It’s become conventional wisdom that advisors should strive to create a consistent client experience, a “Starbucks experience” if you will, where every client has a similar experience regardless of which advisor or office the client works with. Unfortunately, following this advice could lead you down the wrong path and cost you a lot of new clients.
You can’t attend a conference or read a magazine without somebody using Amazon, Netflix, or Starbucks as an example of how advisors should structure their client experience model. The problem with this comparison is many people confuse “experience” with “process.”
For example, when my wife and I go to Starbucks, we have two very different experiences. She orders tea, I order coffee. Sometimes I need a sugar fix and I order one of those high-calorie, gooey lattes. The way she experiences her tea and I experience my coffee are very different and personalized. We get different physical and emotional reactions from our respective drink choices. We get different psychic payoffs. We have different reactions to the music playing. We get different feelings from being in the Starbucks store, from the smell, to standing in line to order, to our reaction to the crowd.
By contrast, what is consistent from one Starbucks to the next is the process. The process of ordering, of getting my drink prepared, of having my name written on my cup, of having my name called when my order is ready, to jostling my way to end of the counter to pickup my drink, to the taste of the coffee (usually). In fact, Starbucks says there are more than 87,000 drink combinations on their menu so they have to be systematized to process that many different options.
Starbucks understands that the process within each store is and should be very consistent, but how each customer experiences that process will infinitely vary, just like they have a nearly infinite number of drink combinations.
You might think this is just semantics but it’s not. Too many advisors focus all their energy on systematizing the process but not enough time on optimizing the client’s unique emotional experience of that process.
If all your emphasis is on systematizing the process, you’ll end up with an operationally efficient business that is devoid of emotionally-engaged clients.
And let’s not stop there. This whole industry emphasis on systematizing your business so you can “scale your clients” is a really bad idea. No client wants to be scaled. No client wants to feel like their advisor is running them through a process that is designed to scale them in and out as fast as possible at the lowest cost. We’re not in the McDonald’s drive-thru window business.
Yes, you should deliver a consistent process, but place even more emphasis on creating an engaging emotional experience within that process for your clients.
Difference Between Experience and Process
Here are three ways that experience differs from process.
1. Experience is something you feel, process is something you do.
Experience is the personalized emotion you feel as you walk through a process. It’s something you experience internally and throughout your body, as opposed to something you do.
2. Experience is an outcome you get, process is the steps to that outcome.
It’s similar to the concept of the journey and the destination. Process is the journey, it’s the steps you take on the road to an outcome. Experience is how you process that journey along the way that leads to an outcome, an emotional payoff. And each person’s outcome should be personalized to them. For example, part of your process may be to ask certain discovery questions. Well, some of your clients may be happy to answer your questions while other clients may find one or two of them too invasive. So your process of asking the questions was consistent but the experience, the emotional payoff from asking the questions, was quite different. The better strategy in this scenario is to either a) change to more appropriate questions or b) do a better job setting up the questions, creating context, and being vulnerable yourself so they are more at ease answering what could be construed as a “personal” question.
3. Experience can linger in your mind forever, process ends when you complete the last step.
If you’ve had a wonderful vacation, the experience of that vacation can linger in your mind long after you unpack your suitcase. It’s a positive emotional feeling you can relive in your mind over and over. By contrast, the process of that vacation, for example, the travel logistics, ends the second you return home.
As humans, the way we experience things is much more powerful than the process we go through to get that experience. A journey without an emotional experience is just burning calories. So don’t just optimize the process, instead, aim to maximize the emotion from experiencing that process.
The key to massively loyal clients who become advocates for your business is to optimize your client’s unique, personalized, and emotional experience within your consistent process.
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Steve Sanduski, CFP®
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