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.
This is Part 1 in our End-to-End Excellence Series. Sales, onboarding and continuous client service are three closely tied stepping stones in what we call “The Client Service Continuum” (we’ll go over client service in Part 2).
I hope you enjoyed watching the video – I had fun making it. (Didn’t catch it? You can still register online to get it.) More importantly though, I hope you learned why creating a strong sales and onboarding process is more important today than ever before. There are so many benefits to having one:
- Improve client retention
- Create the perception you’re easy to do business with (and hopefully, perception is reality)
- Differentiate yourself from the competition
- Reduce the chance for operational errors
- Free you to focus on revenue generation
Don’t start over; retool
Now I’m not telling you to go out and change your entire process. If you have been successful in the past, you may just want to review our materials to see if there is anything you missed.
But for those of you who want more of a focus on building long-term, loyal clients and advocates, I encourage you to review the 9 steps outlined in the video companion article and follow our implementation timeline.
Yes, it will take resources and some more planning on your part, but in the end you’re saying to your new clients, “We’re excited about the relationship and committed to your success.”
Don’t miss out – you can still register online and receive the video and its accompanying article and implementation timeline.
Now let’s get started with the Q&A!
Are you happy with your current sales & onboarding process? Would you change anything based on what you saw and read today?
This past Memorial Day weekend we (for once) didn’t overcommit ourselves. I was able to spend quality time with the family and even got caught up on some my reading. While the list below is not supposed to the summer beach top 10, there are some pretty good articles that caught my attention. If you were busy on the golf course, sitting by the pool or stuck in traffic heading to your shore place, you may have missed some of these. So, grab a cup of coffee (see below, it is good for you) and take a look.
I love how infographics can tell a lengthy story at a glance. This one summarizes a poll about the “American Dream.” Is it owning a home, having enough to retire? According to Spectrem, the answer has everything to do with how old you are.
Are you contacting your clients 12 times per year? This number might sound high, but according to Richard Weylman of the Weylman Center for Excellence in Practice Management and recent presenter at the IMCA conference, that’s what clients expect from their financial team. Read this article to find out what more you can do for your clients to deliver a top-notch experience.
Do what you like to do and delegate the rest –easier said than done? Many advisors get tripped up with trying to do everything, only to do everything sub-optimally. If your passion lies with bringing in new clients, then leverage others in your office, as well as technology, to let you focus. This article has some good tips on becoming a little less frazzled by everyday advisory firm tasks.
You’re not just an advisor, you’re a business owner. How is that going? Sure, you might love working with clients, but it’s up to you to see that the firm is being run well. How are you managing marketing, HR, operations, and more? Check out this article for the foundational pieces your practice needs to operate like a business.
Great quote from the article:
“As you begin taking a proactive approach to practice management, remember: While executing your management responsibilities well is important, it’s best to start with the attitude that practice makes perfect and that perfection is the price of progress.”
This is an interesting topic that I’m planning on writing more on soon.
All I can say is that if this is true, I will live to be 150 years old!
What articles are on your reading list?
When I meet with advisory firms, one of my favorite questions is “What sets you apart in your business and your community?” I wait a second then follow up with “Oh, and by the way, you can’t say client service.” It is always the last line that throws people off. I usually get some weak responses that flirt around the periphery of their business but you can tell that I just took their silver bullet away from them.
We usually conclude together that if everyone says that they deliver quality client service, then client service is not a differentiator of your business. Of course, I could argue (and I’m sure you could, too) that not everyone actually does a great job of client service.
Satisfied or exceeded?
When I think of any positive client service I have had in the last few years, the one thing that almost always comes to mind is that the person or firm exceeded my expectations. The challenge is for us is to set expectations with our clients that can be met and sometimes exceeded. In other words, if you base your practice on your ability to outperform the markets, you will undoubtedly set yourself up for a disgruntled client. The only scorecard for an investment-focused firm will be a client’s performance statements. We can’t control the markets or the economy, so what try? Much worse, why set those expectations with your clients? (Even if you did outperform the market in 2008, were they referring you because you got a -30% return instead of the S&P’s -37%?)
What is it worth in dollars?
