Engage, automate, and inspire: Ideas for a modernized client experience


As technology evolves, so do your clients' expectations. Get inspired by modernized experiences in other industries to engage and connect with clients through technology.

Key Points

  • Most firms have spent the past several years implementing technology to drive efficiency and scale in their practices. Now, many are exploring new ways of using technology to engage clients and innovate their experience to deliver high-touch service in a more scalable way. In the first part of this series, we’ll share perspective on recent trends, including examples from outside industries. Later, we’ll share examples from advisory firms to show how peers are applying these trends in our own industry.

Your clients' expectations have been shaped by their experiences in the consumer world. They've grown accustomed to on-demand service and information—whether it’s shopping on Amazon or banking online. So it's no surprise that more investors are expecting their advisors to also be available anytime, anywhere—through channels that fit their schedules and lifestyles.

These high expectations can be tough for any business to meet, particularly small firms. Fortunately, in recent years, many technology solutions have emerged that are both customized for RIAs and priced to be accessible for firms of any size (for example, online portals, video chat, eSignature, and other digital workflow tools).

But it isn't about the technology alone. To successfully modernize the client experience, your firm must implement the technology as part of a well-thought-out and comprehensive strategy that reflects your firm’s goals, expertise, service, and personality. The right approach can help you scale your client experience as your firm grows and reinforce your unique value proposition.

Three ways innovative companies are evolving their business

  • Engage and connect with clients through dynamic content.
    • Creative digital content can help express a business's unique brand personality.
    • Customizing key content for each channel and audience can help the content better resonate.Go digital when and where it makes sense.
  • Modern businesses continuously explore new opportunities to automate routine tasks and procedures wherever possible.
    • Modern businesses continuously explore new opportunities to automate routine tasks and procedures wherever possible.
    • Offering a robust and mobile online experience ensures that clients have access to their own information and other value-added content from your firm.
    • Businesses can personalize their service and support models with collaboration tools like video chat and screen sharing.
  • Make it easy for clients to act.
    • Capture client goals and objectives in a way that makes it easy for you and clients to collaboratively review and revise their plans over time.
    • Ensuring that content is clear and engaging for clients by including visuals and insights makes it easier for clients to understand and take action.
    • Alerts and reminders can help clients stay on track and in control.

Looking beyond our industry for inspiration

The financial services industry has been slower to adopt some of the newer approaches to content and social media due to regulatory concerns—and perhaps also industry culture. It can be helpful to look beyond our industry for some of the most innovative examples of the trends we outlined above. Here are three examples of how nonfinancial services businesses are engaging, inspiring, and serving the modern client.


Virgin America: Unexpected viral content captures attention

The pre-takeoff airplane safety briefing isn't known for its fun. The typical presentation can be dry, perfunctory, and easy to tune out. But when people disengage, they miss vital information.

Rethinking the way it delivers required content opened an opportunity for Virgin America to engage its passengers, create a stronger client experience, and stand apart from the competition. And it worked—the safety video went viral and millions of people watched it without ever stepping foot on a plane.

How can you break out of the traditional content mold, which can often be dry? White papers and reports work only if they're being read. How can you leverage digital tools like video to personalize the client experience and use the power of stories to capture the attention of your clients?


Health care: Online portals deliver information on patients' schedules

Going to the doctor is important, but finding the time to schedule visits can be tricky. Now, the health care industry is disrupting this norm. Technology is helping to scale services and make health care more accessible.

Rather than asking patients to take time to visit the office, companies can conveniently provide educational information about health care conditions online. Many are using web portals to allow patients to make appointments more conveniently, track lab results and outcomes faster, and even participate in virtual checkups.

What technology can you leverage to expand your services to meet additional client needs and preferences? Consider how automation can allow you to offer something new while letting you maintain one-on-one attention where it’s needed most.

Fitness apps: Information and inspiration at users' fingertips

They say information is power. With interactive data at our fingertips, we can decide where to focus, set goals, and track progress. It's hard to find a better example of this than the myriad of wearable fitness technology available today. A simple band can help us track what we eat, how much we exercise, how long we sleep, and more—all providing extrinsic motivation to reach for greater wellness.

How can technology help you inspire your clients to set and reach interim goals that help them achieve the financial plan you’ve developed together? Consider how interactive tools can help clients see the impact of their actions on their long-term plans—such as spending habits.

What's right for your firm?

Although you're not an airline, a doctor, or a fitness app provider, you can learn a lot from how these industries are evolving their service models. Your own path to a modernized client experience starts with a thoughtful internal assessment of your firm's biggest areas of opportunity.

5 questions to ask yourself

Use these questions to help guide your thinking:

  • What's more important to my firm right now—reaching new prospects or engaging current clients?
  • Does the content my firm creates and shares match our brand personality?
  • How are my clients used to getting other types of information, like the news?
  • When clients are busy with other priorities, how can they still feel connected to my firm? What is the single biggest impediment to nurturing those relationships?
  • How can I help my clients own other areas of their financial lives?

We hope these examples get you started thinking about the possibilities of a fresh, modern approach to client service. Imagining the potential is only the beginning of an involved and exciting process. In an upcoming issue of Advisor Services News, we'll show you how a few different RIAs are putting these ideas into practice.

If you're thinking about becoming an independent advisor, consider a custodian who invests in your success. Contact us to learn more about the benefits of a custodial relationship with Schwab.