What You'll Learn In Today's Episode:

  • Doing things from the ground up and experiencing them as a client enhances attention to detail and commitment to excellence.
  • Creating a positive client experience from the moment they arrive at the office is crucial for reputation and client satisfaction.
  • Understanding the client’s experience in various processes allows for better guidance and advice.
  • Financial advisors should go through processes as a client to gain a deeper understanding and improve the client experience.
  • Empathy, problem-solving, and continuous improvement are essential in delivering exceptional service.

In this Worlds to Conquer episode, Jamie discusses the pivotal role of client experience in financial advising. She underscores the necessity of building from the ground up and encourages advisors to immerse themselves in the client’s journey to truly understand their needs and perspectives.

Exploring parallels with other industries like construction, she discusses how understanding a client’s journey, whether opening accounts or building a house, can elevate advisors’ ability to provide tailored guidance. Jamie’s advice is clear: walk in the client’s shoes. By undergoing processes as clients themselves, advisors can gain invaluable insights, fostering empathy and refining problem-solving skills crucial for exceptional service. Continuous improvement, she emphasizes, is key to delivering an unparalleled client experience.

Read the Transcript Below

Jamie  

Doing something for yourself before your clients do that action or you recommend the client to take that action ensures that you have high quality while continuously improve products and services. It shows a commitment to excellence and respect for the clients experience which can significantly enhance reputation and increase client satisfaction and lead directly to referrals because now you speak from a place of authority instead of assumption. 

 

