Increase client satisfaction through planning

If you have a great product but can’t articulate its value to the world, it will likely remain underappreciated. This is the issue many advisers face, according to new research from Carson Coaching. The study analyzed results from two separate surveys, a consumer survey with over 1,000 respondents and an adviser survey with about 140 respondents.

The data on what clients view as valuable and what advisers are doing highlight a divide between the services financial advisers are providing and what clients value.

For example, the most satisfied clients reported high levels of planning from their advisers, but the levels advisers reported doing fell short of what consumers viewed as valuable.

To bridge this gap, advisers should focus on three of the main elements clients view as valuable: engagement, fee transparency and a focus on planning.

While engagement and fee transparency are important, your business and your value begin with financial planning. Stepping up your planning game involves more than just increasing the amount of planning you provide clients, though. Let’s look at all the parts of a comprehensive plan that affect client satisfaction, according to the study.

1. Include a written comprehensive plan

Consumers saw more value in their advisers if the adviser provided a comprehensive written plan. In fact, 81% of clients with a comprehensive plan felt highly satisfied with their adviser, compared to only 67% without a financial plan. Yet only 60% of advisers were providing comprehensive plans to all their clients.

Clients appear to enjoy having a center point, reference and anchor for their financial outlook. Make sure you have the right software to help support developing a written comprehensive plan. Plans are just starting points and need to be updated over time.

2. Address long-term care planning

Many planning topics make up a comprehensive financial plan, including estate planning and retirement income planning. I often say that long-term care is one of the biggest unfunded liabilities for retirement. 

Clients were 20% more likely to be highly satisfied with their adviser if they had a long-term care plan in place.

But survey results showed that not many advisers do long-term care planning for their clients. Almost 6% of advisers said none of their clients over age 50 had a long-term care plan in place, while 44% said that less than a quarter of their clients had a long-term care plan in place.

Once clients reach age 50, advisers need to start addressing long-term care planning. It can be a difficult conversation, but it’s an important one. A long-term care plan is more than just a long-term care insurance policy — it’s about both how to fund care, where you want to get care and how the family will play a role.

3. Incorporate the right amount of life insurance

While life insurance seems fundamental to any financial plan, many clients do not have the right type and amount of insurance.

Only 4% of advisers said all their clients have the right amount of life insurance. One-third of advisers said less than half of their clients had the right amount and type of life insurance in place.

Again, a sharp contrast emerged from what advisers were doing and what clients actually want. Among clients who felt they had the right amount of life insurance for retirement, 69% felt highly confident about their retirement preparedness. For those who said they didn’t have the right amount of life insurance, only 17% felt highly confident about their retirement. 

Advisers who want to better serve their clients have their work cut out for them. Go through your records and focus on topics around comprehensive planning, including long-term care and life insurance. If you want to be viewed as valuable for your fee and increase your referrals, the data show you what factors increase client satisfaction.

[More: 9 ways advisers can add value for clients]

Jamie Hopkins is director of retirement research for Carson Partners and managing director of Carson Coaching.

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