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Blogs - The Prosperous Advisor
The Myth of the Satisfied Client
Wednesday, October 24, 2012

You see it all the time. “Your satisfaction is our goal” or “We’re not satisfied until you’re satisfied.” Consumerism has, for the most part, taught us that satisfaction is the standard. In the financial advisory business, satisfaction is unacceptable. Satisfied clients are not loyal clients and loyal clients are the only good clients. Thus, the myth of the satisfied client.  Satisfied clients will kill your business. The motto should be, “if you’re only satisfied, fire us!”

A fund family survey I recall from a handful of years ago stated that roughly one in ten affluent clients regarded themselves as “loyal”. The others labeled themselves as “moderately satisfied” or “satisfied”.    The moment I read those statistics, I had a “client service epiphany” and realized that there are only two categories of clients.  Clients are either loyal or disloyal. And if we accept that satisfied clients are, in reality, disloyal clients then we accept that our standard has to change. 

Satisfied clients are prepared to break up with you. They’re just waiting for you to give them a reason and eventually, whether intentionally or by fate, you will – a bad return year, an incorrect transaction or just lack of contact. If you’re not yet convinced that satisfaction is not the end pursuit, try this fun little test. Call your spouse today and tell them you’re now committed to making the relationship “satisfactory”.  Next, call a local florist…and possibly a motel for a single occupancy room.    

So the question is, how are advisors building loyal clients who provide consistent revenue and quality referrals? They’re providing a uniquely great client experience. That may sound somewhat vague so let’s get down to some specifics. Note that I won’t address investment management. Not because it’s not important, but because it’s not ultimately controllable. Focus on mastering the controllable aspects of your business and the uncontrollable things will become more interesting than important. Case in point: you trail a comparable index by 5% for a single year. A loyal client finds that interesting, but not critically important.  A “satisfied” (disloyal) client starts writing the Dear Advisor letter. 


Stop fact-finding alone and start taking your clients through an engaging discovery process. As you gather important data also ask powerful, thought-provoking questions such as:

  • “As you look back on your life, what role has money played in it?”
  • “What are a few of the things you value most in life?”
  •  “What’s the number one issue you’d like help with right now?”
  • “What’s your vision of a worry-free retirement?”
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Whatever you use for data gathering, include questions that get your prospect talking about what they care about, what’s on their mind and why they need your help.  Listen and engage with intention. You have to connect with a prospect before you can convert them to a client. And when you truly connect, clients will do whatever it takes to realize their vision.


Implement an unmatched service model. Phone calls by all staff should be handled with professional grace. Everyone on your team represents the entire firm when they’re interacting with clients, in any fashion. Haven’t we all told someone, “don’t do business there” based on a single, random incident? Recognize and reward great service by your team. Need a way to reward individual team members for great service and support? Sometimes the little things are remembered the most. That Team Leader who does a great job on the phone with a disgruntled client while you were unavailable today - how would he/she feel if they arrived at work tomorrow with a gift card to their favorite restaurant and a note from you that said, “our clients love working with us because of people like you – thanks.” Small cost, big benefit.


Love Affair Marketing is how you can really build long-term loyalty. Make sure you deliver quantity as well as quality here. Implement the must-do things like birthday calls/cards, newsletter/market commentary. In addition, start delivering the nice-to dos as well. Do something special for you’re A clients each year by using information you gather – an anniversary gift or birthday party. Spend time with them doing things you both enjoy. Most importantly, be genuine in all of your marketing efforts. Pursue your passions and interests and your clients, as well as guests, will get involved. Talk to your best clients enough that you don’t have to ask what’s going in their lives – you already know.   

(3) Comments

I get what you are saying, but I do not believe that loyal and satisfied are mutually exclusive. A survey that asks to grade between not satisfied, satisfied, very satisfied, and loyal is a very odd way of posing the question!

I do NOT want clients to be "loyal" to me, as that evokes shades of Madoff. Do I want them to stick around, do I want referrals, do I want them singing my praises? Of course... but a "very satisfied" client does all those. In the end, it's just semantics... I distrust most surveys because for that exact reason.

The Relationship/Love Affair marketing you address is a great example of building what you call loyalty. Great article, and sorry to nitpick - the wording just raised my hackles. :-)

Best, Trond Hildahl

Posted by Trond H | Friday, October 26 2012 at 12:33PM ET
Trond, Thanks for your comment. As the co-author of the article, I wanted to reach out to you. I agree with you, this is primarily about semantics - in theory, we're on the same page. The level of "satisfaction" that is referred to in the article is one that strives only to keep the client from leaving but doesn't stretch beyond that. We want that client relationship to produce introductions, engagement in the process and true connection with the advisor. As you said, your ideal client is "very satisfied" which produces the type of healthy loyalty we talk about in the article - loyalty not solely to the advisor, but to the experience that advisor provides. What Madoff did was an issue of his own integrity and based on deceit that would have negated whatever false loyalty existed, had clients known. I always love a good discussion about client relationships so if you ever want to visit, don't hesitate to reach out. Thanks again for your thoughtful comments, Trond.
Posted by Scott W | Thursday, November 15 2012 at 10:54AM ET
Your site provided us with valuable information to work with. Each & every tips of your post are awesome. Thanks a lot for sharing. Keep blogging, By TeknoKeren.com | Berita Terkini
Posted by iyus a | Tuesday, February 19 2013 at 1:54AM ET
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