Companies that offer value beyond their core services increase profitability, maintain customer loyalty and sharpen their competitive advantage. Value-added services are a win-win situation that benefits both the service provider and the client.
Robert Fooks, partner and registered trademark agent at McLeod Law, says the relationship he has with his clients is comparable to a counsellor/advisor type of situation. “Once you find a lawyer that has experience in the matter you are involved with, technical ability should be an expectation and minimum requirement. In other words, you have to bring something else to the relationship that sets you apart and really helps the client.”
The ability to build trusting relationships with clients is key to successfully adding value-added services beyond the transaction. Trust is, after all, paramount in any relationship whether personal or professional.
Fooks explains, “Even though we are often called transactional lawyers, when I approach clients and client service, I never view it as a transaction. I always view it as a relationship. The better the relationship the better advice and help we can provide. A single scenario or opportunity may have multiple paths and outcomes, and in order to help the client find the best one, you want to get to know them as much as possible. The advice I give a 30-year-old single entrepreneur can be much different from the advice I give to someone who is 55 with three kids. I love the contextual nature of business situations and legal guidance.”
Kevin Suddaby, a senior mortgage associate with Accredited Mortgage Professional, agrees with Fooks and says that finding solutions for his clients beyond the transaction is very important. Suddaby, for example, often finds himself helping clients that are going through a divorce. “Helping people through this difficult time and finding solutions that allow them to move on with their lives is very rewarding,” he says.
The personal relationships that are built between service provider and client can be impactful and lasting.
“Our team never thinks of our clients’ financial wellbeing as simply a business transaction,” says Christina Chow, senior vice president, financial advisor, Eighth Avenue Private Wealth Management/Raymond James. “We want to build long-term relationships with our clients to help them achieve their goals.”
Goals, Chow says, are achieved by getting to know the clients and understanding what their personal objectives are. “Once we have a full understanding of what they need, we design a personalized plan to help them meet their goals. We implement the plan by helping them select the specific account types, investments products and services that meet their specifications. Once the plan is implemented, we continually monitor its progress to ensure it is working for them. Our clients’ involvement is crucial. We value our client relationships and continue to make any necessary adjustments to their plans moving forward.”
For clients needing extra guidance, Suddaby is happy to extend his 18 years of mortgage experience and knowledge to help his clients beyond the transaction. For example, clients looking at investment properties may need extra information and resources. “I assist a lot of consumers with investment properties as this product can be much more challenging to qualify for, so clients need additional skills to figure out the complex application process.”
Fooks finds that many issues that clients face are very diverse in nature. “A good advisor or lawyer has a good network. Leveraging that network and connecting people can be a massive value add. I take tremendous pride and satisfaction when I can connect two or more parties to create a mutually beneficial situation. This is magic when it happens!”
Added-value service also means sharing knowledge and expertise in other areas. Many service providers may be trained and certified in one particular area, but they also may possess valuable information and knowledge that can further support their clients.
“The immense firsthand knowledge I have of real estate,” says Suddaby, “is a huge value add to my customers. Having been a landlord, home renovator and builder provides insight into all aspects of mortgage lending. Customers really need support and concrete advice during the stressful process of buying, selling and moving. To provide a stable knowledgeable service cannot be replaced by any automated mortgage software.”
As technology becomes a key ingredient in many transactions from legal to real estate, service providers also must be prepared to guide their clients, as technology can often be confusing and lead to errors.
“With the velocity of technology, our clients have access to more and more information and online resources, but in my experience, rather than making things easier for clients this has made things more confusing. I am regularly presented with clients who have created contracts using one of the online services that are available, and while the contract may be okay from a drafting standpoint, more often than not it’s for an entirely different transaction or situation than the client intended,” explains Fooks.
At the core of it all, clients just want to feel valued by the service provider. “When I converse with and mentor junior lawyers here at the firm,” says Fooks, one of my go-to questions is, ‘what do clients want or expect from us?’ The standard response is ‘good legal work,’ to which I respond with another question: ‘Well, what is that?’ This second question is much more difficult to answer. What I tell them is that clients want to be taken care of. In most cases, clients want to download and know someone is there for them and we must have the ability to make them feel comfortable and reduce their worries. We don’t know everything, but we are smart enough to figure almost everything out, and that is what we need to convey to our clients.”
Chow agrees and says, “When it comes to wealth management, there is only one person that matters – the client. This is their life, their goals, their dreams. That’s why we focus on financial planning for their whole life, from their first job through to retirement and beyond. We build a roadmap that puts our client at the centre, one that takes them from today to tomorrow, pausing now and again to enjoy life’s great moments along the way. It really is an ongoing endeavour that evolves, as life does.”
Suddaby notes that the mortgage stress test blanketing all mortgage applications today has made mortgage brokers even more valuable. “Many mortgage applicants are still unaware of the dramatic changes that have occurred; so, much of what I do today is educational so that consumers can understand how they may be able to make a home purchase at some time in the future. Adjusting expectations and working to reduce debt with clients so they can get closer to their home expectations is certainly challenging but will keep mortgage brokers adding value to the public for many years to come.”