Listen To The Podcast
We talked with Julie about:
- The importance of engaging clients on an ongoing basis, through all phases of life
- How the Absolute Engagement Engine brings technology and people together in a different way
- How to capture people’s feelings and needs to deliver an experience that’s truly engaging
About Julie Littechild:
Julie Littlechild is a recognized expert on the evolution of the client experience and client engagement. As the founder and CEO of Absolute Engagement Engine, a groundbreaking platform that helps financial advisors build meaningful connections by engaging clients on a deeper level on an ongoing basis through all phases of life, she leads strategic vision and product roadmap. Julie launched the company after working with and studying financial advisors and their clients for several years—learning that to deliver a truly engaging experience, advisors need to capture their clients’ feelings and needs at every moment.
Full Audio Transcript
Julie, welcome back.
Thank you. So good to see you.
Good to see you. This isn't your first rodeo, so let’s just jump in.
I saw you had rolled out this new Absolute Engagement Engine and I couldn't help but say tell us more so I extended an invite to have you back. It's just been so fun to see the relationships you've been building and all the connections across the wealth management space, financial services space, etc. And so let's just start with this new platform. What was the catalyst for getting this going and why? What's the why?
What's the why? You know, I think a lot of it goes back to just the kind of work we were doing, which I felt very good about. But the deeper we got into this idea of engagement and the need for advisors to engage, the more I realized we needed a different way to support advisors. So our focus had always been on doing the voice of the client surveys and these sort of broad engagements with advisors, which we continue to do for many large firms. But I was very kind of hyper aware that when you go out and do a survey at a point in time, you're missing a lot of the nuance around how clients are feeling, what they need in the moment, how those needs are changing, how couples are feeling. And I knew all of that was bound up in engagement. So that really led us to say, now how can we help advisors better and more effectively drive engagement.
Mm-hmm. So tell us more, what was the thinking to be able to get to this platform to be able to help hit on that business problem?
Yeah, so to some extent it started with a question. We said what's really driving engagement? And that was sort of thinking that had evolved over time but we came down to this idea that to deliver an experience that's truly engaging rather than just being satisfying means we need to create an experience that reflects how people are feeling, what they're concerned about, what they need. And then as soon as we said that we went, okay, the problem is those things are very personal and they change over time, right? I don't know about you but how I feel right now, it's probably different from tomorrow. And in particular within couples, you know, their needs are obviously often different. And so we took this idea of capturing point in time, one to many feedback, right? And said, let's build a technology that allows advisors to capture one-to-one real-time input and trigger the right response in an automated way. And let's do that right across the journey from the point somebody's a prospect to a new client to an existing client. And so that's the tech piece, right? It’s being able to do that in an automated way.
Okay. So tell me, what channel is this coming through? How are folks engaging with this? Is this the prospecting journey that goes through a post-meeting email and they get a survey? What are the triggers?
I can give you some examples. So at its core, this is a very flexible platform. So we have people engaging with it in different ways. There are different sort of use cases and features, right? But the simplest way to think about it is that we are capturing input at different stages of the journey. So just to give you an example, to bring that to life, if we're working with firms that are particularly focused on growth, what that would mean is as a prospect is coming in for that introductory meeting, as part of that process, they're now invited to share some input on not only what do they want to talk about but they're fed a series of questions that tease out how they're feeling about their financial future, what they're concerned about, what's on their mind, what they need to talk about. We're automatically capturing that from couples if it is a couple and bringing that together so not only does the prospect have a deeper understanding of themselves as they're coming in for that review meeting because we've sent an agenda to them but the advisor has too. But the advisor now has co-created the agenda they need to use for that meeting. So we kind of go from capturing that right input to here's the agenda to have a better conversation with that prospect. That idea kind of filters into all of the different use cases for the technology.
Okay. And just to clarify on the word prospects, are we talking about an individual or a family or are you also looking at potentially an M&A, a deal or even an advisor potentially joining another firm? Can it can be used in those applications as well?
Well, technically it could but we've really built it for advisors and the prospects they're dealing with. So whether that is a lead who visits their site and has not yet made a connection, how can we engage that individual to the prospect who's coming in to meet with them, and then right through to being a client and how do we engage on an ongoing basis?
Okay. So then is the firm taking this platform and looking at their user journey, and are you working with them then to identify where these triggers would go? Or is it kind of built into the platform to suggest where the triggers would go? How would one go about identifying these touchpoints?
