Don't break your team

I’ve talked with too many teams seemingly under stress over the last year, and not necessarily stress created by the markets. Rather, the stress has been internally induced, often stemming from poorly executed or evolved service models.

In large part due to the Department of Labor (DOL) fiduciary rule environment of the last couple years, there has been a new or renewed interest in the client service experience an advisor and their team are delivering. The service experience is helping to answer the question, What is the client getting for the fees they are paying?

There are ALWAYS two clients: Your team + your investors

We believe the best client service experience is the one that works for both your internal team and your external clients. Remember, there are ALWAYS two clients. Taking care of your internal clients (your team) leads to a better external client experience. Just like putting on your own oxygen mask first during a flight, you can’t take care of anyone else unless you take care of you and your house team first. A truly client-centered experience depends on taking care of your team firstwithout your team, the entity that takes care of the clients doesn’t exist.

Now any advisor or team has an existing service experience (whether it is good or not is an entirely different question). But a shifting DOL environment has caused many advisors to revisit and, in many instances, do more with their service experience. For some, it's meant writing all the good things they're doing down in a tangible document and creating and communicating the experience in a better way. For other advisors, it's meant reviewing the existing documented client experience and determining what their team can do to take it to another level.

The case for adding extra service elements in incremental steps

I’m all for elevating the service experience, both internally and externally, with a team. But adding on additional elements to a service document without thoughtful consideration to the downstream impact on a team can be crippling. Bottom line, don’t break your team by adding on additional service without thinking about the time and workflows required to deliver that additional experience. And if you are going to add service minutes, what will your team need to do differently or stop doing to create the time to deliver the experience? Always add extra service elements in incremental steps, ensuring your team is executing consistently and confidently before adding anything further.

What to look for in service model execution

Getting your service model execution wrong potentially hurts your internal team and clients. Your team can feel piled on, not understood, or overwhelmed—all of which will inevitably both hurt morale and existing service execution. No one works best when they feel buried, and advisors often forget to consider this team impact when evolving the service experience.

A team that exists in this state of distress will eventually negatively impact clients, whether it's because 
tasks start being missed, team member attrition occurs, or elements of the existing service experience start being dropped or forgotten. Clients (humans) value consistency over frequency. When expected services stop, engaged clients can become dissatisfied clients, questioning your team and where their assets belong. 

Does it require walking a fine line to figure out the team’s balance between service productivity and breaking? Yes, and this can be a challenge. But team leadership needs to be aware of this line’s existence, implications, and repercussions in order to deliver great service experience within and outside the team. 

Getting to the CORE of the matter: Consistent, Organized, Repeatable Experience

Here’s a CORE and Custom Service Experience checklist to help keep your service experience and team execution in balance—and successful.

CORE and Custom Service Experience Checklist:

  1. Do you have a CORE service experience? A CORE client experience means a Consistent, Organized, Repeatable Experience that is your team’s baseline experience for all clients.
  2. Is your CORE service experience written down, both in hard-copy format and within your web presence?
  3. Are CORE service elements assigned to specific team members?
  4. Are there dates for delivering CORE elements?
  5. How much of your CORE service experience is, or can be, automated?
  6. Does your team communicate the CORE service experience during client acquisition, onboarding, and throughout the life of the client relationship?
  7. Do you regularly and formally and informally ask your team how CORE execution is going?
  8. Do you regularly and formally and informally ask your clients for feedback on your CORE service experience?
  9. How do you adjust during periods of increased team stress—i.e. due to volatile markets, talent attrition, internal projects, etc.?
  10. How do you balance adding custom client experiences without impacting the CORE experience?

The bottom line

Getting your service model execution wrong potentially hurts your internal team and clients. If you’re worried about crushing your team to deliver an elevated service experience, try the 10-part checklist above. It may be the remedy you need to help keep your service experience and team execution both in balance and successful.