The Great Golf Ball Debacle

I would bet my life that most people reading this have experienced poor customer service of late.

I find myself in the all too common position recently of being on the receiving end of some spectacularly bad customer service from a well known magazine subscription provider.

They have happily taken my annual subscription for four years now so when the renewal came round this January I thought I would stick my neck out and ask if they would throw in the snazzy and expensive golf club which was being offered to “new” subscribers only as a free gift.

To be honest I expected a flat out no, but when they came back with a yes of course Mrs Armstrong I was delighted. Victory for the little man (or woman in this case), you don’t ask you don’t get and all that.

18 emails, 12 weeks and a strongly worded letter later do I have said free gift? That would be a no. Ben, or Becky or was it Matt or Verity, I’ve lost track now, have all provided their sincerest apologies and they do understand why I would be very frustrated with this outcome. Do they really, seriously, are they kidding?

They have assured me they want to retain my custom so whilst they can no longer provide the free golf club now it’s out Angry Golf Ballof stock they would like to know if I would settle for 12 SRIXON AD333 golf balls. At the end of my tether I said yes, it suddenly didn’t feel like such a victory, I think I might have even gained the odd grey hair through the whole dire process.

So the golf balls have arrived, they are indeed the SRIXON AD333s, just one small problem, I may pay for the renewal but the magazine goes to my father, he plays, I don’t and yes you’ve guess it, they sent the blooming balls to me!!

I don’t feel remotely rewarded for my loyalty and most certainly will not be renewing the subscription next year. I don’t appreciate being asked to “settle” for a back up gift because someone forgot to do their job properly and process the correct free gift in the first place as promised.

Nothing grates more on a customer than promises not delivered, loyalty being taken for granted and fake sincerity from a faceless person who you know could not care less about your predicament.

It’s not hard to reward loyalty, to provide a good service, to make the consumer feel good about the decisions they have made to buy into your brand, product or service.

We continually strive to improve the customer experience at OAM – and in order to do so actively encourage feedback on our services.

Personally nothing gives me greater pleasure than developing client relationships built on confidence and trust. Over the years I’ve learned that customer loyalty is of great value and not to be taken for granted.

Recent press covered the immediate response by the high street pharmacy Boots in relation to their error of judgement in introducing gender signage for children’s toys. Their customers took to Twitter and Facebook to make heard their views on this seemingly sexist stereotyping –

Boots listened to their customers, heard what they had to say and took action, immediately removing the in store signage which had been considered offensive.

How refreshing that a market leader listened to what their customers had to say and their decisive action to rectify the situation will no doubt have resulted in continued customer loyalty.

Happy customers are good ambassadors and all of us in business would do well to remember this.

Dr Claire Armstrong


Mail Madness! Simple customer service that’s easy to forget

I can’t remember the exact date that I got my very first e-mail, envelopebut since that fateful moment I’ve been under its spell.

I will not be alone in thinking that e-mail has controlled me and been the thief of time over the last 15+ years or so.

I also have tried on many occasions to change my relationship with the electronic menace and to better disciplined (like my colleagues!) and have better “systems” for dealing with my inbox.

Whether its just a symptom of my personality or just plain stupidity, nothing has really worked until now…

I have now discovered a fantastic system that sorts out my emails into the really important ones and the ones that can be read later and puts them into my inbox or not.

It does a whole lot more besides and I’m not doing it justice here but that is only a small part of the point I wanted to make.

The reason I so happy with my new email system is not just that it works and does what I need it to do, but it was the experience from a customer perspective that rang my bell most.

The trialing and buying of the system was all done remotely and was just fine, but there is always that slight feeling of “what have I done” after handing over money when I’d had no contact with anyone at the company.

One personal email thanking me for purchasing from the system’s owner and creator (correctly allowed into my inbox!), and I felt vindicated, valued and happy.

I did actually email him back to say how I felt and the real point is saying thanks to your clients and customers is key to ensuring that they or their business don’t feel taken for granted.

It’s such a simple thing to do that we simply don’t do enough.

