Self Examination Leads to Self Preservation

In our last e-mag, Elixir Consulting’s Sue Viskovic stated that surviving the proposed life insurance reforms would require a shift in thinking that says independent advice cannot or will not survive. This month’s article from Sue encourages advisers to think about their business processes, so they can be costed appropriately when changes are made to adviser remuneration, but also to ensure the business proceeds smoothly into the future. Sue states that having bespoke systems and processes matched to your clients are a great idea, but not having them documented, well understand and able to run without the presence of the adviser may create problems in the future.

The reforms to life insurance, which are likely to take place in some form regardless of the outcome of the Federal Election, will require financial advisers to start thinking about crunching the numbers on their businesses, if they haven’t already done so.

However, before we get to that stage there is a need to take a good look at the processes you use to bring on new clients, as well as how you provide your ongoing service, so that you can cost that all out.

For some advisers, the reforms on life insurance may be the first time in a long time, or maybe ever, that they’ve stopped and really considered the processes they use to deliver services to their clients.

It’s not uncommon for businesses to get comfortable with the way they do things in the office, and not stop and consider if there’s a better way, or if there are new tools or ideas that could not only make their job easier, but also improve the experience their clients have with them.

I’ve stated before that you might find that you’ll need to adjust some of your processes if you are to ask clients to pay a fee for some or all of your work under the new remuneration model, and I hope you see this update to your processes for what it is – a great opportunity, rather than a draining task.

In the same way that they say a plumber often has leaky taps, it’s remarkable how many advisers …who make a living out of helping clients protect themselves against the risk of the income earner not being able to work …run their business as though they themselves will always be there to get things done, and so too, their staff are all bulletproof and will always turn up to work to sort out the clients in pipeline and get the reviews sorted.

Repeatable, scalable and personal

Now is the perfect opportunity to renovate your processes and capture them in documented form. If you’ve read any of my other books or articles you’ll know that I am a big fan of documenting repeatable, scalable processes for everything that you do in your business. I know this doesn’t always happen in a small business because we’re all busy doing three different jobs at once, but it is definitely one of those situations where, by taking the time to actually stop and design your processes properly, you will save so much time from that point onwards.

By using a well-designed process that is delivered consistently to every client, you can actually deliver a more personalized service to each of them, as the admin and process elements are systematised and seamless, allowing you to focus on the individual needs and personality of every client.

For some advisers, the reforms on life insurance may be the first time in a long time…they’ve stopped and really considered the processes they use

Think of it as an investment in the future profitability and quality of your business.  You’ll find that there are some great methods locked away in the minds of your team members who have been with you for a while. When you ask them to contribute to designing the processes, you’ll also find that they know which areas are inefficient and may even have some ideas on how to improve things. In the very least you’ll be able to identify which elements need some improvement so you know where to start looking for a better solution.

No-one is mediocre on purpose

Why am I so adamant about this? Well as a business coach I have seen all too often the results that occur in businesses who have just relied on long-term staff members to do their job the way they choose, or are happy to allow each staff member to do things their own way. Sometimes this results in mediocrity, sometimes it’s disastrous. I know how harsh it sounds – who wants to deliver mediocre services, right? No-one does it on purpose.

All of the advisers we work with have their client at the heart of everything they’re doing, but because they haven’t got their heads together to leverage off everyone’s great ideas, and because they haven’t encouraged a culture of continuous improvement, they’ve been getting by with ‘the way they’ve always done things’ on the strength of personality and a good work ethic.

Their clients like them as a person, and the fact that their staff are dedicated and work hard, they get stuff done, but they’re certainly not delivering a ‘wow’ client experience every time, and they’re often making too much work for themselves and their team. I’ve seen disastrous consequences when staff leave (either temporarily or for good) and no-one knows how to do their job; or worse, when even the best of intentions haven’t been enough to make sure that things didn’t get missed.

I’m talking about a client who fired their adviser because they hadn’t forwarded the proof of income details to the insurer so they didn’t get their underwriting completed before they went on holidays for a month. Or the costly error when someone didn’t confirm a new policy had commenced before the old one was cancelled automatically because the super balance had been rolled over. Having robust processes in place won’t guarantee that mistakes will never happen, but they will include checks and balances to reduce the likelihood of them, and ideally, improve the quality of your client relationships.

This is about getting your technical, administrative and back office processes humming to reduce mistakes and reduce the time you take to get each client from enquiry to completion. It’s also about engaging your clients better, so that you convert more enquiries to clients, you develop deeper, longer relationships with your clients, and you receive more of them.

If you had a clean sheet of paper today, how would you design the way you took care of your clients

A fresh look

This is not about ‘tossing the baby out with the bathwater’. There will be things that you keep doing because they are fantastic and they work; and just imagine what more you could do if you had no limitations on how you wanted to service your clients. If you had a clean sheet of paper today, how would you design the way you took care of your clients, and the experience you want them to have? Even staying within the boundaries of your compliance framework, you can create a wonderful experience that is not only enjoyable for you, it is so enjoyable for your clients it almost guarantees that they will refer others to you.

Start by looking through the eyes of a new client who is phoning you with their initial enquiry, and walk through the process in their shoes. What are they feeling and fearing? Are you able to demonstrate concepts in a better way than just talking about them? Can you use an engagement tool to help them determine their best sums insured, or their need for estate planning, or the future financial impact of different types or levels of cover? Are they aware of the work that you do behind the scenes between the times you meet them? Do they know what to expect from dealing with you – how long it will take, how you will act on their behalf and not the insurers, how you will get paid? Do they know why coming to you is so much smarter than taking up the online direct insurance offers?

Talk to your staff, your licensee, your insurers, about what ideas and tools are available to you to improve your processes. Share in the comments section below, any great gadgets, techniques, processes or ideas that you’ve recently employed in your business to help you do what you do, even better.

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In Practice Management, Elixir Consulting shares strategies for building better advice businesses.

Sue Viskovic is the Managing Director of Elixir Consulting and co-author of the Adviser Pricing Models Research Report third edition.

This article is an excerpt from Sue’s new, soon to be launched, ‘Worth Paying For.’. In it, Sue shares the importance of communicating and valuing their risk advice service, so they can make some mindful and considered decisions as to how to continue building a business in whatever the new insurance framework looks like.

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