In an age of loyalty-lite relationships, is there still a place for the “Trusted Adviser”?

EPSON scanner image

EPSON scanner image

I thought they would look after me as a “loyal customer” but they actually advised me to “shop around”. I had used the same reputable mutual to provide my home insurance for many years and was shocked to find the same insurance for one third of the price.

Retailers and insurers give the best deals to new, rather than their existing customers. They know that their customers are not as loyal as they used to be. We buy books on Amazon (standing in our local book shop), book our taxis with Uber and do our grocery shopping via discounters or online and very rarely via a big weekly shop at an established store. Many loyalty schemes have been changed to deliver less value because they know that customers are ‘loyalty-lite’.

I worked in retail strategy for a long time and customer loyalty has evolved to customer engagement. Customers are no longer blindly loyal to one company (just like employees). The same trends and disruptive technologies, allied with procurement processes, are challenging the role of the “trusted adviser”. David Maister, author of the “Trusted Advisor”, has defined the characteristics of the the most successful consultants, advisers and sales people. These are consistent across lawyers, bankers and consultants as well the CEO’s inner circle and loyalty has always been central.

I have been lucky enough to have a few people who regard me as their Trusted Adviser. However, I’ve also failed to turn many short term projects and relationships in to longer term ones. I’ve come to realise that clients want more than technical expertise, good value and the best answer to a problem. They also want someone who will “tell it like it is” to their own detriment and stay in touch when there is no obvious pay off. Loyalty, trust and a long term perspective are still crucial, but so are engagement drivers like shared purpose and values.

In this “loyalty lite” season, what do your clients want from their “Trusted Advisers”? How do you measure up? I recently adapted the questions below to help Internal Communicators better understand their (often strained) relationship with Human Resources. Why not ask your clients for some feedback?

Thanks to for the cartoon

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