, but also need to recognise that external factors also play a part in retention, some of which can be mitigated with good client relationships (e.g. inheritance) and some that can’t be changed which drive money - not necessarily the whole relationship - away from wealth managers (e.g. interest rate rises mean a drive to annuities for some clients in drawdown). 

However, just keeping these figures in mind means that firms should have as much, if not more, focus on client retention than on new business development.

Trust, Loyalty and Advocacy are outcomes of meeting clients’ expectations. That is where you start:  understanding what expectations are. This fits well with the Consumer Duty. Clients make trust, loyalty and advocacy judgements in the client experience (CX). Measuring the CX in order to know what needs to be maintained, improved, fixed or introduced is, therefore key.

Many client surveys are driven by someone internally who is often biased toward getting favourable answers and focuses on what matters to advisers, and not what matters to clients. In particular, avoid the HIPPO trap (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion).  A key way to avoid bias is to use an external party to both develop and run the feedback research, through:

  • Questions should be those that matter to the client. They can only be found by asking the client
  • Avoiding only asking clients who are vocal (responses may need to be encouraged from others to get balance)
  • Participation that is anonymous (to firm) and confidential (hence survey cannot be done in person)
  • Going back to customer for agreement to share and solve specific issues, using their suggestions for improvement.

It is essential to map out clients’ expectations, not merely a response to what they have been provided with today, in order to develop, innovate and improve client experience. Expectations-driven insight is the fastest way to unlock competitive advantage. A focus on needs is necessary but not sufficient.  Advisers need to focus on Needs AND Expectations.

The key to this process is to accept that where there is a gap between what customers express as ideal and what a firm does, it does not make it a bad experience for the customer to engage in feedback. Asking clients how advisers perform vs expectations is the route to a better business and happier clients.

Feedback should cover all facets of what firms are delivering, as listed by clients in the research process, such as:

  • Quality of services (including reliability, responsiveness of advisers, and adviser empathy)
  • Ease of doing business (and service response levels)
  • Product quality
  • Costs / fees
  • Onboarding experience

It’s important to understand VALUE EQUATION from the client’s perspective, which is not based upon price alone – it is product quality + sales and service experience that generate the positive perception of value, and price and lack of ease of doing business that diminish the experience (and hence value to client).  Specifically, service and ease of doing business can be differentiators. 

With well thought-out qualitative research, 50 responses per segment is enough to form a statistically valid viewpoint. If multiple client segments apply, they need to be researched separately. Such research maps the client expectations and gives advisers a 1-page blueprint of the CX, determined by clients themselves.

What is also important is to fully understand the data and do something with it.

Understanding the data and understanding value:
Expectations change over time, so it is important to create a customer feedback process that is dynamic and continuous. Feedback research should be done annually, and trends identified and noted. The Consumer Duty, in any case, drives this behaviour from firms.

Participants also highlighted the need for leadership engagement in the process as well as the need to prioritise for investment, supported by the right data to provide a business case. One participant noted that it is crucial to get the right people onboard to deliver effective and meaningful results.

Measures also need to be assessed against competitors, picked out by customers themselves.

There are some techniques used in data gathering that are less useful and/or promote data that gives biased or “directed” responses, for example:

-   Net Promoter Score, which is not diagnostic. All WM firms need a feedback method where clients diagnose, with precision, those vital few areas that they must improve. NPS does not do this.

- Client Satisfaction. It has been known for decades that satisfaction is not a reliable predictor of trust, loyalty and advocacy.  On the other hand, Performance vs Expectations, IS a reliable predictor.

Other issues discussed concluded that:

  • Working from home has undermined capacity to provide good service
  • Customer feedback needs to facilitate adjusting the culture of the firm
  • We need to map dialog with clients – customer journey mapping is often done from the firm’s point of view

One participant noted that this session aligned with some of the points made in the Charles Stanley session, which might be useful for attendees to look at to relate and expand this session’s learnings into actions for Consumer Duty, specifically on: outcomes assessment and analysis: how to get to know clients better; and embedding actions.


Key takeaways:

  • Focus as much on retention as for new business (if not more!)
  • Ask the customer what they expect
  • Survey carefully - you want client expectations-driven insight
  • Understand the data – Value and USPs
  • Action the data effectively to fill the performance gaps
  • Leadership needs to be fully engaged to drive delivery