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Business of advice – Well designed service gives competitive advantage

The need for clarity of service and pricing is an essential outcome of the Retail Distribution Review and links directly with Treating Customers Fairly.

To check where your business stands answer these ten killer questions scoring 1 for poor and 10 for brilliant.

To what extent ….

1. do you have a well defined service and pricing policy?

2. do you have a clear description of your main target clients?

3. do you sell advice – not products?

4. do your clients know what service they will receive and how they will be charged?

5. is your service delivered consistently – by all your Advisers?      

6. do you always deliver ongoing service on time?                 

7. is your back office set up to support effective service delivery?

8. are the jobs designed to enable excellent service delivery?

9. does service provide the basis for client segmentation?

10. are Advisers spending 80% of their client time with those who are most profitable?

If you have scored around 50% you will be close to a majority of advice businesses. If you score of over 70% you will be in the top 10% of firms who are already securing advantage through their service.

Service design is about detail and most re-design projects take up to 12 months from first meeting to initial pilot.

The following chart summarises a well tested process for service design that begins and ends with people. Clients are at the beginning and the people in the business are at the end.

Begin with client needs and a clear description of what your clients require and what benefits you bring to them.

You can then summarise your proposition. This is something many advisers do toward the end of their first meeting with a client. “So, in summary we will undertake a detailed review of your affairs, analyse where you stand now against where you want to be, and then work out a plan with clear steps and reviews along the way.”

Service contentis the specific activities you will undertake and is often the point where advisers use the three tier categorisation. Typically 20% of clients are in the top tier, 60% in the middle and the rest are transactional. The alternative is to bespoke for each client.

Communicationsincludes everything that clients will receive, regardless of format. This ranges from newsletters and reports through to hard copy and web-based materials.

Finally you need to ensure that your back office processes and software are organised in a way that supports service delivery. This links directly with the jobs peopledo and how well trained and organised they are. It includes everyone in business: advisers, technical support and administrators.

To be certain that your service proposition is robust you need to:

·     test your proposals in advance with respected clients who will give you honest feedback

·     pilot the new propositions with brand new clients for a period of 3 months, possibly starting with a few advisers as opposed to the entire group

·     share the experience and make changes if required

·     train all advisers and role play the new conversations and objection handling that may emerge

·     introduce the new propositions with existing clients only after the pilot and when you see them, so you can explain any differences in service or price

·     roll out the new service to existing clients over a period of 12 – 24 months

·     be prepared to make adjustments if necessary.

This project is one of the most complex that you will undertake because it affects everyone in the business and many of the clients. However, service is the centre of the business because it is what everyone works on, and it is what clients receive as the tangible outputs of all your hard work.

Content serialised from, The Business of Advice. The first dedicated advisers guide to running their business,published by Taxbriefs at £140, details at


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  1. Brilliant article mate

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