It’s happening again! Today, we launched Part 2 in our End-to-End Excellence Series – Continuous Client Service – Lock in Loyalty and Build Your Business to those of you who registered to receive it. (Hopefully you all registered for Part 1 last month – Sales & Onboarding – Your Last Chance to Make a Good First Impression). It’s not too late if you didn’t.
Client service is becoming a differentiating value proposition. Done right, it can help you build trust with your clients, strengthen relationships and create a long and mutually beneficial partnership. In the video and our advisor article, we describe the Five Essentials to Continuous Client Service:
1. Assume nothing and segment your book
2. Conduct impactful client reviews
3. Engage in frequent and tailored client touches
4. Track progress against client goals
5. Explore alternative communication channels
Now I know your days are packed with client meetings, prospecting and firm management. You may find it challenging to devote so much time to building a continuous client service experience. But I argue that these activities demonstrate your competence, build trust with your clients and enable confident decision-making.
Almost everything you do touches on the service experience. By implementing the five essential elements to continuous client service, you can go a long way toward meeting – what we believe are – reasonable client expectations.
Don’t miss out – you can still register online and receive the video and its accompanying article and client review checklist.
Just a quick final note - the page will automatically update when new comments are added. Please do not refresh your browser.
Now let’s get started with the Q&A!
Are you happy with your current client service and review process? Would you change anything based on what you saw and read today?
Information provided by SEI Investments Management Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of SEI Investments Company.
For Financial Intermediary Use Only. Not for Public Distribution.
My last post, “Your Staff Doesn’t Want You to Grow,” caught the attention of more than one administrator. Guess what? You frustrate them. Here are a few reasons why:
Multiple Custodians = Multiple Headaches
Each custodian has different rules, different processes and different systems. If you want to be efficient, find one custodian and stick with it! In some offices, the staff has to deal with a transfer agent for a mutual fund, a large custodian, their BD platform and possibly a third-party asset management program’s custodian. How can anyone run an efficient office when the staff is consistently directing traffic between custodians?
You’re Distracted by Shiny New Things
It is great to go to a BD meeting or an FPA event and hear about a new product or solution. But you get distracted for a few weeks, then fall back into your old way of doing things. Your staff knows that and will just wait out the storm. If you really want to change, you have to be the leader of the change. Follow through and own it but don’t try to change too many things at once.
You Get Comfortable
An independent advisory business can become a “lifestyle” business. In other words, you trade what you could earn in the open market for the independence of being a business owner who can set his/her own schedule. That’s great for you, but your staff sees your lackadaisical approach to business and feels they can be relaxed, too.
Look at your calendar — is it pretty open? Time block with actives, meetings and even “thinking time.” It shows your commitment to running a business, not managing a practice.
You Don’t Make Changes that Would Benefit Them
Think about ways to take work off your staff’s desks. I would guess that many of you have a regularly scheduled “investment committee meeting” and a “marketing meeting.” Why not set up a process meeting? Meet with the group weekly for a few weeks to get started (then you can push it back to bi-weekly, then monthly). Look at all the functions of your office and document them. Is there a way to do it better? Is there a way to automate? Can you outsource that function? Ask yourself, why am I doing this function? If the answer is, “I don’t know,” then maybe someone else should be doing it.
You Don’t Make an Effort to Retain Them
Treat your staff like your best client. The cost of training and hiring new support staff is huge. Competent, quality support staff can make or break an office. Find out who the one or two most challenging clients for your staff are and decide if you can afford to “fire” them. Create unique benefits for your staff like rotating Fridays off in the summer or even health club memberships.
You Don’t Give Them a Reason to Participate in Your Success
Give them some skin in the game. In a FAInsights 2011 study on the advisory business: People and Pay, top firms (called standouts) outpaced others in all categories in providing performance pay for professionals. If you want happy and engaged staff, make sure they are participating in the growth of the firm. One firm owner that I know pays his staff a percent of gross revenue. His unique twist is that he pays monthly. Nothing says you are valued as an employee like a check and there is no better time in this fast-paced world than now.
Does your staff want you to grow? Do you make it easier for them to help you?
2012 could possibly be the single best year you’ve ever seen for your business. Markets, while still volatile, are up year-to-date, the economy appears to be coming back (albeit slower than many of us would like) and consumer confidence as measured by Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index is at a four-year high.
Investors are starting to pick their heads up out of the sand. They’re mad about the last four years, angry at the markets and the economy and really mad at the person that didn’t put them in those investments! They are looking for change, better advice, and someone who can help them achieve their goals. They are looking for a great advisor — they’re looking for you! Sounds like a great opportunity for all us. So what is holding you back? Is it your staff?
Think a minute about your practice.
According to PriceMetrix, the average advisor has about 177 households that he/she manages (down by 8% from 2010, but that’s for another post.) That’s 177 households that need:
• (At least) An annual meeting prepared for and scheduled
• Accounts rebalanced
• Custom portfolios monitored
• Trades to place and data to reconcile
One or more clients may have a special request (something like wanting some of their own money back to pay for college or — gasp — to live on!)