Jamie  

Welcome back TPR Nation this is Jamie Shilanski in a episode of Worlds to Conquer and lessons were learned this surge lessons were learned and it was so phenomenal to experience so at our RIA up in Anchorage, Alaska, Shilanski and Associates my mom and dad Floyd and Rosa Shilanski started the practice back in 1981. And as we were coming up in the business, my brother and I and my baby brother Micah Shilanski they would make sure that we had a plethora of experiences, and we had to start from the ground up. What does the ground up mean? It means we were the janitors we were the first one on site wiping things down to restocking cabinets. We graduated on to filing and then went on to cold calling and then went on to earn insurance. I mean, we really worked from the bottom up. Now, we work from the bottom up because my parents didn’t believe one in nepotism, and two, they also you know, sometimes especially when they were first starting their practice, they might not have had staff to do all that they didn’t have pay roll to hire all these people to hire a janitorial service. If you have a commercial office space today, it costs $1000 a month for somebody to come in vacuum, wipe down the desks and then take out your garbage. It’s a lot of money. And when you’re starting your practice, you don’t have that kind of money. But sometimes you got kids and those kids came in and they became the laborers. Now, the important part of understanding this is just because my brother and I were hired to start as janitors when we were literally dusting off vents and wiping down, I hate doing windows to this day? I hate doing windows because it’s not cleaning windows. It’s the recleaning and recleaning and recleaning of windows that I hate until my father was satisfied that no streaks were coming through. But he would reinforce to us so on Saturdays, we would get up as a family and either if we weren’t cleaning the house, we were cleaning the office and my dad would pack us all up and he would go down in his office and work and my brother and I would do all the janitor stuff in the building. And so at this time in the 1980s they you know, had a shop about 20 people and lots of different financial advisors. We were downtown Anchorage was probably about a 2300 square foot space. And own that space down there and so we would have to do the janitorial services. And the importance about doing this was that my dad never let us do a shoddy job because how we do something is how we do everything. And so if we did something lazy, everything that we did was assumed to be lazy. And that became this reinforced lesson to us. And the reason it mattered so much to us is because by the time we got to the place where we were able to or we were allowed to answer the phone so by about 10 years old, we were answering the phone, at Shilanski and Associates and my father would always come by and insist: Smile, smile, smile. Now he wasn’t saying the way that you know this whole woke culture talks about what is smiling. It didn’t matter what gender was. You had to smile when you answer the phone, and my dad told me you can see a fake smile in person you cannot hear a fake smile. You cannot hear a fake smile. And so the infliction of your voice changes the reception on the phone changes for the person that you’re talking to when you’re enthusiastic and you’re happy to do your work so everyone has a smile when they answer the phone at Shilanski and Associates. And this is something that I’m still trumpeting to the younger generation as they come up at the office. And what it gave us was his insight and perspective from the bottom up. So from the moment we walk into our building to this day, I am looking at surveying the parking lot. I just had a meeting with our team unfortunately the very end of Surge I had to kind of have a come to Jamie meeting with our team because we got done with a six week surge. You know, we saw 400 different households who impacted a lot of lives and we worked really, really hard. But as we came out those last couple of days, that’s when everyone started to get a little bit more lackadaisical. And so, you know, I came to and I said, guys, here’s the problem, and we’re so hyper aware of that client experience that happens from the moment I pulled in that parking lot. When I pulled on that parking lot, I was surveying how many open parking spots we had in front of our building. And one of the reasons is is that our employees are allowed to park in our office parking lot when we are not in Surge so they don’t have to pay for downtown parking. We are in surge, they have to go do a parking pass at one of the parking garages and leave all the spaces open for clients. But as I pulled in, we had a couple of people that were hybrid employees there so they didn’t park anywhere else, they parked in the parking lot and I’m counting the parking spaces. Now why? Why does that matter? I want to know how many virtual appointments we have and how many in house I’m not even parking my own car until I know that information. And so I call my CEO I’m checking the parking lot. I’m going through the calendar and saying okay, if these be assuming everyone drives separately and they don’t work together to deliver and go into the calendar, alright, I come in the office and I’ve got two people who were not dressed the way that I thought they should be