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If there was a Phrase of the Year Award for our profession, “client experience” would win in a runaway.

And for good reason. As competition will increase, it is vitally important that financial advisory firms use every tool at their disposal to differentiate themselves from other money management providers. Those tools include the ability to provide a superior client experience.

Unfortunately, based on my conversations with practitioners across our profession, there is a dissonance between our desire to provide a great client experience and our understanding of what that constitutes. More than once, during discussions of the client experience, I wanted to say to my colleagues, “I’m sorry, but you keep using that phrase. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Creating a superlative client experience requires more than a robust client portal, easy-to-understand monthly statements, and an annual face-to-face meeting. It requires an authentic, feelings-based connection with the client. We must come to deeply know and care about every client. When we make that effort to reach out, the client will reach back.

The result will be a bond that can’t be broken by promises of better returns or lower fees.

Building this type of enduring relationship requires a significant investment in time and effort. That’s because we need to make time to talk with our clients in-depth instead of emailing them with generic updates and check-ins. That will be a tough transition for some advisors. Based on a recent study by Cerulli Associates, financial advisors are more than twice as likely to contact a client via email as compared to picking up the phone.

We need to flip that stat. According to Cerulli’s data, the average senior advisor serves 94 households. It will not be a crushing task for an advisor to double the number of phone calls or Zoom meetings to match the number of emails that are sent.