Client centricity is vital in the modern economy
The concept and importance of client centricity has been known for about 20 years and it is vital in the modern economy . Although it is recognised to deliver both financial and commercial benefits, it can often be difficult for firms to achieve. There are a number of barriers that cause these difficulties, however, the primary one is cultural.
Arguably, asset management has historically adopted a traditional (product-centric) approach, which has meant that there has sometimes been a tendency for the rate of change to be slower than that of other industries. However, buyers of asset management are still humans who are used to interacting with client centric companies in other parts of their daily life. Therefore, adopting the approach of other sectors, exemplified by companies such as Amazon, is becoming a key differentiator for asset management firms that are moving early on CX.
How to deliver a client centricity initiative
At Accomplish we define client centricity as being ‘the cultural priority placed on exchanging ideas with clients, listening to them, and serving their needs’. We believe that firms that lack this focus will struggle to realise the benefits that client experience can deliver.
To implement this view, firms should enhance their client centricity by means of a coordinated initiative based on five interlinked levers as it is vital in the modern economy:
Lever 1: Understand and anticipate client needs
First, firms should collect, analyse and share widely CX data, as without this essential raw material, it is almost impossible to understand and anticipate client needs. Moreover, the better firms become at sharing knowledge about client needs and goals, the easier it is for leaders to empower teams to fix issues that cross organisational silos.
Therefore, every opportunity should be taken to gather client data and feedback both proactively and via indirect indicators, such as requests for information or patterns of online behaviour. Asset managers should also broaden direct interaction between staff and clients so more than just one or two teams can understand their perspective and what is important for them. This is linked to the need to be accessible for clients. The easier it is for clients to engage, the more they will and the more a firm will be able to understand them and anticipate their needs. An indicator of success is when firms identify problems first and resolve them in advance of clients raising queries.
Central to this is the requirement for asset managers to engender empathy for their clients and Accomplish has found that the development of client journeys that meet the needs of specific client personas is a practical and effective way for staff to associate with clients on a daily basis.
Lever 2: Put the client at the heart of strategy
This can begin in parallel with understanding client needs and it starts with senior leaders providing a CX vision and strategy for the firm and prioritising it. As it is self-evident that if the C-suite does not value CX then neither will other parts of the organisation. This vision must confirm that everyone is responsible for delivering outstanding CX, not just the client facing functions. For this to credible and tangible, the firm must be client-driven and not function or product driven. This perspective has been argued strongly by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos:
“I talk so often to other CEOs and founders and entrepreneurs, and I can tell even though they’re talking about customers, they’re really focused on competitors“
This extends to all aspects of the organisation and it is vital that decision makers at all levels analyse and understand the impact of their business decisions on the client. To build this into the DNA of the firm it should both hire for client orientation and tie compensation to CX and outcomes. To support this, firms should invest in developing a small CX function to provide best practice across all parts of the firm and act as the focal point for CX training. In summary CX is the strategy, but it can only work if its importance is recognised, championed and taught.
Lever 3: Give your clients a voice
Accomplish will often advise firms to establish ‘voice of the client’ programmes. The purpose of this is to formalise and embed two-way communications with clients. This will require the development of a suite of communications channels to engage in different ways in order to achieve different effects. These effects range from creating ‘awareness’, through to ‘understanding’ and ‘involvement’ all the way to the most important level of ‘commitment’, where clients will often take on the role of brand ambassadorship.
Once a firm is engaging with and understanding its clients’ needs, it can focus its innovation. This means that product or service innovations should be based on client feedback and, wherever appropriate, clients should be involved in such changes. This means that asset managers must develop the ability to see the world through the eyes of their clients, as it is only by adopting this perspective and thinking forward that they will be able to develop more innovative products and services. Again as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos explained:
“You need to listen to customers; they won’t tell you everything. You need to invent on their behalf. Kindle, Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) [a crucial part of Amazon Web Services] would not have been developed if we did not have an inventive culture.”
This focus on current and emerging client problems will help firms identify how to deliver overall solutions, as opposed to pushing individual products just because they exist now.
Lever 4: Understand and share best CX practices
Once a firm decides to focus on CX it is important it recognises that technology cannot solve all CX problems, it is only an enabler. This means that although data is the essential raw ingredient there must be CX champions throughout the organisation whose role it is to ensure that the voice of the client gets sought, listened to and responded to. This is where the establishment of a dedicated CX function makes a difference. It helps to share best practice across functions, as well as to create and celebrate success stories. Additionally, the sharing of ‘lessons learned’ must be encouraged. This means, to managers, the ‘crime’ should not be making a mistake, but not owning up to it and not letting colleagues know how to avoid it themselves in the future.
Firms should perform an ongoing assessment of the maturity of their client centricity. This will enable adjustments to the overall initiative, and it will help firms establish the link between organisational culture, CX and the bottom line. Although, asset managers must recognise that cultural change programmes can sometimes take a while before the financial benefits become evident. However, there is a ‘flywheel’ effect, which means that once sufficient momentum is achieved then it takes less effort to maintain and a virtuous cycle starts delivering tangible benefits.
Lever 5: Provide a connected experience for clients
The final lever of client centricity that firms need to pull is to ensure that clients have an intuitive and coherent experience across all of the firm’s activities. This again requires asset managers to understand from the perspective of a client the path(s) they take from awareness, through buying to brand ambassadorship. This means recognising both the ‘pain’ points as well as the ‘wow’ factors. Knowledge like this should be combined with a common language across the organisation to ensure that all parts of the organisation understand their role in delivering CX. Firms should communicate this journey clearly to their clients and set their expectations of what to expect. This communication must be proactive with multiple teams engaging with clients in a coordinated and connected manner so that clients receive a personalised experience.
Why getting client centricity right matters and how Accomplish helps firms
Client centricity is vital in the modern economy and firms that do not adopt a client centric culture will find themselves out-competed by rivals who put the needs of their clients at the centre of everything they do. As a result, we believe that once a day staff in asset management firms should ask themselves, “what have I done for my clients today?”
To achieve this, Accomplish helps firms establish client centricity initiatives to drive the cultural changes and client interactions necessary to deliver on the benefits of CX.
At the beginning of a client centricity improvement initiative, the focus must be on getting the must-do’s right, because in a modern experience economy a five star experience is the baseline, not a luxury. A firm grasp of the data will enable insights, but the importance of interaction between humans must remain centre stage. Asset managers must train their staffs to consult and listen to clients, to share ideas with them, and to focus on meeting their needs now and into the future.
Get in touch if you want to know more about and how to kick start an initiative to enhance your firm’s client centricity as it is increasingly becoming vital.