dressed when they were still in Surge. So I said immediate everyone in a room and we got everybody in the room and we had a little come to Jamie meeting about everything we do counts. And so I said guys, from the moment I pulled up in this parking lot, I’m looking for parking spaces. I’m making sure we don’t have trash and debris from the homeless that just have taken over downtown Anchorage like most metropolitan cities outside of our doorway. I don’t want handprints I don’t want smudge marks. So I’m gonna bring their dog in I don’t want licking marks on the door. I don’t want any of these things. I want a fresh citrus smell when you come in the office. I want all of the drinks restocked after every single client appointment and the drinks pulled forward. So people are raising their hand deep into the refrigerator. Why? Why do I care about all of these really tiny details? And he’s like, Guys, what’s the average age of our client? Well, the average age of our client at Shilanski and Associates is about 50 years old. So relatively young person, somebody that may have difficult time navigating the ice, right? I know after I turned age 40 I don’t bounce off the pavement like I used to in my 20s. So when I pull up in the parking lot if my very first experience is that I cannot find a parking space in a downtown location. Then when I open up that door, who am I going to take my rage out on the very first person I see working for that organisation and so our relationship manager that’s sitting in that lead spot in the very front of the doorway. They’re going to get somebody that’s already frustrated already coming in already complaining about downtown parking. And so if I can alleviate that by making sure from the moment our client arrives outside of our building, we have a heightened experience for them. They can’t I can’t control everything. I cannot control the homeless population being downtown. What I can do is make sure the homeless population isn’t camped out in front of our door. So we have that happen a lot of times so we’ll make a cup of coffee, we’ll put a snack together we’ll wake somebody up and say hey, let me give you something to warm you up. Let me feed you but then I need you to shove off I need you to move on because we’re going to have clients come in now out of the hundreds of times we have done this with homeless people we’ve had one or two negative experiences for the most part people are like Thank you, of course I’ll clean up my stuff all move away, you know, and they and they move on pretty respectfully because they’re human beings. And then we talked about dresscode and dresscode is one of those very specific your in particular business and how you want to run your practice. So I know that suit and ties and dresses don’t work in Silicon Valley. A lot of the tech places Okay, that’s cool, but I don’t I don’t live in Silicon Valley and I’m not in one of the tech places. And so I talk to especially this younger generation that hasn’t been taught how to dress appropriately in the workplace that we’re going to elevate our standards and they say Guys listen, I’m a jeans and hoodie kind of girl. I’m a beer by a bonfire for a good time kind of girl. But the reality is nobody’s cutting the million dollar checks when I’m in a hoodie and jeans at a bonfire. When I come into my office, the work I do is not casual. Therefore I do not dress casual. We’re going to dress professional and I expect every single one of you to be dressed to a level where I could pull you into a client meeting and you look as such. For the younger gentleman in our office sit up in your chair, sit up in your chair, you are a man, not a mouse, shoulders back, hold yourself a little bit higher. Ooh, to do these things. These are important these confidence building factors matter. They translate to the client experience and everything we do is taken into account. And so if we implement a new phone system, how long can a person stay on hold before they’re annoyed? Guess what? Somebody did a social science on it years ago, and I’m pretty sure it’s about 20 seconds. 20 seconds and we’ve all been on those like infinite holds. And then the attendant will come back on and say Hey, Jamie I’m still on the line with you, I’m working with a colleague I want to you know, you’re not forgotten. I’m gonna put you back on hold. I apologize for this delay, but I’m still here with you. And I’m like, Oh, great. Well, thank you, you know, but if I don’t hear for somebody 45 seconds, I’m looking at my phone counting how much time has lapsed and thinking, Gosh, what a lousy experience you know, they probably forgot about me they’re probably chatting to other people. Or how about this one? If your office now uses some type of bot or messenger system in which you are dealing with an attendant and the airlines are really moving towards this one Delta hasn’t figured out Alaska does not have this one figured out yet. But you get transferred over so first up your bots when you type in your message because they want you to go to the message queue. So you type in your message you get a bot did this help? Yes No. Yes. No. Okay, great. didn’t help. I’m going to transfer you over to a live person. You get this live person on the thing, they want you to reinstate all of the information that you went through stating with the original one. I do a lot of copy and pasting. So

