What Does it Mean to Get Five-Star Service From a Financial Planner?

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By Mike Gertsema, CEO & Wealth Advisor

You book a vacation and spend money on a hotel. You’re super excited because the photos look nice and you’re taking some time off work. But, when you walk in, you realize it’s dirtier than you expected and the service is less than subpar.

Those moments leave you in a cloud of disappointment because you spent money on a product or service with a value less than what you expected.

At the end of the day, consumers want two things: value for their money and a 5-star experience.

What is a 5-Star Rating?

My wife and I have been looking for something other than the news to watch on TV in the evenings and we’ve inadvertently stumbled into a series called Hotel Impossible with Anthony Melchiorri.

Anthony is a famous guy who knows the hotel industry from the ground up with over 20 years of work experience in every job – from room service to General Manager.

He has a great track record of turning failing hotels.

The owners or general managers of struggling hotels turn to him for help usually because they are losing money or on the brink of bankruptcy.

Anthony is very blunt when confronting employees about unacceptable behavior and performance – especially poor management. He focuses on the customer’s experience because the customer is spending their hard-earned money for a good clean room and friendly hospitality. And, without the customer, hotels can’t succeed.

Whether you’re a one-star or five-star hotel, he believes great service is a basic requirement. If the hotel can’t offer the basic service requirements, he’s furious.

Anthony has the utmost respect and admiration for employees who are responsible for cleaning and maintaining the hotels. He pays attention to the little details that make the customer’s experience special. It is the little stuff that often gets overlooked that separates the average hotels from the best hotels.

What Makes a Five-Star Hotel?

I was curious: what makes a five-star hotel? So, I went online looking for a website that gave more information about the Hotel Star Rating Systems Criteria:

  • One-Star: A one-star rating often means a property has no-frills and only offers basic accommodations. A one-star rating doesn’t necessarily mean a hotel is dirty, unkempt or in a bad location. It simply means you will have a place to sleep, and that’s pretty much it.
  • Two-Star: Like one-star hotels, two-star properties are typically more affordable than hotels that have a higher rating – they are usually quite comfortable.
  • Three-Star: Three-star hotels ordinarily have some unique amenities and provide quality service.
  • Four-Star: Four-star hotels are often noted for their upscale quality and extraordinary comfort.
  • Five-Star: A five-star property provides flawless guest services in a state-of-the-art facility. These properties typically offer amenities such as premium dining options and personalized service to its guests. With no detail overlooked, these hotels commonly even provide high-end, luxury toiletries for guests.

They also provided alternative indicators of what to expect at a hotel, other tricks you can do so you know what to expect from a hotel.

One of the smartest things you can do is contact the hotel you’re thinking of staying at. How the attendant who answers your call treats you is a strong indication of the type of service you can expect to receive when you are on site.

I think the hotel experience and the financial services industries have common ground.

Financial Services Are About Hospitality, Too

I really didn’t realize it until our son Nick graduated from the University of Missouri and took a management position at the Marriott Hotel. He explained their training and processes to me which gave me some insight into how they made sure all the details, even the small ones, were taken care of for their guests. The goal is always meeting or exceeding the guest’s expectations.

So, if there was a five-star rating system in the financial services industry, I wonder how people would rate it.

Maybe it’d look something like this:

  • One-Star: Financial services company with no frills and only offers basic accommodations. Maybe they’d sell you a mutual fund, stock, bond, annuity, or other investment, get paid a commission, and move on.
  • Two-Star: Like the one-star financial service company, the two-star company is offering no-frills services but may contact you again if they know you have more money to invest down the road or if they want to make a transaction with your current investments to generate another commission. The service is limited and the people in the office are friendly.
  • Three-Star: A financial service company that does everything the one and two-star offer, but offers more advice. Maybe the firm would be fee-based and/or commission-based. They’d offer a financial plan to base their advice and recommendations and possibly contact/meet with you at least once a year.
  • Four-Star: A four-star financial services company would possibly be fee-based only – and even a fiduciary. It would offer: a financial plan to base their advice, recommendations, and additional services included in the fee that’d provide ongoing financial planning, tax planning, estate planning, and investment risk management advice. The firm would possibly provide ongoing information, education, and technology to help make better financial decisions. And, maybe they contact their customers by email, mail, text, phone calls, and meet with me two to four times per year or more often.
  • Five-Star: A five-star financial services company could offer everything the four-star firm offers – but in addition offer on-site CPAs for tax advice, advanced financial planning advice with trained professionals for more complicated situations.

Maybe a five-star firm offers legal advice with their attorneys that specialize in personal, business, and estate planning, and their own CFAs (Chartered Financial Analyst) for investment portfolio management.

The company could be recognized by the industry as the premier firm based on the quality of service. A firm that requires advisors to have a CFP (Certified Financial Planner) designation leading the field in advancing excellence, quality, and client service in the financial planning and advisory profession.

If Anthony Melchiorri from Hotel Impossible was in the financial services industry and he walked into a big name brokerage firm’s office and found that the firm advertised their five-star services, but gave one-star service – I can only guess that he would confront everyone in the office and all the way to the top.

Most customers of the big-name brokerage firms feel the comfort of doing business with the firm because of the name recognition and reputation they promote and advertise, but at the end of the day, are their customers getting one-star treatment and feeling a false sense of security?

While Gertsema Wealth Advisors strives to be a five-star firm, we feel proud to be a partner of Carson Group in Omaha, NE.

Carson Group has ranked in the top ten on the 2019 Barron’s Top 50 RIA Firms list of America’s Best RIA Firms. And, I feel honored to be a partner of the Carson Group.

Being associated with Carson has allowed us the luxury of offering the five-star experience to all of our clients and bringing a wealth of knowledge, experience, transparency, and technology that we would never have the ability to provide our clients anywhere else, including the big-name brokerage firms.

Carson is part of a movement within the financial services industry providing a culture of client-center

I think the big difference between big-name brokerage firms and Carson – along with their partners – is we all walk the talk every single day, which is their company culture that is something we can all be proud of and it’s the biggest reason the Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) firms are growing at a much faster rate than the major brokerage firms.

Carson Group also announced that all new financial advisors working at wholly-owned Carson Wealth offices will be required to hold or maintain a CFP or equivalent credential within five years of joining the firm.

It comes down to the client being number one and providing a five-star experience.

I feel Gertsema Wealth Advisors is truly years ahead of all our competitors with our partnership with the Carson Group.

We will continue to lead the field offering more services, better service, improved technology, and more resources to serve our clients, making them more prepared, informed, and empowering them to make life’s decisions on their terms.

If you’re looking for financial guidance, we’d be happy to answer any questions here.


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