So maybe you don’t have 177 households, but let’s say you have half that — you still have a lot of work to do. Why would your staff want to add more clients and work to their already overburdened day? No matter what they tell you, they don’t.
Growth unchecked can be unprofitable.
Last year, the SEI Advisor Network added 400 new advisors to the list of advisors that we do business with. As much as I would love to say we were all thrilled, our internal salespeople took the brunt of the work and were challenged by the additional administrative work. The on-boarding of a client (in any business) is usually a daunting task and takes a coordinated effort with a discovery, analysis of a client’s issues and concerns culminating in the setup of a client’s account.
Realizing that the administration of the on-boarding was taking a very valuable asset (our people) away from their most important roles (talking to clients), something had to be done to create efficiencies and improve performance of our teams. A very simple version of what we did was:
• Standardize. (We were amazed (and concerned) that our internal salespeople had completely different ways of doing the same onboarding tasks. We created teams to identify work flow processes and look for areas that were redundant and needed better automation. We empowered the salespeople to look for ways to improve their efficiency and free up time.
• Communicate. We met often to discuss what was getting in the way of progress and flow. Communication is key, especially communicating the benefits of the projected end results.
• Streamline. We found outsourcing and automation to be key tools to streamlining workflow processes. Our salespeople, the ones doing the actual jobs, found simple solutions to automate the tasks that were being repeated (and now everyone does it the same way) and they found a solution to outsource some of the other tasks which freed up their time to devote to working with clients.
Our business is no different than yours. We have growth goals and we rely on great relationships with our biggest asset, happy clients. Think about your office today:
• Are you empowering your staff to look at their workflow and find solutions to make their jobs better and more efficient?
• Do the workflows for things like preparing for a client discovery, service meeting or marketing events include standard templates that live in your CRM and can be used by everyone or do you re-create the wheel every time?
• What do you outsource? Things like rebalancing, tax lot accounting, and statement generation need to be done, I get that. But are YOU or your staff the ones that HAVE to do it? Every single thing that takes you or your staff away from being in front of clients and prospects takes away from your highest value: Providing solutions for your clients that will allow them to meet their goals.
Start today. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Sit down with your staff, and whiteboard one of your core processes. Is there room for improvement? Can you save some time in the day? What could you do with a few more hours in the day? Maybe fit a few more new clients into your practice?
Last night, I was in a fit of exasperation with my two young sons (ages 5 and 7). It seems that they “forgot” that they have to brush their teeth EVERY night. You would think that night after night with the same routine, they would have it down with no questions asked.
My wife, much more organized and efficient than I, decided that we will institute a checklist for the boys’ daily tasks. (“Chores” seemed too much like “my parents” to say in front of them). This morning at the breakfast table, we all agreed to what tasks need to be done, when they need to be done and created a list that the boys can check off. With the daily schedule fresh in my mind, I started to think about how many advisor firms could benefit from the minds of a 5 and 7 year old. And no, I am not talking about child labor.
Check yourself (before you wreck yourself)
Most of us run a pretty efficient practice. We have manuals and procedures for our offices, we train our staff on exactly how and when things need to be done. We’ve built our practices on years and years of routine so that most days we run on autopilot. But where is the checklist for our tasks?
When you are done for the day, do you sometimes wonder where the time went? After a meeting with an important client or prospect, do you sometimes smack yourself and say “I forgot to say X or I forgot to show Y”? (I am assuming you did remember to brush your teeth). If we create lists and procedures for our staff, why don’t we create one for ourselves? As I write this post, I am on a flight from Philly to Dallas; I bet the pilot and co-pilot went through their pre-flight list before we left the gate.
Do a post-mortem
Most of us are just now getting through with the cycle of year-end client review meetings. How did it go?
• Were you organized and efficient for each meeting?
• Did your clients all have the same experience?
• Did you have all the materials necessary for each meeting?
• Did you have a consistent message, ask for referrals and set the next meeting with the client during your review meeting?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you may benefit from a checklist approach to creating a successful client meeting (or any type of meeting for that matter). An article posted over the summer, Unchecked Growth, does a good job of laying out the benefits of creating a checklist, as well as provides best practices to get started.
We all strive for efficiency and productivity in our days. Who is “checking” on you? Anyone want to share an example?
Last week, I co-hosted a webinar called “Breaking Through in 2012” with the SEI Advisor Network Director of Marketing, Jerry Lezynski. (Missed it? Watch the replay.) The webinar touched on such topics as why plan, your five goals for 2012 and building your marketing plan. While I was thrilled with the turnout (over 400 registered!) I was a bit surprised during our quick polls, as well as with a few questions at the end.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to any advisor (or anyone with a pulse) that the last few years have been challenging times in our profession. The financial markets have been extremely volatile, clients are more demanding and less satisfied, the economy is floundering and as I pointed out in the presentation, pre-tax profits of advisory firms are down for a third straight year. We only need to look at our own books to see that most of us are not growing our businesses as we would like. Why then did almost 75% of the advisors who attended the call, when polled, say they do not have a formal, written marketing plan?