 

Jamie  

if I’m, if I know I’m with a bot, I’ll open up a notes chat and I don’t have to go type everything again. I just copy paste, copy, paste move forward. So as we’re going through this experience, you know the timeliness matters. So if somebody is getting back to me in the next you know, five or 10 seconds, I know that they’re actively engaged with me. But if I’m waiting 15-20 or 30 seconds for the person to message me back, I’m thinking great. You’ve got 12 other things open on your desk that you’re working on this call queue with this message queue and now I’m getting forgotten. So now I’m having a really poor experience. So we’re so hyper aware of not just how other people are doing things, but also about how we’re doing things. So if we change a phone protocol, the first thing that we have to do as an office is we go test it. Now I want to hit the fast forward button. I talked to you a lot about how our team members all these little details matter. But this is the significance of financial advisors and those coming up in the space need to adhere to this as well. So I’ll share with you that at Shilanski and Associates our RIA up in Anchorage Alaska, we have you know a handful of different financial advisors and we have different pots we have a relationship manager and our operations personnel. Our relationship managers cannot give advice but they have the most frequent contact with clients. Our operations personnel is responsible for the movement of money. So they move money on behalf of the financial advisors instructions, so here’s the importance of having to do everything from the ground up. And that is so that you can speak with experience. And so in our financial advisors, you know per view, we talk a lot about when you open account, when you transfer account, how many of them have opened up an account with your custodian? How many of them have sat through the client experience, not just open up the 401k that they’re participating in? And really, it was just the payroll person assisting them, but how many of them have transferred their old 401 K’s into a new plan new IRA with your custodian? How many of them have met with a financial advisor, gone through the options made their appointment with an operations personnel and gone through the client experience as if they were a client as if they were a client? And this is why it is so important. Recently, I had an opportunity where we have a new operations person starting with us and I have my chief operations officer, and she’s phenomenal. She’s got 30 plus years of being in the industry in the operations capacity and now she’s running our practices the integrator under the Entrepreneurial Operating System. And so she was training this operations personnel, and I had an opportunity to be training a young protege that was coming up in the financial advisory space, and we had the opportunity to transfer the protegees 401k. And so I said great, this is a beautiful opportunity. Why don’t we go into a conference room and we’re going to set this all I want everything set up and I told them not on the fly ahead of time. I said I want to book an appointment. I want to make sure you guys get the statement. I want to have the new paperwork filled out. I want to go through all of these different steps. And it was so enlightening for me to do so. Because as I sat there, the operations person sitting across from me was learning how to open up a new account and how to get the old employer on the phone, how to get the statement, how to get the transfer and do all of those steps. But the operations person because they’ve been in the industry for my chief operations officer because she’s been in the industry 30 plus years. It’s been a long time since she sat in a conference room and went through those logistics steps about how we communicate this to clients. And so it was really enlightening for her as well to hear the dialogue and for that protege for me to have to explain things and say okay, great, because here’s what the Chief Operations Officer failed to realize that the person she was training the operations personnel knew how to open an account, right client new account, here’s the checkmarks here’s what we’re supposed to do, etc. But they had no idea what a 401k IRA was. They had no idea that the new 401k was gonna have two different components, a Roth as well as the traditional. 

