Adviser directory Unbiased’s plans to introduce a new feature which rates advisers based on how promptly they act on enquiries has drawn criticism from the community.
Unbiased’s new ‘Response Rating’ went live on 15 February. The new rating gives advisers a score out of 10, generated automatically, depending on whether their speed on response to enquiries.
All advisers in the Unbiased system will start with a rating of seven out of 10 if they meet the service level agreement when they sign up to the site requiring them, for example, to have a profile, regularly log in to the site and have a picture.
The directory said that around 80 per cent of advisers are already taking action on enquiries within an hour of receiving them, and would be able to keep a high rating just by checking enquiries daily, so enquiries that are not suitable can be passed on if needed.
However, some advisers have expressed concern that the new rating will give a misleading impression to consumers about the quality of an adviser.
First Wealth managing partner Anthony Villis says: “Is someone who gets back to someone good in terms of client service? Maybe. Are they good in terms of advice though? It’s pretty much irrelevant.”
“You could argue a busy adviser might take longer to get back to someone because they are doing a good job with their own clients. Unbiased would be much better off to follow up with the client after they have spoken to the adviser and see if they used them or not. If yes, why, if no, why, and have a proper conversation on the service received.”
Santorini Financial Planning managing director Matthew Walne took to Twitter to call the plan a “dreadful idea” and Penguin Wealth’s managing director Craig Palfrey called it “ridiculous.”
— Matthew Walne (@MatthewWalne) February 16, 2017
Verity Wealth Management planner Stephanie Pickering said that her firm had cancelled two entries on Unbiased because they did not want to have to respond emails in the evening, but feared it would hurt their rating if they did not.
— Stephanie Pickering (@stettip) February 16, 2017
Rowley Turton director Scott Gallagher suggested that Unbiased could list faster responders higher on its internal listing, but accompanying that with a rating based on speed would be “daft”.
— Scott Gallacher (@IFALeicester) February 16, 2017
“The world we live in”
Other advisers said they acknowledged that many clients today wanted to know how quickly their adviser would respond.
Yvonne Goodwin Wealth Management managing director Yvonne Goodwin says: “It’s the world we live in that people want responses immediately. If people want to judge things like that then let them get on with it.”
Goodwin says she currently doesn’t use Unbiased, but prioritises her existing clients over new enquiries.
While she understands why some clients will want to know how quickly their potential adviser responds though, she says quick response times don’t necessarily mean the firm is better run.
“People that have got a lot of people in the back office ready to answer phones will answer phones a lot quicker, but if you are running an efficient ship you won’t have people sitting around for the phone to ring just in case.”
“Where IFAs are concerned you could flip it round and look at the typical response time after you send out a client letter, and when the client comes back to you after they know what it’s going to cost.”
Michael Ossei, Head of Product at Unbiased
Even if today’s consumers don’t always know what they want, they know when they want it: now. People have become used to services with a rapid response and minimal waiting times, so at Unbiased we have been doing our best to meet this demand.
The Response Rating simply encourages advisers to check their enquiries regularly to ensure that none are ignored. All advisers have to do is either reject or accept every enquiry within 24 hours of receiving it.
It’s not about finding the fastest advisers – indeed, we recognise that the best advisers are also probably the busiest. Rather, it’s about keeping consumers happy and engaged by connecting them with an adviser as quickly as we can, because happy consumers tend to come back for more.
Overall this helps to speed up overall response times. An adviser’s rating only drops if they let an enquiry expire, as this adds to consumer waiting unnecessarily. The 24-hour response time provides ample time for most people to respond and the platform recognises weekends and out-of-hours times, so advisers don’t have to worry about responding during those periods.
Ultimately, the Response Rating is just one more way of helping consumers compare and choose an adviser, and certainly not the most important factor. Our expectation is that it’ll have a dual benefit: happier consumers, and fewer missed enquiries.