Enhancing Your Clients' Experiences
Jan 23, 2012
When you think of a legendary hotel with world-class service, you think of the Ritz-Carlton. Why is that? What does the Ritz-Carlton do, that other hotels don't, that makes your stay there such a memorable experience? The hotel chain has instilled a culture of treating guests like royalty. It's not that other hotels don't have the same type of culture, but it's the way the Ritz-Carlton executes it that sets it apart.
Sometimes these are very overt and deliberate actions. For example, the Ritz-Carlton staff is trained on the importance of using names. From the time guests arrive until they leave, they are called by their name, which makes for a very personal experience. Another example is that if guests ask a staff member for directions, they are escorted to their destination instead of the staff member pointing or giving complicated verbal directions.
Other times, going above and beyond will be more subtle, such as the story of a room service waiter who delivered breakfast. The guest requested that the waiter place the tray of food on the ottoman. On the way out of the room, the waiter tilted the TV toward the guest for easier viewing. This was a very subtle move that showed how the waiter was completely in tune with enhancing the guest's experience. He anticipated a need and went above and beyond what was expected. Stories like this are not unique at Ritz-Carlton because it has instilled this culture in all of its employees.
You can make a difference in your practice as well by enhancing your clients' experiences and adopting the Ritz-Carlton model. The financial service industry is very competitive, and sometimes it's not about choosing the best investment or creating a sound financial plan, but creating a memorable client experience that can set you apart. Every client who walks through your door should be treated as your special guest. Even very small gestures on your part can create an enormous amount of goodwill that will go a long way.
Consider making some of the following small changes in your office to enhance the experience of your clients as well:
- Take pictures at every client appreciation event or seminar. Create a photo album with candid photos of your clients and put the album in the lobby. Clients appreciate being able to look through these photos while they wait in the lobby for their appointment.
- Offer a variety of cold drinks and different flavors of coffee. Keep a list of your clients' drink preferences or how they take their coffee. Have the drinks ready when the clients arrive for their appointments. I bartended while I was in college, and I kept a file of regular bar patrons' drink preferences. I would try to pour their drinks as I saw them come through the door and serve their drinks before they sat down. I got numerous comments on why they frequented our restaurant over others, and it was because they felt like the service was more personal.
- Spend about a hundred dollars and purchase a small convection oven. Purchase packages of pre-made, pre-cut cookies and serve them to clients during (not before) meetings. Meetings can be stressful, and warm cookies tend to relax clients. Serving cookies during the meetings also gives a nice break for clients to refill their drinks.
- Learn your clients' likes and hobbies and send them each a small gift that relates to their hobby. For example, if a client is a golfer, get him a two-year subscription to Golf Digest. If a client likes camping and wants to retire and buy a recreational vehicle, get him a subscription to RV Life Magazine. This serves two purposes. First, it shows you listen to and care about your clients. Second, that magazine will remind them of your nice gesture a total of 24 times. This is more effective than giving them a book that is forgotten after a while and ends up collecting dust on a book shelf.
Each client who walks through your door should have a memorable experience, and the little things that you do can make the difference. Your clients may not leave your office saying how great your cookies or coffee were, but these things added together enhance their overall client experience. It gives your office a homey, relaxed and comfortable atmosphere, which is a nice change from other sterile office environments.
These are just a couple of things that I have seen that clients really enjoyed and commented on. Come up with other things that fit your personality and firm. Just remember that it needs to be about making the client feel special. It's these small gestures that will set you apart from other firms.
Clients also tend to be apprehensive about trips to their advisors' offices, but with these little things to enhance their experiences, you can turn client appointments into enjoyable experiences. Your expertise and planning are your main value, but giving your clients an experience as opposed to just a trip to your office is one thing that will set you apart as premier CPA or wealth management firm.
Think back to the Ritz-Carlton service model. Every detail has been thought out beforehand, and nothing about the service model is by accident. Take a lesson from the Ritz-Carlton and make your clients' experiences outstanding as well.