A good friend of mine (Rey) put it into perspective for me. He suggested that we try to quantify the cost of dealing with missed expectations with clients. He said, “If a firm helps the client understand that the advisor is in the business of client goals ( their value prop) from the beginning, they do not have to spend as much time talking clients ’off the ledge’ every time something happens outside of their control.” Rey’s suggestion was if you quantify how much time you spend fixing missed expectations and multiply that by your hourly rate, you would realize just how important it is to start off on the right foot or at least begin communicating what you do today.
Year-end review is a great time to start
As I have written in the last few posts, most of us are probably getting ready to start our year-end client reviews. This year, instead of jumping into the performance statements or a big discussion about the economic environment in 2011, why not start with an exercise about the client’s expectations about you and your services. Remember, what is important is that the client feels that you are meeting (or exceeding) his or her needs. It is not about your expectations, it is about them. Unless the client knows what to expect, they will make up their own minds and judge you accordingly. I can’t think of a better way to make sure you are on the same page than to ask!
Helping you prep
Lastly, if you need help preparing those year-end review meetings, I will be co-hosting a webinar on January 30th at 4 p.m. EST featuring an economic update and outlook, along with meeting best practices. (Register Now)
You don’t need to be a client of SEI to attend. I think you will find the content useful in your review meetings and help you to get started toward more efficient meetings.
“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.
Each year around this time, I get a few cards from my advisor, my CPA, and even a local bar that wants to “treat” me to a discounted beverage of my choice. With the days getting shorter and leaves falling off their branches, there is a constant reminder that the year is coming to an end and that I am about to become another year older. Unfortunately, this year is a biggie for me (as my wife and kids are proud to tell everyone). In my mind, birthdays are really not really that big of a deal — except that mentally, when there is a zero in your age, you sometimes take a step back and look at life.
Are you getting the right result?
Most of you are probably sending out birthday and holiday cards to all your top clients. Cards are a great way to say “I’m thinking of you” and provide another proactive touch, further cementing the client/advisor relationship – at least in the advisor’s mind. Think about the last few professional cards you have received:
- Were they bland, “stock” cards that showed little of the sender’s (or your) personality?
- Were they signed by the entire staff with personal notes, or did they just say the name of the firm?
- Were the envelopes hand-addressed or was there a label?
- Bottom line, did it seem personal - or just one more item that the admin had to get off his/her desk before leaving for the night?
Now think about your process. If you are struggling with the answers to these questions, you may want to re-think what you are doing – or save the postage.
Read your client’s mind
Most advisors are committed to building higher satisfaction and loyalty in their client base. In fact, according to Advisor Impact’s “Economics of Loyalty 2010,” the most satisfied and loyal clients will give the most referrals. (Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?) So how do we drive more satisfaction and loyalty? One easy way is to read your clients’ minds when it comes to birthday, anniversary or holiday cards:
- They don’t want an impersonal card any more that you want to send one. If you are going to acknowledge something, mean it.
- A one-sentence note calling attention to the last time you talked shows you care and that the client is important to you.
My last word of advice is for the Milestone birthdays. Forget about the card and pick up the phone! When clients hit that birthday — whether it is 50, 60, 65, or 70 — they will be stepping back and reassessing their lives. Pick up the phone and suggest that many of your clients have gone through the same thing and offer to meet them just to reassure them and to listen. You will be reading their minds and building a huge amount of good will. (And maybe some referrals as well)
Photo: Susan Kambalu
The following article is a guest post by Ellen Rogin, CPA, CFP® – a wealth advisor, abundance activist, and a nationally-known expert on living a life of success and prosperity.
A recent research report “Does Gender Really Matter?” sponsored by Brinker Capital shows how gender differences play a key role in the sentiment toward financial advisors. Women appear to have a slightly stronger propensity to work with women advisors with 25% of women using female advisors while only 10% of men gravitate toward female advisors. They also found that 34% of single female clients select a female advisor versus 22% of married female clients.
There are likely a variety of reasons why this is the case including communication styles and planning approaches. Is it possible that the way your office looks and feels makes an impact as well?
I am not suggesting that women are so superficial that they only thing that they care about is your office décor. I am suggesting that they pay attention to details that may be less important to your male clients. There are differences in the way women’s and men’s brains are structured and their ability to pay attention to a variety of details is different. Even if they are not conscious of it, the way things look may register more with women.