 

Jamie  

They didn’t realized that if we had done the transfers, what would trigger a taxable event if they had structured it that way because she was brand new, so she didn’t get here the dialogue she hadn’t sat in a conference room for a really long time to hear how the protege in the role of the client was going to ask the questions. And so it gave him the opportunity now to experience that as a client because guess what, when we stop thinking of ourselves as financial advisors, and we think of ourselves as clients, we have very similar questions to those of clients. In fact, I was dealing with another one of our financial advisors most recently, and I said, Hey, listen, I want to go through some business tax returns with you and I want to have some different conversations about Schedule C, and 1099 income. And so we started going through it and then the questions and I say, I want to applay it to you and your wife as if your clients I’m gonna use my client voice because that’s how I know best to deliver this information. And if you’re open to it, by the end of this call, you’re going to extract things that are applicable to you and your wife’s situation. And you should be asking me relative questions, because I’m going to make tought provoking enough for you to do so. And he was like, great. So my goal was to teach him what about 1099 income, about schedule C’s about how we talk to clients about certain things, especially when it comes to write offs? I can’t say the word write off without thinking of the Schitt’s Creek sketch. It’s write off. What’s the write off? It’s a write off, who’s writing it off. That’s amazing skit. So then we went into it and I started my dialogue started talking about 1099 start talking about LLCs. A lot of new financial advisors, especially if you’re only we’re used to working with individuals don’t understand that an LLC is not a tax election. It’s a legal entity structure, you still have to go make a tax election. And so we talked about that. As we’re going through this just thought provoking enough. He was like, hey, what about this what about that and it was tied to his personal situation. I said phenomenal and and we went through and I said, you know, I’ve got this spreadsheet that I use for Schedule C’s, and why don’t you fill it out? It’s got two tabs. The first tab looks exactly like what a Schedule C looks like. The second tab is to download transactions. One of the things I make sure my business owners do is that all business purchases go on a separate business credit card so that we can dump all those transactions out and categorize them every single month. I don’t do this personally for them. They must do it themselves or hire an accountant, but they can download all the transactions from you know, discover American Express, Bank of America, whoever it is that they’re using, and then they can go through and tag those items on which category on the schedule C it might fall under. And so as I went through this, this is the first time he was doing it for himself because he was always a W two income or maybe had very small or you know, 10 a night and so he says to me, he says gosh, you know, keeping pictures of all these receipts, uploading them going through the transactions just feels like a lot of work. I’m not sure it’s really worth it for a couple you know, what might end up being a couple $100, a couple $1,000 whatever. And he said, You know what? I’m so glad that you said that, because I just had this conversation with my son. Do you mind if I talk to you a little bit about what was it? And he said, yeah what was it? I said I was working with [Lane] and he was his taxes, and had the same question was like, gosh, you know, I’ve got this 1099 income that I earned from the side hustles that I did, but I didn’t do a really great job of keeping receipts or it’s going to be kind of a burden to go back and get my receipts. You know, I’m going to have to make constructive receipts out of this credit card stuff. I don’t think it’s really worth it. Can I just put my income in and see what my tax liability is going to be? And I said absolutely. That’s a great way to first come at it. Let’s go ahead and do this because taxes at the end of the day are all about tax tolerance levels. So go ahead, you know, and he got done. And when he ended up finishing, dumping and all his income, you know, taking everything possible into account but not doing a schedule C. He goes oh my goodness, you know, the tax liability was $3,600 which he was not anticipating that’s not what he had tucked asside for his tax liability. And I said, okay, and he goes, Oh, shoot, should I just go back and look for everything. And I said, well, that’s going to be worth an hour of your time to do it. And he said, yeah, it probably is. And I said great. Okay, let’s start so I brought him up, give him a copy of my spreadsheet. Let him start using it. He started downloading transactions. He started going back and finding his receipts, he started uploading them into a Google Drive folder marked with the tax year on it, then we got done with the exercise and he saved him $2,000 I mean he did a really good job because he a lot of startup costs going in for the 1099 income and so I said okay, so in the two an hour you spent you say $2,000 making your work $2,000. Is this a good rate for you? He’s like, Oh my gosh, yes. And I said great. Well, the next time you’re doing taxes for somebody and you get super frustrated, or they say hey, I don’t know if it’s really worth it. I don’t have it now and he goes oh, I’m gonna tell him about my own experience. And you know, even if they can mark off some of that, and I said exactly. Now you’re coming at it from a place of knowledge. Now you have gone through that experience, you know what is like you know what to say to clients. And this was really instrumental for me. When in 2020 right before the housing boom went crazy. My spouse and I sold our house that we lived in for almost 20 years and bought a new construction home in a neighborhood that we had a long pipe dream to live in. And so we got it out of steel and it was new construction. It was at the place where I can still make decisions. And I could say you know I want this floring, I want this trim, I want this paint, I want this you know, countertops, etc. Now prior to this prior to 2020 I had talked at building a house with clients. I hadn’t talked with clients and here’s what this means. I would say Hey, Mr. Mrs. Client, we need to budget about 12% overage for your new construction because contractors habitually come over their estimated amount. Now at that time, I was using industry averages, I was using that particular contractor I would go and I would get the bid to actuals and I would say give me your last three years and put in what it actually came out at. And of course the contractor is going to tell you well that’s because you know this customer wanted all these custom upgrades they need all these elections. Of course, they were humans making human decisions, just like my client is going to make a human decision as well. And I would take the average and I’d say hey for the contractor that you’ve selected, it looks like they run 12 and a half 13 15% over you know, let’s just go ahead and estimate that already into this I’m sure won’t happen to you but just in case it does, etc. And I would just use that from a place of, you know, understanding how money works, understanding how choices work. Now fast forward 2020 when I’m in the throes of building things myself, am I coming at it with a completly different perspective of understanding the burden and the frustration that goes in contract building? Yup, sure I am. And I’ve got a lot 

