What kind of a barbershop are you? While this may seem like an odd question to ask a group of financial advisors, it made sense to those at Loring Ward’s last National Education Conference. Dennis Moseley-Williams, founder of DMW Strategic Consulting, is an expert in helping financial services professionals shift from providing great service to providing experiences, and his challenging questions and captivating stories inspired advisors to think differently about what they do.

As an example of service vs. experience, consider two barbershops. Dennis was a highly satisfied customer of the same barbershop for many years: it was fast, it was cheap, he got what he wanted, and he was perfectly happy… until he tried a new barber. This place had a living room out on the sidewalk, “cool stuff” on the walls, great music playing, they remembered his name, and gave him coffee. Even though it was more expensive and he always had to wait, he changed barbers because he liked the way it made him feel — it wasn’t just a haircut, it was an experience.

When was the last time you had an experience at a business that you didn’t want to end? And what about that experience delighted you?

Service and experience are not the same thing. Dennis’ old barber was stuck thinking about goods and services instead of experiences. If he tried to fix his business he would open even earlier, close even later, and charge even less. That’s how people who sell goods and services eventually have to create value – by doing more for less.

Which barbershop are you? Are you focused on selling efficiency and performance or are you focused on time well spent for your clients?

If you focus on products and service, you become commoditized.

Commodities are at the bottom in terms of providing value. Every time you go up the ladder, it changes the step beneath it, and you provide more value and create a stronger and deeper relationship.

Any time you customize a good it becomes a service. Goods and services will always compete on price.

But when you customize a service, it becomes an experience. Experiences cannot be commoditized. People have proven, time and time again, that they will not only pay for experience, they will line up for it.

Think of your office as a stage. What would you have to do to charge people admission to get in? What can you do to make a meeting with you more engaging and satisfying and memorable? 

Another way to think about it: to create better experiences, determine the most painful part of being your client and then figure out how to alleviate it.

The final challenge to advisors: Don’t confuse your comfort zone with your safety zone. The most dangerous thing you can be is average.