Client Experience is Useless without Operational Experience. Here's how to build OX.

Understanding the operational experience and how it relates to your client experience.

By Jarrod Upton, MBA, MS, CFP®

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Like most industries, the independent advisory industry has plenty of its own acronyms: CFP, RIA, BD, RR, AUM, etc. The newest one is “OX,” and it’s causing confusion among firm owners.

OX is short for “operational experience,” which means the back side of the CX  (client experience) coin. That is, everything that goes on — or doesn’t go on — behind the scenes in an advisory firm to create and deliver the desired client experience.

In our experience, OX gets no respect in most firms — and very little respect and support in those firms that do try to support it.

Here’s the problem: Most advisory business owners (who typically have little to no business training) like to focus on coming up with new projects to “improve” their firms. These ideas tend to come from other firm owners, a presentation at a conference, or an article in a trade publication.

But regardless of the inspiration, these owners get attached to their current idea as the “key” that will enable them to reach their business goals.

There’s nothing wrong with having business goals and trying to attain them. But problems arise when owners get so excited about and attached to their new ideas that they rush to implement them — and tend to ignore problems with them, both before and after they arise.

To successfully introduce changes in an advisory firm, specifically changes to the “client experience” like new services or new technology, it’s essential that owners realize that these changes also will create changes in the firm’s operations — it’s OX.

Most important, these operational changes need to be understood, addressed and successfully implemented before any changes are made to the firm’s client experience.

Firm owners tend to love new ideas — but hate thinking about the details of new ideas that will make their business better. But the devil really is in the details.

And when operational details aren’t right, it will affect the staff’s delivery of the client experience — and jeopardize client relationships. It’s not enough to build a client experience — you must have OX to support it.

How to Move Forward

To get a growing firm’s OX right, you must take a hard look at how any new client services or experience will change the firm itself, as well as the day-to-day activities of partners and/or employees.

Whether it’s the addition of new services, new people, new IT, etc., any major changes to a firm will alter the way people operate. To successfully introduce these changes, it’s essential that you fully understand the effects on all parts of your business.

Do you really have the operations that are necessary to create the new client experience you want to provide? Is the new “workflow” that you created realistic for both delivering your new service and for the people performing it? Will it require more people and/or technology?

If so, will revenues increase enough to support these new expenses? And perhaps most importantly, is your current infrastructure really ready to absorb these changes?

Finally, what changes do you need to make to the business to address the challenges your new project(s) will create?

While firm owners can generally come up with some of these answers themselves, usually the best source of info about how changes will affect a business is the employees.

Your team needs to understand what you want to do, be able to do it, and perhaps most importantly, want to do it. Without their full buy in, the chance of success drops.

Consequently, you really need to listen to — and accept — what operations employees say about new projects: is there really a problem, and is this the solution? This usually requires setting aside your attachment to a project and idea, and really listening to the concerns of the people who will ultimately control its success or failure.

Finally, you’ll need to stop and reflect on how your new ideas within the client experience fit into their operations strategy/goals for the business. And consider how the new OX will fit into the experience of your clients.

My best advice is to slow down, stop and think in order to create a better experience for your clients. To do that, start with your operational employees who will have to implement and service it.


Jarrod Upton is Chief Operations and Senior Consultant at Herbers & Company in the Dallas office. He brings over 16 years of experience in management strategy, client experience and operations consulting to advisory firms. He works with start-ups to multi-location/multi-billion advisory firms to provide solutions that impact growth. He can be reached at jarrod.upon@herbersco.com.