Thanks to Stuart for reminding me to thank my customers better and more often.

Back to my emails I think…

Roland Oliver

PS – please get in touch if you want to know more about the system.


Life cover, it’s about more than insurance

When it comes to protecting ourselves and our loved ones from the worst happening, whether it’s a critical illness or untimely death, we all know some sort of life cover or critical illness cover is required to ease the financial strain of these events.

Time and again couples and families are left feeling the financial and emotional pressure because the cover was never put in place. It was never the right time to look at it, they were always too busy, they didn’t think they could afford it, they didn’t see the need to buy insurance as it never gives anything back.

However, there is a shift in the industry now towards providing more than pure insurance as the customer wants to know what’s in it for them, what are the additional benefits and why should they have the cover in place.

Apart from providing peace of mind that your loved ones will be taken care off on your demise a handful of providers are now looking to enhance the benefits available to you while you live a healthy life and in fact they work hard to ensure you stay fit and healthy while saving money.

Pru Protect is a front runner with their Vitality and Vitality Plus schemes which allow their policy holders to follow a Vitality coverhealthier living programme which not only could add years to your life but reduce the need to claim for a critical illness. Their Vitality programme doesn’t just help clients stay healthy but rewards them for their efforts too by means of reducing the premium paid for the cover as they accrue Vitality points.

They also offer discounts with their health partners for half price health screening, discounts on Champneys spa breaks and even member deals with Cineworld, Vue, Legoland and Thorpe Park to name a few.

Pru Protect recognise that just selling insurance isn’t going to cut it in today’s climate and that everyone wants to know their money is being well spent with immediate benefits in return.

Bright Grey are also in on the act, offering a free Helping Hand service with their cover which is aimed at helping policy owners and their families cope with the trauma of loss or serious illness.helping hand pack

They offer a support service at a time when it is most needed whether its assigning a RED ARC nurse to help you come to terms with your illness, guiding you through the questions you need to ask a consultant or offering bereavement counselling for the family left behind.

They can help with getting you back on your feet with alternative therapies if conventional medicine isn’t the answer and provide rehabilitative support to get you back to work.

Just this morning I had a call from our contact at Aviva to let us know they have now launched their own RED ARC nurse service with their life and critical illness cover and in addition to this they also offer a free 2nd opinion on your medical diagnosis.

red arc assuredThere has never been a better time to review your protection or get something in place if you have been putting it off. It’s about more than just insurance these days and there are a range of additional enhancements and benefits at your finger tips so why not get in touch today to find out more.

If you’re still thinking it’s going to be too expensive then watch this space as I will be blogging again shortly to demonstrate the real cost of cover and how there is something for every budget.

Dr Claire Armstrong


The Greatest

The use of positive affirmations is often used by personal and business coaches as a way of creating the right mindset in order to help you achieve goals and targets that can appear beyond you.

Tony Robbins has long used the fire walk as away of demonstrating how your mind can overcome obstacles (in this case 1000 degree burning coals) to achieve great physical feats.Muhammad Ali

Famously Muhammed Ali declared “I am the greatest” and not many argued that he wasn’t.

My personal favourite was attributed to Henry Ford who said “whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are right”

All very touchy feely and New Age, Roland, but what’s the point?

Following on from my “No Hidden Agenda” blog, there were a number of positive comments. Many agreed this when dealing with large financial institutions and how that it is incredibly difficult for these types of business to win back customer trust.

There might be real determined and skilled management at the heart of these businesses but if the people really don’t believe, then you’re fighting a losing battle.

My local branch of Lloyds TSB were throwing out so may negative and unhappy vibes recently at the teller level, I nearly got the rope out…

Naturally it leads to a poor customer experience and unsatisfactory feeling all round.

I truly pity the poor front-line staff at any Cypriot bank when it opens its doors again on Thursday.

I’m very lucky that the people that work with me have a serious desire to provide the best service they can to clients and go the extra mile.

We like to believe that this approach is both nature and nurture but you have to continue to want to do better and create the right business attitude and environment to do this.

