Clients are demanding a consistent approach from their professional and financial advisors. How should firms with an international offering deliver consistency to clients?
Gulland Padfield summarises five recent developments in Client Service delivery and describes the strategies which advisory firms should use to tackle one of the service sector’s toughest challenges.
Five trends have converged in the last 18 months to make international service consistency one of the leading priorities for management teams:
- Weak revenue growth in some regions has prompted an appraisal of the cross-selling potential of existing client relationships. Advisers are taking steps to leverage client relationships in one region to seek revenues from the same client in other regions.
- Clients with international breadth want advisers to mirror their operations’ global footprint. Where clients use global advisers in different locations, their tolerance of inconsistency in service delivery is decreasing.
- In a tough economic environment, clients continue to seek cost savings and synergies and want the option to manage advisers with fewer client-side touchpoints. This is prompting strong requests from clients for a more integrated approach from their advisers.
- Application of Account Management principles have improved among leading advisory firms – and have been largely accepted by their client-facing teams for key accounts. Management teams are now looking to take successful roll-out of CRM in one country to other parts of their network.
- Global advisory firms want to demonstrate their local market expertise – something that clients appreciate strongly. The challenge is to combine knowledge of a local or regional market with all the value to clients that comes from an adviser’s global reach and expertise across a network of offices.
Based on our experience of working with leading international advisory firms, we recommend a combination of Client Centric initiatives to address international service consistency. These include:
- Capture the ‘Client Voice’ with greater granularity and on a global basis – Advisory firms’ management teams are making the case to colleagues for investment in the next phase of their client research platforms. The reason? Because the source of revenues and profits is seen to be current clients rather than new clients. We are seeing that firms which capture insights more regularly and in greater detail from current clients, are using them to shape or evolve a more profitable set of products and services. Growth opportunities are identified by building a 360° view of global key accounts and other priority client segments. To increase the quality of the information from clients, successful firms are pioneering innovative techniques and research methodologies across a greater proportion of their client base. The result is a virtuous circle of better analysis leading to revenue opportunities and in turn, greater confidence in the ROI of client research.
- Senior management must demonstrate its commitment to client service delivery – It is essential for senior management to show leadership and to influence colleagues through high profile internal communication about the importance of international service consistency. Above all, management need to reassure and demonstrate how it will be delivered and rewarded. Many management teams fail because they delegate the task of internal communication to others with less authority or because they drastically underestimate how frequently and for how long they will need to communicate about service to have a lasting impact.
- Develop a ‘consistency framework’ to align the whole organisation – High quality service can only come through engagement of all the functions in the business - both client-facing and support teams. To ensure that there is coordination, create an over-arching framework to embrace and guide stakeholders of the firm. Too often, service initiatives fail because one function champions the change but does not have the authority to engage other functions. The teams responsible for professional development, business development, remuneration, internal and external comms in particular, must have an agreed programme and a mandate to engage the business.
- Balance central and local team involvement in the development of the approach – A consistent global client management approach cannot be imposed from the centre. To be effective, the approach must be designed and rolled-out with input balanced across central management and local teams. Local offices need to share their understanding of regional variations in client expectations. Piloting the approach locally will also test the framework to ensure it works and create success stories to assist take-up elsewhere in the firm.
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