Well, again, at the core it's very flexible. So technically a firm could create whatever workflows and polls and reports they want. However, that's hard work. So what we did was, we said where are those moments in the journey that would create the greatest opportunity for engagement? And we built those out. So we have recommended questions, reporting agendas. It can be completely configured for the client. It has to represent who they're dealing with, right? For our client in that case. But what we said was, look, those moments are really the ones I mentioned—once somebody's visiting that website or a social profile or maybe hearing about you from a referral source, when they're coming in for that meeting and onboarding, those were the points where we said let's build out those workflows. Let's create the polls and everything associated with it so it can be automated and easy for advisors to really implement.
Okay. Now, are you doing hand holding with to help them through that setup? Or are they really taking the platform and then kind of running with it independently?
Yeah. We're big believers that people need guidance in this kind of thing. So as much as yes, they could do it themselves, we have quite an extensive onboarding process where we're digging deep to understand what are they really trying to accomplish so which of the features actually make sense for them. Might not be all of them, and or it might not be them now. Maybe they want to roll it out over time, and then we work with them to configure those initial polls and structure the reports and customize the communication. So once that's up and running, it's very easy to maintain. But we really felt people needed some guidance to get started.
And different targets, right? Which I'm sure would totally change the volume of surveying or how you would survey them or what have you. So it sounds like you've basically built the framework and you've built the structure so much so that it's not just a survey but it's an output for actions, for that advisor to also have a pulse on where they're at through the journey of the client or prospect, I should say, all the way to the client.
Yeah. And it is funny because we battle terminology a lot because I think people get it in their head that a survey is this big thing we're asking clients to do. And look, I think those make sense to measure satisfaction or Net Promoter Score or to understand expectations and preferences. So our clients would continue to get that kind of data on an ongoing basis. The difference here is we're saying let's build input right into the process of delivering advice and meeting with clients and prospects. So it's not a big survey. It's two or three or four really clever questions that help us get into their hearts and minds.
Those questions are a secret sauce that's hard to be able to really narrow down, especially at that particular part of the journey. And also so that it's valuable, right? I sometimes see folks put together surveys and I'm like, oh my gosh, this would take like an hour to complete. Leave them there for 10 minutes to complete a survey. I'm sure you see drop off rates all the time.
Yeah, for large ones but the difference would be if you're thinking about these new features, you'd be spending two minutes answering a set of questions and we also recognize the clients aren't particularly good at articulating how they're feeling. I mean, human beings aren't. So yeah. We've really tried to curate questions that just quickly get to the heart of how are they feeling right now. Where are the differences between the couple? What kind of support do they need? It's still the advisor's job to dig into those things. Absolutely. So we can't do that for them. Absolutely. We can just make all of that really efficient. So when they start that meeting, they're starting ahead. They know exactly where they need to focus.
So out of curiosity, you're creating all this data. You've got perhaps maybe a little bit more apples to apples just maybe you could I'm sure split by firm size or things like that. Is that kind of, I'll call it like big data things you're also being able to help then say, in comparison with maybe another RA or with a particular size of AUM to be able to help give like a baseline to those firms? Is that an additional piece to it?
Yeah, we've done that with our large scale survey and people do find it helpful. So absolutely. If you look across firms I think there are insights to be gleaned even within them. We work with often larger firms. I mean, we work with smaller ones and individuals as well but for the leadership teams of the larger firms, what they're able to see is not only what that trending data is and what do our clients need and how can we support them more effectively but they're also able to see from one advisor to the next. Maybe someone needs some skills development or maybe they would benefit from some support. So I think that kind of feedback for them is really invaluable as well.
Absolutely. To be able to better support your team. Maybe it's the close of the sale that someone's fantastic at, and for someone it also might just be that client relationship side, right? And satisfaction or to overgeneralize but it sure helps to have some gleaning insights there too.
Oh, so fascinating too. And also that it's so focused just for advisors.
As soon as we launched, we had people asking us for about different cases and so at some level it's at the firm or on behalf of the advisor. Technically when you're in a service business, this makes sense. But right now we're just laser-focused on our core audience.
So tell us a little bit more about the launch. How was it received? What did you all do leading up to it? How have you let people know?
What was really interesting for me personally in all of this is we weren't just launching a product, we were transforming how we did business and in some sense how we'd be perceived. And that was a big question mark for me. I'd built a lot of relationships being known as the person who does this research or the firm that does these surveys. And then we were a fintech because creating the technology made sense. It was in response to a need. So we put a lot of effort, the whole team, into the marketing and PR and launch and then post-launch as well and I've been just blown away. I was at a conference this week and the number of people who are just saying, I've seen what you've been doing, it's so exciting, they're supportive. How can I help? It's such an amazing industry for that kind of thing but we've been doing a lot and I think so far it's so good.