In a recent survey by “byallaccounts,” over 31% of advisors said they lacked time as their greatest marketing challenge, 24.4% said they lacked expertise and 22% said they lacked the budget. While time, expertise and budgets are a good excuse, I think they really lack a plan.
I realize that clients are demanding, staff and technology issues can come up and family commitments this time of year can be overwhelming. But planning for 2012 needs to be front and center in your list of priorities. If you don’t create a strong plan for next year, we will only repeat the same results that we have had for the last three years and, pardon my Dr. Phil, but “How’s that working for you?”
There are less than 30 business days between now and the end of the year. While time may be short, you can still craft a good head start on 2012. Schedule time in the next week or two to devote to:
- Reviewing your book. How did you get here? What are your niches? Who do you like to work with?
- Setting a reasonable, yet stretch goal for yourself.
- Scheduling a half-day session or multiple sessions with your team of staff, stakeholders and trusted third parties (like your regional marketing directors) and share your goals to gain buy-in.
- Inviting your team to challenge assumptions and take ownership of tasks.
- Creating accountability and excitement for shared goals.
If nothing else, just get started. Today. Use templates from SEI, your BD, a platform provider or just make one up. I know I have said it before, but 2012 could be the best opportunity you will ever have to grow your practice. But you have to plan for it.
“Next year, I’m going to <insert resolution here>.” Who hasn’t done that? We all look ahead to a new year with the best of intentions, but it’s not often we take that next step and actually *plan* how we’ll make it happen.
If one of your resolutions is to focus on growing your practice, how about some help?
We’re hosting a webinar on Monday, November 28 at 4 p.m. ET called “Breaking Through in 2012.” In it, we’ll give you tools to:
- Develop goals with a clear purpose
- Identify proven, high-value marketing activities
- Involve your team by getting their skin in the game
We’ll also give you something that people always ask for when we talk about planning – an easy-to-use plan template. Because nobody wants to start with a blank page.
The webinar will only last an hour and the registration is free. So make yourself a turkey sandwich (you know you’ll still be eating leftovers then) and join us — it will be time well spent and could help make 2012 a great year.
The following is a guest blog post by Paul Kingsman, a professional motivational speaker and executive coach for the financial industry.
From the moment we’re born, our lives run to a timetable. As infants, we fed at certain times, slept at set times, and even got changed on a fairly regular schedule. From the beginning, we benefitted from time-blocking, even if we didn’t know that was what it was called.
Then, when we started school, and more was expected from us, set times for set activities became even more important. There were set times of the day and week for reading, writing, math, art, singing, even running around at recess!
In middle school and high school, as we needed to learn and accomplish more, our daily schedules got even more regimented, with specific classes at specific times, and added periods for homework each day.
The whole process got amped up again in college when we went to hundreds of hours of lectures, read thousands of pages of text books, wrote lengthy papers, and took many exams — all at set times, within specific deadlines. Somehow, we even found time to join clubs, attend parties, date, and go to sports games.
Then we walked away.
As we walked out of our college graduation ceremonies, without realizing it, we also left behind an incredibly effective time management system that allowed us to successfully address priorities and achieve a tremendous amount of work. We lived our first, most formative 20+ years with specifically structured time, and then abandoned it right when we needed it most — when we began taking on the biggest responsibilities and challenges in our lives, while also facing untold new distractions.
So, now what do your days look like? As an advisor, you need to service existing clients, attend networking events to meet new prospects and build your pipeline, prepare plans and proposals, tend to compliance issues, meet with wholesalers, respond to office managers, undertake continuing education, direct sales assistants, develop strategies for your business, and the list goes on and on… It often seems there is simply not enough time to get everything done!
How did we used to do it all? How do we accomplish everything that needs to be done and still maintain our health and personal relationships?
Go back to what worked for our first 20+ years! Allocate your energy and focus at specific times to specific activities — in other words, time-block. Time-blocking is the easiest way to be most productive and most effective.
This can be tricky if you’ve been out of the habit of a schedule like this for a few years, and you’ve got to be realistic: a perfectly time-blocked week is an ideal — there will be times when you need to make adjustments.
But only when you have your ideal time schedule written out can you see exactly what is not getting done and take appropriate action.
In today’s distraction-filled world, it’s easy to flit between one thing and another, while really not getting much done. But with time-blocking, you know you have scheduled a set time for all the important activities you need to do, so that you can fully concentrate on the job at hand, instead of half thinking about one urgent activity and trying to do something else at the same time.
Take the time to create your own realistic schedule. Don’t use the fact that things won’t always work out exactly like your plan as an excuse to not make a plan at all.
If you want some broad examples of a time-blocked day to get your thinking going or a copy of the calendar I use to organize my week, visit my newsletter archive to see more about how to tame your time.
Paul Kingsman helps financial services professionals successfully grow their businesses by taking practical daily steps to achieve outstanding long-term results. Combining his experiences as an Olympic medalist and his background as an adviser, Paul understands how to stay focused over the long haul, as well as the unique business challenges faced by advisers. To find out more about how Paul can equip you or your team to achieve outstanding results, visit http://paulkingsman.com/coaching/ or email him at Paul@PaulKingsman.com.