Every six to twelve months we take a visual survey of our offices to ensure that the look and feel is what we want to communicate to our clients. It is easy to become blind to things that you see every day that might be unintentionally communicating a message to your clients (such as a stack of papers or boxes that are piled in the corner). As you audit your offices here are some things to look for:
- What do you see when you first walk in the door? Your office should communicate your professional personality. It might be sleek and high tech. Maybe it is rich and traditional. I want people to feel calm and comfortable when they come in to see us – the art, the colors of the walls and the furniture all communicate this.
- What needs updating?
Does your art work scream 1986? Do you have plants that are less than healthy? Scan the office to see if you need to paint, replace the carpet or finally get rid of the ship in the bottle that the wholesaler sent you in 1994. And please, take down the sales award for selling the most annuities. Only you care and your clients will not be impressed.
- Where do you meet with clients? Women are very relationship focused. Make sure that where you meet with them communicates that this is important to you too. A round table does this beautifully. No one is at the head of the table when it is round. If you talk across your desk at your women clients you are separating yourself from them. If you don’t have a round table, then move your chair to their side of the desk.
- What do clients see when they are meeting with you? I have my clients sit facing away from my desk at a small round table. This way they are not staring at the papers on my desk. I also have a clock on the wall behind them so I can see the time without looking at my watch. My clients face a calming Zen-like photo of stones.
- Does your office look like the Tasmanian devil came through? I am a “visual person.” This is what I tell myself to explain why I often have piles of papers in my office. I know I feel better when I have a clutter- free workspace, yet somehow in this paperless world I am still collecting paper. Hire someone to help get you organized. If it is not one of your staff, hire a professional organizer. If you don’t know any, go to the National Association of Professional Organizers (www.napo.net).
- Does your office reflect what’s important to you? Share with your clients some of who you are through your office. I have pictures of my family on my desk facing the conference table so they can see them as they sit down. If you have a hobby or like to travel your office can reflect this.
- What does the restroom look like? Women will notice what your bathroom looks like. Is it like a gas station or the Four Seasons? Just as you wouldn’t want a guest in your home to walk into an ugly, dirty bathroom, make sure your clients don’t either. Why not add hand lotion, art work or a plant? If you have absolutely no idea what the ladies’ room looks like – take a look or send a woman from your office in to check it out.
Attention to details will help make sure that you don’t unintentionally make a bad impression to your women clients.
On Sept 11th 2001, I was on two separate morning flights (Detroit to Chicago, Chicago to Des Moines). I remember watching the National Guard planes scrambling to get up in the air as we landed and hearing a lot of worried travelers on their cell phones exclaim, “I’m ok, but I am in Iowa” as their planes had just been grounded. Most of us just stood in the airport watching on TV, stunned and silent, as the tragedy unfolded on the screen.
I’m sure all of you remember exactly what we were doing and the surreal experiences we went through that morning. As the 10-year memorial of September 11th approaches, it brings back the all-too-real memories of the day our nation was attacked. This day changed everything for the families of the nearly 3,000 victims and in many ways, large and small, personal and professional, the tragedy changed the way Americans live and work.
In a recent Investment News article, A Decade of Change for Wealth Managers, the author argues that our client’s expectations and our businesses changed that day. With the deep sense of fear and new found realization of what is important in life and it isn’t picking a 5 star fund.
Over the last ten years, it has been truly gratifying to see the rise of goals based planning and investing as investors have forsaken the “tech bubble” high risk strategies mindset and focused on what is important to themselves, their families and their communities. Advisors have focused on deeper discovery processes, better communications with their clients and are focused on risk adjusted returns to meet client’s long term goals. Our value has grown in the eyes of the client from product salesperson to a more valued consultant and a true objective advisor.
The importance of our family, friends, and loved ones is central to our life and plays a significant role in our investing schemes. With 9/11 approaching and the sentiments fresh in our heads, think about the way this event changed your personal life and your business. Then consider your clients. What’s changed them? What’s important now? And how can you help them? Think about your discovery process and when the last time is you reviewed their goals with them.
Educational Events Take Advisors “Back to School” with the Three Rs: Retention, Referrals and Resources
Last Wednesday was the first day of school for my sons (kindergarten and first grade) and this morning, I was almost hit by a school bus while out on a morning run. This time of year, you can’t go to a store, read a newspaper or watch TV without blaring ads that say “BACK TO SCHOOL”.
