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Why do asset managers need to make client experience (CX) their key differentiator?

, Elaine Russell

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Why do asset managers need to make client experience (CX) their key differentiator?

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AMX’s Head of Client Service, Elaine Russell, asks Adam Grainger, founder and MD of www.accomplish.world, about adopting a comprehensive approach to client experience (CX).

 

1. How do you define client experience (CX)?

 

Essentially, CX is the effect we create in our clients. That may sound unimportant in the hard-headed world of asset management but if you get it wrong, you can end up with fewer assets to manage. That’s because CX shapes your client’s overall impression of you as a supplier: getting it right can give you a real commercial advantage.

 

There are two critical things to understand about CX. The first is that for your client, CX is personal, subjective, not always rational, and shaped by every direct and indirect interaction they have with your firm – nothing is out of scope. The second is that, despite this, both its cause and effect are observable, measurable and controllable, if you are prepared to put in the effort.

CX is not just a fancy new term for Customer Relationship Management or Customer Services. Instead, it is a deliberate incremental process encompassing every part of your business that performs or supports a touch-point on the client journey. It starts before someone becomes a client, lasts the full extent of the relationship, and goes beyond that to potential future renewal or referrals.

The aim of CX is not just to deliver on the promises made during prospecting but also to create extraordinary moments that build lasting loyalty by disproportionately skewing a client’s memory of your firm. Implementing it will shape your strategy, your operations and your culture. This is why at Accomplish we emphasise the need to ‘sweat the small stuff’ as well as focus on larger ‘glory projects’ that you may need to lay the foundations of CX.

 

2. Why do asset managers need CX and why now?

 

In short, you need CX for survival. It is no longer enough for asset managers to try to differentiate themselves by product or price. The long-term forces of supply and demand in the asset management market have made them unreliable differentiators: intense competition has commoditised products and shifted bargaining power to clients.

 

Even your brand, in the narrow sense of name recognition, is not enough to give you a sustainable competitive advantage. Brands can blow up without warning – we have seen enough public relations disasters to know that relying on brand to differentiate your firm isn’t enough.

 

Compared to product, price and brand, CX is a reliable long-term differentiator because you control it and your clients will notice a difference between you and the other managers they interact with.

 

For these reasons, the earliest asset managers to move into CX did so 10 years ago, and there is now a well-established asset management CX Forum of firms that are building their abilities to use CX for their competitive advantage over those who are still to recognise its importance.

 

3. How does CX work?

The psychological key to CX is to remember that emotions create memories and the more intense the emotion, the more persistent the memory. Good experiences are ordinary and forgettable – we only remember, share and discuss extraordinary experiences.

That is why an exceptional experience can shape a client relationship for good or bad; it can influence a client’s decisions, from how much they buy from you to how long they stay with you, and whether they would be your advocate.

 

CX will impact your profitability twice. It aims to retain clients (i.e. revenue) longer and build deeper relationships that reduce the ongoing cost of sales. Because it applies to every aspect of your end-to-end client journey, its focus on detail will make your business more efficient. It is also incremental in implementation; you don’t have to go from zero to hero – you just have to take simple steps to put the foundations in place and build from there.

 

For example, when a client logs onto a platform like AMX they should know from the sales team what to expect. However, if they normally have to view multiple sites to get an overview of their portfolio, it can still be immensely satisfying, as well as time and cost-efficient, to see for the first time everything presented on one dashboard. After that, the ongoing experience becomes ordinary, but they will remember, share and discuss that initial feeling, and they will compare other managers against it.

 

4. How is CX for B2B different from CX for B2C?

 

Some in the asset management industry believe that B2B clients are different to B2C clients. They assume that personal emotions don’t influence the decisions of institutional clients. This is a mistake: there is no such thing as an ‘institutional client genome’ – we are all human and we don’t put our emotions to one side when we are at work.

 

The rise of the ‘experience’ economy has also changed all our attitudes to CX.

