When assessing financial technology solutions, it’s easy to focus solely on functionality. After all, a thorough technology evaluation involves several rounds of system-specific questions and detailed technology proofs-of-concept, making it easy for the ongoing service function to drift out of focus.
But when you exclusively assess features and capabilities, you miss the opportunity to evaluate the long-term service component of your relationship with your new fintech partner.
Even if you were to find the ideal family office software solution, if the client service doesn’t match the quality of the technology platform, the long-term viability of the solution becomes murky.
So, ask yourself, when the software is implemented, and you’re off and running on your own, who will support you? Can you rely on them to help you work through complex financial scenarios using the technology? To respond quickly to your important questions? To be knowledgeable on both the software and your unique usage of the system?
To help you avoid a preventable client service mishap down the road, we recommend evaluating the competency and reliability of the client services teams with as much vigor as you use to evaluate the solution’s capabilities.
As a firm that has built an elite client service team to support hundreds of family offices and high-net-worth families, we’ve identified five starter questions to help you navigate the client service evaluation and set the stage for a more detailed assessment.
Your client service team should be able to do more than just reset your password. They should be able to problem solve on the fly and lead you through nuanced scenarios – like entering data or running a report – as well as less common scenarios – like how to perform equity transfers or validate performance calculations using the technology.
The composition and experience of your support team are important factors as you evaluate the client service team. Is customer support performed in-house or does the technology firm outsource this business function? Will you have a dedicated support staff or will you be funneled into a large-scale call center? What are the client service specialists’ qualifications? Are they accounting and finance professionals? Do they have a background in service operations? Is there a manager or team lead that is responsible for inquiries that require escalation? Are there designated subject matter experts (SMEs) for specific topics or functions within the technology?
Digging into these questions helps you assess the value your technology firm places on client service, and can create an image of how you might interact with the customer service team as a client.
Although not necessarily a deal breaker, geographic location can affect the quality of your service. Depending on where your family office is located and where your technology vendor houses its client service operations, you may experience impacts to availability and turnaround time for support cases and client service inquiries due to differences in time zones. Furthermore, if the client service operations are based offshore, you may need to review your risk compliance policies and perform additional due diligence related to data security to confirm that your data can be accessed from other countries.
A good client service organization will utilize an omni-channel service model that allows clients to engage with the client service team in multiple ways. In a best case scenario, you should be able to reach a client service representative via phone, email, or online client support portal depending on the urgency of your request.
It’s worth noting that some technology providers use a tiered support system, so it’s important to understand what type of support is available at each level. For example, certain channels like phone or direct email may only be available to customers paying for the top tier of support.
We also recommend asking about the technology provider’s support case system. Is it automated and easy to use? Does it offer templates or pre-defined issues to expedite the ticket submission process? Does the system log your inquiry directly to a client service representative? What happens if your case requires involvement from additional teams like product development? What is the typical turnaround time for requests submitted through the system?
Internally, you should consider the volume of anticipated requests, the size of your organization and the amount of product knowledge your team possesses to help you determine whether or not the available communication channels will be suitable for your family office.
Family office fintech providers regularly introduce new versions of their products and services. Finding a technology firm that offers educational resources, online training courses and live user conferences helps your family office stay in-tune with updates to the solution.
Your client service experience isn’t limited to the interactions between you and the technology provider. In fact, there are some questions that can be better answered by those who are in the daily throes of the system: other platform users. A technology firm that recognizes this opportunity and facilitates secure client exchanges clearly has their clients’ success at the top of the list.
By posing questions to other users, you have the benefit of learning from system power users who have likely dealt with similar situations in the past. These peer-to-peer interactions help you brainstorm creative solutions for complex problems, establish best practices for common family office accounting and reporting scenarios, hear different perspectives on the effects of industry trends and regulations, and develop a sense of community among other family offices – all of which should be equally important factors when selecting a technology vendor.
Interested in learning about SEI’s customer-first approach to client service? Download our mini ebook Our Commitment to Exceptional Client Service to find out how SEI Family Office Services has devised an approach to customer support that is valued and trusted by hundreds of family offices and financial institutions.
Manager, Client Relations
SEI Family Office Services