Since the country is already thinking back to school, why not hold an educational event for clients and have them invite a friend as well? I can’t think of a better time to hold an event than right now! The kids are putting on their thinking caps, sharpening their number two pencils and thinking about the three R’s (readin’, writin’, ‘rithmetic). We can hold an event for our own three Rs – retention, referrals and resources.
Reinforce your value to retain clients
Over the last few months, your clients have seen some daily dramatic swings in the markets and are being subjected to depressing economic news. Hopefully, they already associate you with more than just investment performance. But an educational event is a great reminder of the other things that you do for them. Showing value beyond the things you can’t control (like the markets and economy) is a great way to validate their decision to hire you and your firm.
Encourage clients to bring guests for referral opportunities
By being proactive in this market, you are setting yourself apart from your peers that are staring really hard at their phones waiting for that new prospect call. Use this event as a proactive referral campaign; encourage your clients to bring a guest or invite prospects so they can see you in a non- threatening way. They get to see you adding value to your clients’ lives. What better way for them to test the waters and meet you than in an informal setting?
Keep it simple with these resources
Planning an educational event does not have to be hard or time consuming. And the best news – it doesn’t have to cost much. For simple event planning, I would suggest the following as a resource:
1. Secure a location. While the lowest cost may be your office conference room, think outside the office with more of the classroom theme, like a local junior college or a library meeting room.
2. Find a speaker. This is not a sales function; don’t invite a wholesaler to sell his or her product. Think about your client base and look for resources that will fit the demographic. Examples would include a representative from the Social Security Administration http://www.ssa.gov/organizations/ or a local law enforcement official to discuss identity theft.
3. Set up the room “classroom style.” They are here to learn, so you don’t need to go overboard with food or drinks when coffee and a cookie will do.
4. Invite all your clients and prospects and let them know this is not a “sales event” but a service that you offer. Encourage them to bring friends and associates that may be interested. This is not about you. Your role is short and only as host; you’ll provide the opening introductions and the closing remarks. Make sure you have some handouts for those that may be interested, but take specific questions about services and products offline.
5. Track and measure your success. I would argue that the first quarter and especially the third quarter are great times for these types of educational events. Track them to make sure they are working for you.
Now is the best time to be in front of clients showing value. Just stay away from those busses.
If you have other ideas on educational events, I would love to hear them.
Back in 2008 when the market was at its peak of turmoil, I met with a very large firm in the Midwest and the CEO made a statement that stuck with me. It was true then, it is true now. DON’T WASTE THE CHAOS. Just like 2008, today the market is down 600 points, up 500 points, down 400 points then up again? Sometimes all in the same day! Who knows what’s going to happen next?
What I do know is that today we have a real opportunity to solidify our relationship with clients and secure new relationships that will last a lifetime. This is the time when good advisory practices grow! The market volatility is causing concern among clients and prospects alike. Our natural inclination in times like these is to “circle the wagons” and contact each of our clients to hold their hands. We “know” that none of our prospects is “buying” right now, but that is exactly why you need to contact them.
Confusion and upheaval are your best friends
Every day, consumers are being whipsawed between fear and relief when they see the news. My bet is the “rookie advisors” out there are not communicating with them, and if the consumer hears anything from his or her financial institution, it is filled with old clichés financial mumbo jumbo.
A recent study of investors with a net worth between $100,000 and $1 million (not including primary residence) found similar criteria in choosing a new advisor. An overwhelmingly large group of people, 92 %, put the greatest stock in transparency and being kept in the loop.
This is great for advisors! Transparency is a way for advisors to step in and take charge. Here are a few ideas on how to boost transparency and keep existing clients confident:
- Communicate the what and the why relating to investment performance
- Have a transparent structure that explains how fees are charged
- Return calls within the same business day
- Share relevant product information and insights about the market
For your prospects:
- Step up your communication (to prospects and suspects). Show them the what and the why of their own portfolios’ investment performance
- Offer a second opinion on the prospect’s portfolio focusing on risks they’re taking and fees that they are paying today
- Offer to communicate with other members of the prospect’s family and friends
- Hold a “town hall meeting” or have coffee with anyone who has questions
Being visible and transparent is key in this chaotic time. Not just keeping these ideas in mind but putting them to work can help advisors maintain healthy relationships with their clients and acquire new clients. This may be one of the best times you have ever had to grow your practice.
Are you wasting the chaos?