Phil Wickenden: Why are providers so willing to self-destruct on service?

TimeBomb“It is all odd at first and then it becomes normal – not because it is normal but because repetition uns the peculiar.” This line from John Green’s children’s novel The Sequel serves as a rather apt appraisal of the state of (dis)service from providers to advisers for, well, forever.

In fact, this truism is so accepted, few even bother to talk about it anymore. There are parallels with the also sadly accepted, rather depressing Sigmund Freud “death drive” theory, which addresses the human propensity for self-destruction, so often acting against one’s own best interests – even the desire to survive.

Providers being rubbish at service harms the experience advisers deliver to their clients, which advisers are unhappy about and vocalise, which providers do nothing about, which further damages their brand equity…   and repeat.

It is madness and feels rather like a sad, slow and frustratingly avoidable death. I do not accept the myth that personal service is not possible in a company with a large disparate customer base that cannot be economically managed with a field sales team and dedicated account management.

Personal service is data driven and can be delivered cost effectively to literally thousands of customers through relatively small centralised teams – if it is taken seriously and committed to.

Before providers start sharpening their pencils to an even finer price-cutting point, they should take a breath. Even today, after the biggest recession for 30 years or more, and with the spectre of another looming large, it is not all about price.

Business-to-business customers across industries have been influenced by big-spending consumer brands who, despite the tumult, have continued to drive loyalty programmes and invest in their ability to provide personal service based on data-driven customer segmentation.

With their backs against the wall on product and price, business-to-consumer organisations have put money and effort into the customer experience, making it a core differentiator.

Advisers – consumers too once they leave the office – have had their expectations raised. When it comes to getting the customer experience right, they expect as much from providers as from their online retailer: recognise them, understand them and give them something special.

One of the things advisers told us would make the single biggest positive difference to their business this year is the marked improvement of service delivery by providers. It will be providers’ loss if they continue to let advisers down.

Phil Wickenden is managing director at Cicero Research

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Comments

There are 4 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. if a provider wants to see what good service is .. goto Royal London as they seem to get it spot on

  2. Try AEGON platform replacing the almost faultless Cofunds!!

  3. I agree as is illustrated by L&G having email service only for IFAs (unless you are placing new business) and most of the others letting us languish in 25 minute + telephone queues. Good service from a provider regarding existing and legacy products is rewarded with new business. Lack of service just convinces me to look elsewhere.

  4. In each company you will find that it is all senior management driven, targets and fear of telling senior managers something they don’t want to hear.
    Do they not read the trade press or are they so arrogant that they truly believe it does not apply to their company?
    As Chris Lee says, L&G is a prime example and when challenged they said that this was lead by an adviser demand . . I asked for proof, never heard anything back . . .

    just defies all logic

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