 

Jamie  

more appreciation for it, right? And so now I can talk to clients and say, Hey, listen, one of the very first things that you need to do is while you’re simultaneously building your house, you need to also hire an architect or landscape architect to give you an idea of how you’re going to use the land. Now before you make any hardscape decisions. You need to also come with a lighting plan. And so we want a lot of outdoor electricity things especially if you live in a place that gets dark at night like anywhere in the world except for Alaska during the summer. Then you might want to have outdoor living features you might want to have outdoor lighting features. And so you know stick is cheap when you pre plan to play that delay that stick down to run the electricity. Same thing with natural gas while the natural gas is not super cheap. Where are you going to run it to how are we going to do these different measurements how are we gonna do these different things? And so if we’re pouring you know concrete let’s wait three years till after the dirt work is done what the dirt work settle before we do concrete. So there’s a lot of experience that I now have that I would not have had before. So understanding that coming into it and doing something for yourself and we can’t have every single one of our clients experiences, right? Sometimes we’re just gonna have to use a place of reference. But that’s also where networking comes in. And that’s the importance of talking to people that have done things multiple times, so we can glean off of them the advice and so even when we were talking to one of our financial advisors, who in 2022 started building his first place we said hey, listen, I want you to budget 20% over right now. And he was like not gonna happen to me, I’m a super penny pincher and all this stuff and it’s not going to happen. Bolshevik totally happened to him. 100% ate a big old slice a crow pie came back and said you guys were right. This totally happened. I’m way over budget because we didn’t realize that when they give you all the faucet features, it’s gonna come right out of the box store. And so you’re gonna build a million dollar home with a $20 faucet. You know, instead of the nice mow on one or whatever, you know, brand that you want to elevate your property. And so you know these things you don’t know until you go through experiencing them or you’re smart enough to go have conversations with people who have had experience do them and listen to their advice and not think so arrogantly “Oh this won’t happen to me.” Now, I’ve shared with you why it’s so important to do things from the ground up. Our father and mother instilled these values in Micah and I from us very, very little and it gave us a very acute perspective of looking at things. But that perspective cannot live and die with us. We are empowered to train our team members, to go through this same process. So as you move into the summer months and you go slower in your advisory practice, one of the things that I’m going to do a call to action I’m going to challenge you to do is to pick one process in your office and go through it like a client does. Go through it exactly as a client does step by step. Do not forget neglect anything, go through it as if you were the client yourself. You’re going to have so many opportunities to understand the user experience what worked, what didn’t work, like if you send out a link, what does the verbiage in the link say? Maybe that’s important if the client is clicking on your Calendly link. Does it say something that actually means something to them, right? Time to visit with my financial advisor, important changes happening in my financial life that I want my advisor to be aware of, or does it say appointment? Appointment doesn’t necessarily mean anything doesn’t add any value. So what are you using there for the user experience? And also gives you credibility and trust. We like to talk to people that understand the perspective they know what we’re going through and add to our credibility when we come to these conversations. And we have a little experience and if it’s not our own experience, can we not share with them hey, I’ve had clients go through this. Here’s some of the things that they you know, wanted to make sure other people were aware of. Can they feel part of a community part of oh my gosh, I you know, somebody went through that I don’t want to make that mistake. Thank you so much. I’m going to make sure that was top of mine. And then, it also gives us a place to empathetic problem solve, especially if you have clients that are looking to move homes, change homes, build a home, etc. One of the things my father always tells our clients when they’re about to retire is right when the kids are about to move out of the house, you are going to own the biggest house you’ve ever owned in your entire life. That’s quote unquote, the dream house why? Because all sudden now that the kids are getting out of the house, you have money and time to put back into your living space, and you’re gonna have the biggest home that you no longer need. And then he tells the retirees he said in your lifetime, you’re going to have five homes, and so you have your starter home. Then you have a big home then you have your quote unquote dream home and you’re still going to move to more times after the dream home and most clients are like “Oh, no, Floyd. Not me, that is not going to happen. I am paying this house off. This is where I will die”. People do not die in their homes anymore. It seldom happens. You’re going to have more moves because the house is going to be too much for one party and nobody that can take care of. And normally in a household, one party becomes disabled they become unhealthy or unfortunately they pass before the other. You’re going to have multiple homes and if you don’t great to be the one that proves me wrong but I want to make sure we’re making prudent financial decisions. Knowing this! Knowing this information and then you can refine the experience. When we go through it as the client from the user end. You’re going to find all of the ways that you can make this so much better for the client that you can deliver so much value and use that filter when you’re going through it. Does this add value? Does this step enhance the client experience? And if it doesn’t, if it takes it, you know, it’s either adding or taking away there’s very very seldom times it’s neutral. It either adds to the client experience or it takes it away. For example, we offer a lot of sparkling waters in our office. Why? Because it’s on trend. We don’t have the same K cups all of the time. We offer, if we went to the springtime I want things that are citrus I want things that are alive. I want things that are light. When we go into the fall, I might have some apples some cider, we might have some different things of this nature. Everything enhances or takes away from the experience. It is seldom ever neutral. All right, and then it’s becoming the last point about doing all of this for yourself and doing an as the client would experience it is now the opportunity to train and enhance others as well. We must have the responsibility as business owners to train the people around us to see things that don’t come naturally to them. They don’t think it matters, but once we start showing it to them, and we start reinforcing the value of why it’s so important. They will start to see it in every facet of their life. And we will continue to cultivate a better generation of workers that really really care about the client and their experience. 

 

Jamie  

TPR Nation, this is Jamie Shilanski in an episode of Worlds to Conquer. Go find people who share your values and change the world!

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