Living the Platinum Rule
The things that help build trust and loyalty (transparency, integrity, honesty and communication) transcend time and industry. In all honesty, providing great client service should be easy! After all, we are all consumers and clients at some point or another. We know what good customer service feels like and we know the pain of suffering through a bad experience. But our internal messes often get in the way of delivering great client experiences. We, the service providers, complicate things too much by getting hung up on our service models.
That's why I believe vendors and service providers need to forgo the Golden Rule of treating others as you would want to be treated, and instead opt for the Platinum Rule – treat others the way they want to be treated.
In a service role, it's imperative that you don’t look at things from your own perspective. You have to always ask, how is my client looking at/experiencing this? Let's say your client is used to dealing with a specific account representative who is the person they know, trust and treat as an extension of their own business unit. We're going to call her Sharon. If the client has a problem and they go to Sharon and suddenly instead of "Let me look into that for you and get back to you" she says "I don't handle that. Let me put you in touch with Tom," the process has another layer of complexity. Most clients understand that Sharon doesn't know everything, but they trust her to have a team of experts ready and waiting, which is partially why we were hired. So why are we making the client talk to Tom? That is asking them to do our job. And what if Tom passes them off to Ashley, because it turns out their problem isn't really his expertise either. Yes, all these people have always been part of the service team, but why are we making our clients do all the heavy lifting? As a service provider, this is our job.
The delivery process matters contractually, but not from a client experience perspective. They usually don’t care how you fix the problem; they just want you to fix it. That’s why it is so important we understand what success looks like from all sides; where is the real finish line? If you solve the problem but the client feels like they had to move mountains to get there, solving the problem is suddenly undercut by a bad process. If we focus on the Platinum Rule we are always solving problems through the lens of what our clients want – which isn’t just a solution, but also an experience.
It's so important we understand what success looks like from all sides.
True service excellence must be built on a customer focus. Instead of just focusing on shoring up our own internal processes through automation and digitization (which is important, no doubt), we have to always focus on what our customers need and experience. They don't really care if we've updated our technology stack, they just care that the reports we send them have fewer errors. They don't care if we hire dozens of data analysts; they just want more personalized recommendations. The things we as service-providers do to upgrade our own processes are critical to our own success, but it's the effects of those upgrades that matter to our clients.
Stop treating clients the way you want to be treated and start treating them the way they want to be treated.
Steve Nazzaro is an executive vice president and head of Institutional Investor Services. He also maintains responsibility for the teams that provide Training for all of Investor Services Americas. Steve sits on the board of Year Up, a nonprofit organization founded in 2000 and based in Boston.