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Improve your business … one afternoon at a time

Rebecca Aldridge of Think Smarter Consulting highlights three easy steps to increase your profitability, improve your client experience and reduce risk in your business – all achievable in one afternoon

There is no doubt adviser businesses are facing a challenging time for at the moment. The compliance burden remains, technology is developing at a fast pace and clients’ expectations are changing. In order to succeed, we have to make sure our businesses are keeping pace with it all.

I know the idea of fully reviewing your business can seem daunting and a long-term time commitment. So, in this article we’re going to look at three easy steps you, or a senior person in your team, could take in just one afternoon with the aim of increasing profitability, improving your client experience and reducing risk.

1. Client reviews

Most firms spend a huge amount of time conducting client reviews. When did you last critically assess what you are doing for clients and whether it is truly valued? Here’s what you could do in an afternoon:

• Contact the next five clients that are due a review. Tell them you’re thinking of making some changes to your review process and ask them for their feedback.

• Find out whether they read everything you send them. Whether they understand everything. What else they would like to know. How they would prefer to receive any documentation. If there are things you do that you suspect aren’t valued, ask them.

• Think about whether you are making the most of the review process. For instance, are you using it as an opportunity to seek feedback, or remind clients who you work with and how to refer people to you?

• Consider their feedback. You’ll have some ideas about what could be changed. Take the key points and ask your team to trial a new process for those particular clients.

• Make a note to obtain feedback from the team and the clients afterwards and discuss whether to roll out the changes to everyone.

2. Making ongoing improvements

I believe there is always room for improvement. When something goes wrong, it is usually an issue with your processes, not your people. In this exercise, you’re turning these issues into opportunities for change.

• Create a spreadsheet to collate issues your team experiences (big and small) that are not part of the usual process.

• As a trivial example, a new client calling because they can’t find your office is an issue. It impacts on their experience and has incurred you both more time. A suitable action could be to adapt the process to include sending all new clients directions as a matter of course.

• Explain to your team what the spreadsheet is for and ask them to update it. Emphasise that it’s about processes, not individual performance.

• Add a review of the improvements spreadsheet to your regular team meetings, discuss the issues, the impact on the company and agree follow up actions.

3. Processing clients’ transactions

Processing clients’ transactions carries a high level of risk yet is often done in a low ranked role. Instructions can be unclear, mistakes can be made and the great client experience starts to fizzle out. So here’s what you can do in an afternoon:

• Map out the new business process with someone who usually deals with it. Use your processing checklist as reference. Note who gets involved at each stage and when the client is updated.

• You should find plenty of areas where there are risks, or poor client communication and improvements can be made.

• Remodel the map with your suggested improvements, ask your administrator to re-write a new checklist or process to trial. Then relay the changes you want to trial (and underlying reasons) to the team.

• Review the trial after a month.

Even if these particular areas don’t chime with your business, the point remains that you can get a lot done in an afternoon and very quickly see the rewards. And with a few small reviews completed, you will be in a better position to tackle some of the more complex issues in your business.

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