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Advisers hit out at Unbiased’s plans to rate response times

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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.”

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.

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”.

“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.”

Unbiased’s response

Michael Ossei, Head of Product at Unbiased

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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.

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Comments

There are 10 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Actually ‘Unbiased’ should be prosecuted under the Trades Description Act. They haven’t been unbiased for years.

  2. We canceled Unbiased months ago as it became unworkable in our opinion and prospects feed back was very negative. It felt it had become a biding war, with many advisers being sold the same enquiry. We had prospects complaining they where being hounded by advisers chasing them. It start to look to much like the old methods of the eighties and nineties sales, with prospects being very negative about their experience.
    The regulator should be responsible for a register of qualified advisers and this should be the method MAS, TPAS and other regulated bodies engage with consumers to engage an adviser. Let the consumer pick from a register, not be sold like cattle to the highest bidder or quickest on the draw.

  3. I often get Enquiries from Unbiased at silly o’clock in the evening so would not wish to be penalised if I chose to wait until the following business to respond. Also can I point out who the customer is for Unbiased (hint – it’s not the site visitor, its those same IFAs who resent being downgraded under this stupid system).

    • I think the customer is actually the site visitor. Even though firms are paying for a service, we’re paying in order to get in front of these (the end) customers.
      So in that respect Unbiased are trying to serve their primary audience.
      Nonetheless, I think the idea of rating response times needs a lot more thought on the why, the parameters and the benefits.
      I think firms should definitely NOT be scored on the speed of response to the enhanced ‘Connect’ feature (the first come first served feature). And a judicious approach is needed for response times to standard ‘Search’ enquiries. Not least because we’re not all glued to our phones/emails 24-7.

  4. Try googling unbiased, they are now 4th on the page with the companies before them all have unbiased in their title somewhere. When I phoned unbiased to ask why this was all they said was the other companies are paying to be at the top!

  5. Certain ‘fast food’ establishments respond very quickly – even without me getting out of my car. Is this a judgement on the quality of the food? Prefer a restaurant myself that cooks the food to order !?!

  6. I don’t quite understand all the negativity. Unbiased is simply helping consumers engage with advisers quicker.

    At the end of the day, Unbiased is a business and has to ensure client enquiries are dealt with in a timely manner. I can imagine plenty of direct, matched or concienrge client enquiries that advisers do not respond to perhaps because they are not the most profitable/desirable leads. Yet these clients must wait days and weeks for an adviser to finally respond. Clearly this is detrimental to client experience. Hence unbiased has to create an incentive for advisers to respond quicker and this is their solution. Undoubtedly this rating system will be improved upon to incorporate more criteria and possibly more ratings will be introduced. Overall I think Unbiased are going in the right direction.

    • Are actually an adviser? I can’t think of many advisers who ignore a lead from a website they’re paying to be part of. Unbiased are most definitely on the wrong track with a lot of what they’re doing lately and its obvious they’re trying to ramp up their income in a lot of their recent decisions. Some of the so called enquiries we’ve received in the past were an absolute joke and didn’t really warrant a response but out of courtesy we got back to the client and of course never heard from them again. A total waste of time. We cancelled our unbiased accounts and now get emails from them offering various discounts to go back. They shouldn’t waste their time as we found their offering less than valuable. All they’re going to do is aggravate the people who pay for this service if they continue on their present course.

  7. If only advisers were so balanced when talking about the service provided by Product Providers.

  8. Don’t know why advisers need to pay such a service for leads from the general public – we have a structured referral process and receive more referrals from existing clients each year than we can manage.

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