Time to Rethink How You Deal with Top Clients

July 22, 2014

by Dan Richards

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Airlines like American, Delta and United are unlikely role models for customer service. In fact, along with cable and phone companies, the industry consistently antagonizes its customers. (Check out this hilarious video-gone-viral, United Breaks Guitars.) Yet there is one area in which these airlines excel and from which advisors can learn – and that’s how they treat their very best customers.

Making top customers feel special

Everyone is familiar with the Pareto Principle, more commonly known as the 80-20 rule: For most businesses, 80% of revenue comes from 20% of customers. But few advisors are familiar with a growing body of research showing that profit skews even more dramatically than sales. Research by Columbia professor Larry Seiden suggests that for many businesses, the 20% most-profitable customers account for 100% of profitability. At the same time, the 20% least-profitable customers can actually cost businesses 100% of their total profits – an insight that has led companies like Fidelity and Best Buy to take dramatic steps to deal with unprofitable customers.

How to win multi-million dollar clients

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Dan Richards
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Most advisors recognize that they should give their largest clients special treatment. Depending on the advisor, he or she may:

  • Offer to meet with those clients more often
  • Return those clients’ messages first
  • Develop more detailed financial plans for large clients
  • Meet at the time and location that suits those clients, rather than asking them to come to the advisor’s office during regular business hours
  • Invite them to lunch after meetings

For most top clients, this experience feels only slightly different than what an average client receives. Contrast that with what United, American and Delta offer their top customers:

  • A dedicated phone line answered by its best-trained staff to take reservations and deal with any issues
  • Special check-in lines and priority boarding onto flights
  • Fast-tracking through the security screening process
  • A lounge with complimentary drinks and snacks in which to wait for flights
  • Priority when it comes to upgrades and booking free flights using frequent flyer miles
  • Concierges at major airports to greet top passengers and ease any issues

And for United’s very top passengers, the airline offers its secretive Global Services Program that will hold connecting flights and zip passengers directly to planes waiting on the runway.

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