What is client experience?
Client experience (CX) is a client’s overall impression of you as a supplier
A client’s impression of your firm will be personal to them as individuals, formed subjectively, and influenced by emotions – some of which may be irrational. It will be based on any and every direct or indirect interaction with your company and will be subject to change as a result of new developments. To be clear, clients will leave no interaction out-of-scope when they form their impressions.
A client’s impression of you is all-encompassing, end-to-end, and subject to change
Because every interaction is in-scope, CX is not just a new title for the more narrowly defined Client Services functions that are common in the asset management industry. Rather, it comprises your company’s end-to-end interactions with its clients and everyone and everything that support them.
CX starts at the moment a prospect becomes aware of you as a potential supplier, goes through buying and fulfilment, and continues to be subject to change for as long as the relationship exists.
What we learn from this is that CX also has far greater organisational impact than CRM or digital. It affects governance, strategy, operating model, data and culture. As a result, beware of those who re-title their old Client Services or CRM capabilities as ‘CX’ without adapting the fundamentals of their thinking to this broader scope.
Indeed, 100% of the firms at the leading edge of the asset management CX Maturity Benchmark define CX as being all-encompassing and end-to-end. At Accomplish, we also believe this is the correct interpretation for the following additional reasons.
CX means ensuring the promises delivered during an ongoing relationship at least equal promises made during prospecting
The task of designing an experience should begin with setting deliberate expectations in prospects of what life will be like as your client. This requires a high degree of ongoing coordination and mutual respect between the distribution and delivery teams.
That said, it is not uncommon for asset management sales teams to miss the opportunity to explain their firm’s client journey to prospects. In so doing, they leave a lot to chance for their delivery colleagues, because clients will assume you will be like their last fund manager … and you may not be.
This failure to set expectations during prospecting is the root cause of many issues we see that, in turn, get misdiagnosed as ‘delivery’ problems.
To provide some balance to this, we also know from the industry-wide CX Maturity Benchmark that many firms’ are still working on connecting and organising the client touchpoints in their operating models into intuitive, coherent and engaging client journeys that are easy to explain in a pitch. Until a firm achieves this, delivery teams will struggle to provide an appropriate script to the sales teams.
CX often means ‘sweating the small stuff’ rather than glory projects
Once upon a time, there was an asset management firm that came close to being sacked by its biggest client because of extreme time delays in its ability to raise an invoice and the knock-on impact this had on the client’s year-end accounting. This instance busts the myth that some delivery teams live under that ‘CX is for client-facing staff’.
In the long run, a cultural belief that some things do not matter to CX is self-defeating. Not only does it imply that some resources may be allocated to activities that are unrelated to clients’ needs (an inefficiency ‘red flag’ for CFOs), but it also fails to recognise the importance of what, at Accomplish, we call ‘sweating the small stuff’.
What we mean by this is that while many clients do not fully understand the technicalities of asset management, be in no doubt that they will still be forming impressions of you. To account for the gaps in their technical understanding, they will base their opinions of your firm on the things they do understand – like raising an invoice. Imagine the surprise in the front office when they learned that strategic assets were at risk because of the invoicing process. So, CX isn’t all glory projects and there are risks for managers who become too distant from the basic foundational items of service that clients need.
There was also once a firm whose strategic investment partnership with its key intermediary became painfully strained because of the experience the asset manager’s third-party administrator provided to client staff.
The impression this left on those client individuals was unease because they started to doubt the fund management firm: was it not very good at making important choices – like supplier selection, or did it just have low standards in some areas? Because they had already handed-over their precious treasure, the individuals on the client-side felt uncomfortable about these doubts. A lot of re-setting was needed to rebuild the trust needed for a fruitful relationship.
What have we learned?
CX is a client’s overall impression of us as suppliers. It is personal, subjective, open to influence, sometimes irrational, and subject to change as a result of any and every interaction they have with our firms.
CX is all-encompassing and end-to-end, which means that the promises delivered during an ongoing relationship must at least equal promises made during prospecting. Indeed, in a future blog on how CX works, we will explore this further and argue that firms should selectively exceed expectations.
Despite CX’s current trendiness, Accomplish’s view is that CX is not all glory projects and often means just ‘sweating the small stuff’. This is because clients will judge our expertise in the areas they do not understand by our performance in the areas they do. In another future blog on why firms can no longer ignore CX, we will also look strategically at how, as individuals, our constant exposure to B2C CX is setting our expectations of what is possible from the discipline of CX. This is a relatively recent development and is not a trend we expect to change or reverse: CX is here to stay.
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CX as a discipline is still in its infancy and this is particularly the case in the context of business-to-business (B2B) asset management.
Accomplish aims to change this by establishing the case for CX and extending its leading edge in the B2B asset management industry through researching and developing new tools and industry standards.
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