Céline Heinl
27 October 2021 8 min read

Everyone has a very specific idea of what a quality client journey is. Everyday we appreciate increasingly developed ‘customer experiences’ (mobile applications, e-commerce and video platforms). For financial institutions, digital tools guarantee smooth management and an impeccable client relationship. This is a demonstration of an establishment's serious approach and appeal. For all these reasons, training client relationship managers on new digital tools has become essential in a sales strategy’s success.

New tools to meet clients’ (new) expectations

What are the new tools? 

Artificial intelligence, at the heart of new digital tools (chatbots and robo-advisor) deserves the name of revolution. Digital tools enable us to optimise each stage of the client journey. With, for example, diagnosis and client assistance, or even the customisation of offers with predictive analysis. These are the new growth drivers for financial institutions in the coming decade. 

Two new categories of tools have appeared:

  • Tools based on artificial intelligence, such as chatbots (interactive text or audio conversation systems) and robo-advisors (chatbots and applications specialising in financial advice). 
  • Hybrid solutions offer a comprehensive client experience, between providing automated information and physical advice

What are clients’ new expectations? 

‘Personas’ (client profiles) are ranked by age group (Millennials, Baby-Boomers, Seniors), socio-professional categories and buying behaviours. One expectation remains universal however: that the advisor understands and uses the technologies each client wants. 

In this way, the question is no longer whether advisers will use digital tools, but how mastering these tools will enable them to establish an effective client relationship in the short and long term. 

Selfcare: a desire for independence from clients 

The Selfcare approach refers to a set of solutions enabling the client to find relevant information as a given moment, thanks to content offered by the company. This content is available through chatbotsrobo-advisors, or even FAQs and semantic search engines deployed on a brand’s website. 

In this way, the client can very quickly find the answer to their questions themselves. A figure confirms this trend: 81% of clients try to solve their problem themselves before contacting an advisor. Selfcare demonstrates both the capacity for responsiveness (rapid distribution of content) and the quality of information put in place by a financial institution. 

If the data sought is too complex or requires explanation, the client can then turn to their advisor. This is what creates the strength of hybrid solutions, at the heart of the phygital approach. 

An ‘expert advisor’ for a comprehensive client experience 

Selfcare or client empowerment leads the latter to expect their advisor to play an expert role. Once again, a client is initially looking to gather a set of data, with the aim of putting together a knowledge base on the different types of investment. What logically happens next is to wait for their advisor to provide expert advice in order to help them make their decision. 

In this respect, the customisation of services (from ‘one to one’ marketing), has emphasised client expectations. From their digital experiences in other sectors, clients have a very precise idea of what high-end support is. For example in retail (buying hybrid cars or domotic equipment for the home) or events (professionals used digital technology in their sales proposal: wedding, honeymoon, travel, etc.).  

These sectors offer impeccable client journey models. In terms of the quality of the digital experience, the personas targeted by financial institutions expect nothing less in terms of investing their money. They turn towards the highest quality offers, which translates in the banking sector into accomplished phygital solutions. This is perfectly structured and distributed information, with the support of a financial advisor when needed. 

Training for client relationship managers is evolving

Clients’ new expectations highlighted in the previous chapter are reflected in the disciplines taught within training organisations. Digital technology is omnipresent and the client relationship is now being taught through the prism of behavioural analysis.  

To get an idea of this development, the simplest thing is to examine the list of knowledge and skills targeted in training for client relationship managers: 

Digital client relationship:

  • Fields concerned by the digital transformation (business models, client experience, client connection and reputation).  
  • Understanding and mastering social networks (typologies, ZMOT, tribe phenomenon and the media consumer).  
  • Cross-channel/Omni-channel selling, mobile environment, data, big data and AI.

Needs and behaviours of digital clients:

  • Client perceptions and behaviours: basic/drivers/bonuses. 
  • Client listening techniques applied to a digital environment, helping formalise client journeys. 
  • Digital user profiles:
  • The connected user; 
  • The mainstream user; 
  • The functional user; 
  • The remote user; 
  • The resistant user.