As consumers, we have come to expect the convenience, control and connectivity of digital services that comes from the best retailers. Now that we know what’s possible, we notice the absence of engaging CX – particularly in our professional lives.

However, although individual clients are not the institutions they represent, the dynamics of B2B CX are different because you will normally deal with a corporate buying team. This presents you with a matrix of individual and corporate needs (both rational and emotional). Everyone in the team will have a personal perception of your company but the collective memories will shape the B2B relationship.

 

 

Accomplish model of CX

 

In addition, investment management is often intermediated through investment consultants and this can perpetuate customisations offered to previous clients of the same consultant. What results is what, at Accomplish, we call ‘customisation-as-standard’ – a situation characterised by a constant accretion of ‘one-off’ customisations. It is costly and operationally risky. And costs and risks are long-term enemies of client satisfaction.

 

While B2B organisations are often good at process (embracing technology for speed and efficiency), they tend to miss opportunities to delight clients with an extraordinary experience or moment. This is often because they haven’t modelled their customer journey to align with their clients’ multiple needs or, if they have, they have taken a purely ‘engineering’ approach which is essential but not enough. If you want to avoid getting forgotten, you simply must do something extraordinary.

 

5. What does good asset management CX look like?

 

In summary, a superior CX strategy is client-led, deliberate and memorable. The challenge is to…

 

Become client-led

 

Successful CX requires you to be client-led: you only get what you need by helping your clients get what they need. It also gives you an opportunity to do or say something unique about your culture and, from your competitors’ perspective, this makes it irreplaceable.

 

Traditionally asset managers have tended to be product-led: design a product and then sell it. For this reason, it’s common for firms to segment their clients by AUM or revenue. However, these will tell you nothing about what your clients want.

Accomplish encourages asset managers to segment clients by needs first and then think about the commercial opportunities in each segment.

For efficiency, you will want a standardised client journey, but you will probably need a number of variations to serve different client segments. This is what we mean when we say you have to align your B2B CX model with client needs. That requires you to be…

 

Deliberate in your delivery

 

Once you have segmented your clients, we recommend using five building blocks to develop your CX model: strategy, journey, culture, governance and data. Strategy identifies the effect you want to have on different client types. Journey identifies when you want effects to happen and Culture looks at how your team creates them. Governance sets out how you will measure the effects and Data identifies the raw materials and analytics you’ll need to maintain a superior CX.

 

This is why we also advocate deliberate expectation setting. It gives clients a realistic idea of what to expect at every touch point in their customer journey. This will help them imagine what it feels like to be a client.

 

Expectation setting requires your sales and marketing teams to stick to their script (quite literally) because if they overpromise, they may ‘hardwire’ client dissatisfaction. The experience you deliver during an ongoing relationship must at least equal the promises you make when prospecting. That’s why working with AMX is refreshing because the sales team know exactly what they can or cannot say ‘Yes’ to.

 

That reflects AMX’s standardised operating model and the way all the relevant teams work together to ensure everyone is clear about the offer. That sort of model makes it easier to manage client expectations and deliver on CX promises. Asset managers who don’t currently differentiate their proposition with CX can use such models to accelerate their adoption of the strategy.

 

Finally, being deliberate means you don’t have to rely on chance to…

 

Create memorable moments

 

By mapping the end-to-end client journey, you should be able to identify where you want to create positive memories. The first time a client tries a particular aspect of your service is often a good opportunity to do something extraordinary. Using data to analyse client behaviours, such as in times of challenge, can also be an effective way to identify when they might welcome a phone call from you offering to help.

 

It’s neither efficient nor desirable to try to be extraordinary everywhere. Much of the time (particularly with things like invoicing or due diligence) clients just want an effective but ordinary experience that will help them do their jobs, move on, and quickly forget. Only by understanding when your client is most likely to feel emotionally engaged will you know where it is appropriate to create an extraordinary experience that they will remember, share and discuss.

 

 

Read more about Accomplish’s approach to CX, including their CX Maturity Benchmark, and to find out how the AMX platform can help you strengthen your CX offering, please get in touch.


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