Providing a better service, more enjoyable customer experience is what we are all about.

I personally don’t think banks in the UK will ever regain their status in the eyes of the public and the new paradigm is businesses that do care about their clients and the service they offer.

I also think as a nation we need to vote with our feet more than ever and if you have any doubts about how you will looked after and treated by any business, then look for somebody else.

Our Second Opinion Service is designed to provide prospective clients with a view on the current service they receive for their adviser and suggest one of three possible outcomes;

  • continue with your existing arrangements as it works.
  • here is the name of an adviser that might be better suited to your requirements.
  • or you might want to considering working with us.

Either way, you’ve nothing to lose and we might just be your greatest decision.

Roland Oliver


No Hidden Agenda

As previously mentioned by Claire in her blog, we recently ran a seminar on our approach to customer-led Wealth Management.

Of the number of noticeable comments made was that the attendees felt that the was “no hidden agenda” in our presentation and that people could see that we clearly had an interest in providing a service that had them at the centre of it.

As big business and politicians continue to try and win back our trust, the phrase “no hidden agenda” keeps coming back to me.

We are all incredibly sensitive to this feeling.  Dealing with anybody providing a service of any type today must make sure that our needs are being met in a way that suits us first and not the provider.

Whether its a local restaurant, or high street bank,hiding you must be clear about what you are providing to your customer as nothing will sour the relationship quicker than the discovery of a hidden agenda.

The gaining of a client’s trust is a privilege that is repaid in long term customer loyalty. In the post RDR world when fees are going to be scrutinised, ensuring you don’t lose it through any hidden agenda is crucial.

In a day when the the Cypriots are perhaps finding out about another hidden agenda, its clear to me that we need to continue to be clear, open and honest about what we do for our clients.

In case you were counting, I mentioned the phrase “no hidden agenda” 5 (6, if you include this one) in this short blog.

Nothing to hide here.

Roland Oliver – March 2013


Added Value Services

Not long now until we are in RDR World proper.

We have spent more than 2 years working on, defining, articulating and then delivering our service proposition.

Or in other words, we can define to all our clients what will be the minimum they can expect from us, how will we provide this service and what the process involves.

If this is proving earth-shattering stuff for your current adviser and they are still some way off having a clear service proposition, then I suggest that they are not going to be ready to provide you with basic guidelines as to what you service might be offered in the new regulatory regime starting in January 2013.

I get the impression that a number of businesses are taking their current model, giving it a good old buffing and hoping that will be enough for existing and new clients alike going forward.

More worryingly, I hear it’s the same service with a different name but at much increased cost.

You need to ask the question, if this is all that you are being offered from your current adviser at this highly crucial time, do you see other added value services being developed elsewhere that you might be interested in?

It’s not going to be good enough to offer the current approach to financial planning without considering what else you can do to retain and attract clients to your brand in the very near future.

Virgin is a great example of a brand that covers a very wide range of services but with a core set of values that customers recognise and value whether it’s buying a can of cola, airfare or a trip into the edge of space.

Financial planners will need to consider what other useful services they can give their customers access to.

For example, we intend to have a link-up with a foreign exchange provider that will allow our clients access to better wholesale currency transactions, discounts and better rates on currency cards.

Whilst there may be a small financial advantage for the business, it’s more about developing complimentary services that are useful for our clients and help increase customer loyalty.

Focussing on your brand not your business, and what you can do to delight your clients has to be the new mode of thinking.

Roland Oliver

December 2012


Business Protection – Can you identify a need and are you covered?

As of April this year there were over 2.5 million registered companies in the UK* and a staggering Business Protection gap defined by Legal & General as £1.1 trillion **.

44% of business owners said their businesses would fold within 12 months of the death or critical illness of a key person and only 4% of business owners have shareholder protection in place**.

If you are involved in a business small or large you will know that an integral part of the running costs includes insurance in relation to buildings and contents, key equipment, stock, vehicles and Public liability to name but a few.

The cost of each is taken as a given and paid regularly to ensure a business is functioning within the right legal requirements and to provide backup should the “worst” happen.