 Client journey and digital practices: 

  • Understanding the personas; 
  • Continuously improving the client relationship (new management indicators, construction of a shared vision); 
  • Succeeding with internal change (managing projects through the agile method, developing and promoting the client culture and becoming an agent of change). 

These lessons give a concrete vision of the multitude of skills necessary for financial advisors to respond to new client expectations. Mastering digital tools consolidates all this knowledge. But that’s just a first level! The next challenge is to refine the customisation of the service proposed, in order to answer the latest questions and propose the most relevant investments to the client.  

In this perspective, we now talk about ‘augmented advisors’, capable of guaranteeing an overall phygital experience. This is what we’ll see in the next part. 

Training for client relationship managers: understanding and adopting the stance of an ‘augmented advisor’

Why has the new term of ‘augmented advisor’ entered financial institutions’ vocabulary? As a consequence of the following observation: the first effect of digitalisation is that clients systematically turn towards their mobile application (or their computer) instead of visiting a branch.  

Selfcare leads clients to be better informed. A physical interview with an advisor therefore results in a need for expertise from the client, with respect to a situation that is deemed complex. 

On their part, the client relationship manager manages an increasingly high number of clients. The strength of digital tools is to release client relationship managers from common, time-consuming tasks. The latter may therefore focus on the actions perceived by the client as having real added value. In this context the ‘augmented advisor’ relationship strategy has developed to offer an increasingly high quality phygital experience.  

Augmented advice: improved productivity thanks to automation tools

‘KYC’ (Know Your Customer or Know Your Client) technology enables us to automatically identify a company's clients and radically improve client relationship managers’ everyday actions. A range of tools take on specific tasks along the client journey. 

Optimised onboarding processes 

With digital tools, the average time for onboarding has been reduced from two hours to less than twenty minutes. Automation enables us to rapidly execute tasks that used to be tiresome for the client and the advisor (gathering information, creating documents such as the engagement letter, reports and advice sheets). 

Assistance in evaluating the client’s profile and needs 

Digital solutions summarise all the client data upstream of the first appointment. For example, certain tools offer the advisor recommendations on the types of investment related to the data gathered. Other tools enable them to adjust a rate according to the client’s risk profile. 

Automated request processing with chatbots 

Simple, first level requests can be very time-consuming for advisors. Chatbots, these intelligent conversational assistants reduce the load for client relationship managers by automating answers to basic questions.  This is one of the major advantages made possible by digitalisation. This has enabled a large number of banks to considerably improve the client experience, while upskilling advisors towards more expert tasks. 

Augmented advice: tools designed for the client’s independence and to customise offers

The strength of the phygital approach: the example of simulation tools  

As we saw in the first part of this article, Selfcare meets a demand for independence from the client. The latter expects high-quality information content. In this perspective, simulation tools enable the client to have an initial visual and costed appreciation of the investment options at the heart of their concerns (retirement or income simulator). These first projects help contextualise the investment goals.  

The physical appointment is therefore better prepared. In this way, the advisor adopts the stance of an expert, offering their skills to respond to the latest technical questions leading to the client making a decision. 

Customisation concerns products as well as services 

Nothing is more satisfying for a client than to have the certainty that they are choosing the right investment product. For this, the ideal client journey must have premium content, as well as attentive listening (and a meticulously detailed answer) from their advisor. Within this framework, suitable digital tools provide the possibility to optimise the customisation of offers/services throughout the client journey.  

The dashboard of a banking institution’s digital platform can therefore highlight the essential details discussed in a physical interview with the financial advisor. The browsing history enables us to offer publications that match the client’s preferences. This level of detail is inspired by the user experience developed in the luxury sector. 

The multitude of tools to assist client relationship managers (onboarding, online questionnaires, client data collection and history) is part of a comprehensive phygital ecosystem (KYC, monitoring and client relationship). The objective is twofold: to provide the best client experience possible to support investment decisions. In this value chain, the client relationship managers contributes fully to the success of financial institutions’ sales strategies. Training advisors on new tools is therefore essential. It alone enables client relationship managers to meet increasingly demanding client expectations.