When it comes to hearing the needs and opinions of the advisers who use your platform, there’s no such thing as too much or too often, writes Steve Coleman
Developing or improving products and services can only have great outcomes for advice professionals where the provider truly engages with them. Not just as a one-off but in a way where users of the technology are active participants in the development process.
Don’t work in the dark
In my experience there’s only one way to successfully build products or develop solutions for customers: ongoing, regular feedback from advice professionals with input and interaction throughout the process. However insightful or instructive feedback might be, if it’s followed by a six-month development period with no further contact until the big reveal, there’s an excellent chance the world will already have moved on.
It’s much more effective to bring advisers inside the process so initial feedback is just that – the start of a collaboration. It’s imperative to check in at each stage of the process: wireframe, prototypes, beta testing and so on. This constant dialogue of feedback lets you see how the product works in the context of a firm and its workflow with scope for change and improvement. That’s the only way to truly end up with something that makes life easier for advice professionals and their clients.
Talk to everyone, but listen more
However much our technology can do, it’s always going to be just one part of an advice firm’s process. By looking beyond our own interests as providers, and focusing instead on that end-to-end process, we can hear about the pain points, understand where the little (and not so little) frictions occur, and start to see how we can improve the experience for all concerned.
A broad view of the world helps here. We know we need to speak with as many different types of firms as possible, and then people in those firms who have different roles and requirements. I say ‘speaking’ but there’s much more to be achieved by listening. We want to give advice professionals of all types the time and space to share their reality and ideas of how things could be done better.
Professional time is a precious commodity and isn’t given up lightly. Be mindful of what you’re asking of people and offering in return. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how advice professionals are happy to share their time with us because they can see it has a positive and constructive purpose with tangible results for their businesses.
Do sweat the small stuff
Small changes can be surprisingly impactful. There’s a sense of perpetual progress in a series of manageable, incremental developments. Teams and clients alike can see results and feel momentum. This is one reason why frequent small-scale deliverables can be more effective than a single long-term project.
Another is that our fast-moving industry demands rapid change. Priorities, processes and even regulation can change quickly making smaller, tighter and more nimble projects a better option.
Focus on outcomes – how are you making it better?
This comes back to remembering that, as a provider, our technology or services are just part of the financial planning process. Even for specific actions, such as a transfer or onboarding a new client, as much happens off-platform as on. A development team isn’t working on a widget, they’re working on a way to save an adviser or paraplanner 10 minutes on a process they carry out most days.
Focus and priorities are the watch words here. If teams have too much on the go at any one time it’s much harder to get anything finished to the right standard, if at all.
A culture of collaboration and dialogue, of not limiting adviser contact to BDMs but including product and development specialists, means a better, more informed understanding of the outcomes we’re aiming for. These teams are generally in the best position to decide how to solve problems – they speak to advisers, know their product or process better than anyone and are focused on achieving outcomes in the most appropriate way. Empowering teams to put all this into action with the freedom to own processes and drive innovation can be incredibly powerful.
Listen, progress and listen again. Good things happen when you bring your customers closer to your product, development and design specialists.