There is no doubt that equipment, vehicles, location etc provide the means by which a business can offer goods or services but what is the real backbone of any firm are the people who make it successful and profitable.

A successful business is one which not only makes the most of its key individuals but nurtures their expertise and reaps the reward in terms of the relationships they develop with suppliers and customers.

Have you considered the cost to your business if you were to lose one of your key individuals through ill health or death?  If you can think of someone within the business whose temporary or permanent loss would affect the company’s ability to maintain turnover and generate profit then they are a key individual and they should be covered.

If you lose a Key Person from the firm you need to be able to cover the cost of recruitment and replacement for that individual as well as making up for loss of profit directly attributable to them. You may also require reserves in place to ensure any business liabilities such as overdrafts, business loans or even Directors Loan Accounts can be repaid if they are recalled.

Business Succession Planning

As well as Key Person cover there is a massive need for Shareholder Protection within firms, or more specifically Business Succession Planning.

Business Succession Planning not only protects the company but also the employees, their families and the shareholders.

Some of the most frequently asked questions for shareholders within a company when considering the death or critical illness of a co owner include:

  • What happens to their shares when they suffer a serious illness or die?
  • How would the control of the business change?
  • What would be the cost of buying out the co-owner’s share?
  • Where does the cash come from to purchase shares from the co-owners family if they do not wish to retain an interest in the business?
  • What agreements can be put in place to ensure remaining shareholders and surviving families can exercise their preferred options when it comes to retaining or selling shares?

We can help answer these questions for you.

The partner, shareholders and key people in any business are its driving force, they are a valuable asset and you need to have plans in place that ensure if they suffer a critical illness or die your business can still continue and remain profitable despite the loss.

The death or critical illness of a key person in your company could threaten everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve, is it really worth the risk not to have the correct cover in place?

If you’re not sure where to begin then we can help.  We can take you through a step by step guide which helps you consider who needs to be covered and for how much.   In conjunction with this we will make you aware of the tax treatment of your premiums and benefits paid on any plans and talk you through the appropriate agreements which should be in place to ensure benefits are paid correctly.

It may seem like a minefield of information but we can pinpoint the need within your company and provide you with a complete report on what would be required and the monthly cost, incidentally it isn’t as much as you would think.

Whether you are a Sole Trader, Co-Owner, Partner or perhaps even a Key Person in a firm we will be able to talk you through the options and help you through the process from beginning to end.  We also offer a regular review service and would revisit all your planning on an annual basis to ensure your protection planning is keeping pace with any business changes.

So don’t put off any longer, if you want to speak with us further about how to protect your Business then we’d love to hear from you.

Claire Armstrong

* (as at 03/04/2011)




Our New Website

It’s really exciting to be writing my first blog for our new website. It’s taken a long time to get here but it’s been the right journey and I truly believe we have a fantastic Wealth Management experience finally in place.

At Oliver Asset Management we believe that putting the client at the head of any relationship is core to what we do.

It certainly appears to me that the genuine lack of true customer focus has become the norm and that people are resigned to a world of rules and regulations designed to hinder, confuse and frustrate.

Our banking system continues to struggle to regain customer confidence and I think it will be a while before “Customer Charters” and slick advertising slogans cut any real mustard with the general public.

People are savvy to when they are being spun a yarn and it’s high time our service industry woke up to this fact.

I believe people want to be treated fairly, with respect and to have things explained to them in an honest and straightforward way.

I also believe that people are happy to pay well for a good job and that if they get an exceptional experience, they’ll want to repeat it and tell their friends.

Our new website sets out our whole new process and our Wealth Management Formula but at the heart of all we do is a complete focus on ensuring you the customer have an exceptional experience and that you’ll be delighted that you entrusted us to help guide your financial plan for the future.

That’s the first of many blogs I’ll be getting out there but it’s a common theme that I’m sure that I’ll return to time and time again.

I’ll have comments weekly so do check in on a regular basis and give me a call anytime and see how we can help you personally.

Roland Oliver