High-net-worth (HNW) clients are a cream-of-the-crop vertical that, when provided with superior service, often lead to a steady stream of sound, qualified referrals. This group can also represent a long-term, high-loyalty demographic—making it even more compelling to attract and retain HNW clients to build a profitable firm.
Building strong, long-lasting client-advisor relationships is the key to achieving the “sticky factor.” In other words: creating service value so great that it makes it hard for clients to leave you. For example, adding bill pay services to the mix is a proven way to increase stickiness because it offers a value-added, highly sought-after service. Further, using an advanced, automated platform to perform bill pay tasks provides meaningful interactions and frequent touch points that enable firms to become more embedded with clients.
Overall, stickiness helps firms retain existing clients over the long term while also safeguarding against competitor-driven attrition. What’s clear is that the sticky factor is important. What’s not always clear is how you achieve it.
The goal is to consistently add value for clients that is so great it elicits that “I’ll never leave you” feeling. This doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, for many firms, it takes years to perfect services and support so reliable, consistent and valuable that clients never even consider jumping ship.
The most successful firms have mastered the art of developing client loyalty with a smart mixture of service offerings and building unbreakable relationships.
First, let’s consider services. As a trusted advisor, it’s up to you to identify services that add value for your clients and then be proactive in communicating them. High-net-worth clients assume that you have their best interest in mind—so be sure to approach them with needed services, like bill pay, before they have to ask. Consider when a client calls with an issue. Do you actively look for opportunities to resolve the issue with the services you provide?
According to Dixie McCurly, president and co-founder of Trusted CFO Solutions, “Clients usually call with issues, and that’s an opportunity to enhance your margin on value-added services. Think of it as welcomed feedback for whatever it is they need.”
Bill pay is one of the best examples of a true value-added service, especially for HNW clients. When you consider the financial complexity of a typical high-net-worth client, day-to-day bill payment can be exceptionally cumbersome. As such, outsourcing this task is highly appealing. And who better to outsource to than their trusted advisor?
Even better, firms that offer bill pay within a highly secure and automated platform can not only offer superior client support, but also lower operational costs for the firm.
Bob Jacobson, partner at Friedman & Huey Associates, LLC stated: “Before Bill.com, bill pay was something to be avoided. Now it is something to be marketed.”
From sticky to superglue
Offering value-add services like bill pay is just one part of the equation. To move from sticky to the superglue effect takes dedicated effort. From strong client communications to offering full workflow transparency, firms must ensure that client support is always top-tier.
Bill.com’s 2019 Hire/Fire Index study surveyed nearly 300 business clients to uncover the top drivers of client loyalty. The following list offers insight from this study and leading reasons why clients develop an “I’ll never leave you” mentality.
Offer highly responsive communication
The superglue effect will only occur when a firm has client communications down to a science. High-net-worth clients expect their advisors to be quick with responses and show a commitment to speedy resolutions.
The Hire/Fire Index study reported that poor communications was the leading factor in why clients fire or stop referring their accounting professionals. Top reasons for dissatisfaction in the area of communications included:
Not following up (60% of respondents)
Have to reach out more than once to get information (48% of respondents)
Having to talk with a different person each time contacting the firm (35% of respondents)
The key here is to have a sound client communications plan in place and ensure that your entire team is committed to it. Some firms go as far as forming a communications task force to ensure that their HNW clients get the attention and responsiveness they deserve and demand.
Christine Triantos, partner at Anton Collins Mitchell, offered this advice: “Set expectations that team members respond to clients within a certain amount of time. Schedule regular face-to-face meetings or phone calls. If you’re not in front of them, you’re not building a consultative relationship, and it’s easy for them to disengage.”
To ensure consistency, Aaron Berson, CPA, CEO and co-founder of Fringe Advisory Co. shared his firm’s approach to effective client communications: “We use the pod structure. One person in the pod owns that relationship, and it becomes very personal. Clients know which team member they’re going to speak with.”
Friction occurs when processes are inefficient and cause clients to perform unnecessary tasks. The goal is to make the bill pay process as simple and frictionless for clients as possible. This can only occur when firms adopt advanced technology that supports a fully automated workflow. Leading bill pay systems remove manual processes, such as using paper-based checks, to streamline the process and make working with your firm as easy as possible. Remember, workflow has to meet the convenience and efficiency requirements of high-net-worth clients.
At the heart of positive client relationships is consistency. HNW clients rely on uniform processes for managing financial transactions across vendors and accounts. At every point in the process, clients should be aware of what their role is, what is expected of them, and experience the same level of service with every interaction.
Consistency is much easier to deliver when the process is repeatable. Clients want to follow a workflow that is familiar at every level through to review and approval. This helps mitigate the client’s time investment while ensuring that bill pay transactions are processed efficiently.
According to firm owner Tate Henshaw, co-founder of Arc Business Management, “When it comes to HNW individuals, efficiency of their time is paramount. The minimum amount we can involve them, but still accomplish the end goal, the better. Overall, it [using Bill.com] has made the bill pay process repeatable and scalable.”
Achieve trustworthiness and transparency
HNW clients are placing their financial well-being in your hands, making trustworthiness one of the most important factors in creating stickiness. In fact, the Hire/Fire Index study reported among the top reasons clients hire a firm is their trustworthiness (50% of respondents).
Additionally, firms can build trust much more quickly when the process is fully transparent. Giving clients on-demand access to their data and visibility into the bill payment process keeps them in the loop and offers peace of mind that transactions are getting processed and payments are made accurately and in a timely manner.
High-net-worth clients represent a profitable and desired revenue stream for firms. For those who wish to either create from the ground up or build upon their existing HNW client base, they must understand the demands of this vertical—including superior client communications; a streamlined, frictionless and consistent workflow; and an unprecedented level of trust and process transparency. When these top needs are met, the sticky factor can become a reality.
How Bill.com Can Help
Bill.com’s wealth management offering is tailored to meet the needs of wealth management or single-or-multi family office firms seeking accounts payable software to manage bill pay for high net worth individuals. Gain the confidence you need to manage your clients’ bill pay activities with increased efficiency, speed and security.