Has it been a service your current clients are wanting to add on? Or have you seen new people sort of come out of the woodwork? How has it been?
It’s about both actually. We started with our existing clients because we wanted to make sure they had the best solutions and for some of them, for many of our larger clients, we were doing an annual survey or a survey every other year. So the primary focus for them was, let's get you onto the engine so you're capturing that on an ongoing basis. So whether that is 25% of your clients a quarter or literally one-to-one on the anniversary date of a client relationship that it's triggering that, we wanted to make sure that kind of data was baked into their process and didn't become a big project they had to do. And then, as we were doing that, they were looking at some of these other features and how we're going to implement those across the firm. So yeah, the existing clients. But then because we've been doing so much promotion, obviously we've had some great feedback and we've got new clients joining as well.
That's fabulous. I feel like when it came out, I kept seeing oh, there's this media feature here and this is going on.
I know. I'm sure.
People have been really curious to be able to hear more about it, this new way of approaching things. So now is it sort of you come in and this is what's provided, or is it sort of tiered—like tier one, tier two, tier three where if they want kind of a higher level or a certain number of surveys, if you will? How does that shake out?
So right now, we've split the pricing initially into two tiers. One is for those clients who right now just want to focus on measuring the experience and optimizing service plans. So like I said, the Net Promoter, satisfaction, interest, all those things; there are some clients who that's all they're ready for now or they want that initial benchmark and they want to roll everything out. So we carved out a tier to say we can just do that. You don't have to buy the whole thing but then you can upgrade to everything. And when you get all of that, you get all of the features, as many surveys, as many clients, all of it that's not limited in any way. And we've been working very closely with our initial clients. I will say we have a guided upsell, if you will, a guided approach for those who want consultation. But the reality is for our initial clients, we're just working with them hand in hand. Right now, we're not going anywhere. They're probably sick of us calling them and making sure everything's going well; they're taken care of.
I want them to be set up so they're using the data well, they understand it, the advisors know how to use it, right? That's all we care about right now.
Well, it's critical, right? You get to a certain size and that data is telling you what's happening, right? And so you have an idea of where to shift or it's adding into the pool of how you're driving the firm or just key decision-making around culture and what's working and not. It’s so fabulous. I really appreciate you sharing more to be able to unpack this tool. We can see the power in it. And I can also especially see the power for this particular market because it's one with a long sales cycle, right? And then usually once you are closing a a client, you usually are with them for a long time, oftentimes for a lifetime, right? So that experience is gonna absolutely change based off of so many factors. So this is a nice pulse of that kind of evolution of time too.
Is there anything else you want to share that I haven't asked or that folks have asked as you've been rolling things out?
You know, I think a lot of the conversations we've had have been around this idea that we're talking a lot about feelings and needs, you know, the softer side of of relationships. And it feels almost odd to be talking about technology in the same breath, and yet we talk to advisors who are incredibly good at making connections with people. I mean, that's why they got into this business. And I'm not trying to teach them anything about that. All we've been trying to do is say, can we make it more efficient for you so you can get to that point faster? And that's where this marriage of technology and just the human side of advice I think is really starting to come together. And it's certainly not just us. There's a lot of really interesting technology out there right now, particularly in the advice engagement category, that's all about bringing tech and people together in a different way. So I'm kind of excited about that and excited about the fact that people are open to not just thinking about basic service models but really going deeper.
Yeah. Absolutely. There’s so much new technology that you can't keep up with it, everything that's been rolling out. So it's good to be part of that mix. But I think more importantly is adding to the outcome, to be able to drive business forward and for decision-making and to be able to offer support along the way. Like you said, it's one thing to take something off the shelf, it's another thing to really say, okay, this is where you are this point of time with your business and this is how this tool can support with that. And grow with you frankly, you know? Opening up to a new target market or a new service offering or what have you. And so it creates a lot of opportunities, it sounds like, for that to be nimble.
It does. Yeah. And that's what I'm excited about. We've got some of our clients who are using some of the features and saying, well, how does this differ if it's a business owner versus someone who's a professional and thinking about retirement and how would that change the questions we ask. And whatnot. So to me, the really interesting part of this is we can go deeper and deeper to get to the heart of what's important.
All those conditional pieces.
Ah, fantastic. Well, thank you again for your time. Congratulations on the launch. Thank you so much. I'm looking forward to following this new platform. I'd be especially excited if there's big data or reports that are shared that come out of it but just to hear more. So I appreciate all you do for the community and again, for you taking time to share a little bit more. Thanks.
Thanks for having me. Of course.