You’ve seen them. Usually, the headlines are on some fringe site or in an email – and the author just happens to have a solution that would benefit potential investors. Ok, some of them may actually be on well-known sites, but no matter – the doomsday attitude panics people into reacting.
Unfortunately, that also means clients read this material and forward it to you. Topics include things like:
- Why the dollar will be dropped as the world currency
- Why the Fed’s careless actions with rates will doom the municipal markets
- Why everyone should be buying <insert name of random commodity here> now and how investors will regret not doing so soon
- The next financial crisis is coming, it will be worse than 2008, and the cause will be <insert current trend>
You get the idea. Now, I realize you are in a service business and have to respond to your clients, but when is the last time you told a client that you wouldn’t read one of these articles? When is the last time you told them that they were wasting your time? Why forward that email to someone else for comments when you already know the answer? No matter what your response is, you are answering the wrong question.
It’s about your process and their plan
I have used this analogy before, but think of your client service model as a large factory, one with an assembly line. If you think about the end of the assembly line (and frankly, up and down the line), there is usually a quality control engineer. The engineer’s job is to assure that the finished product, the product coming off the line, has no defects. If there is an issue, it is his/her responsibility to find where in the line the mistake was made. Most likely, it wasn’t in the last step before it goes to the engineer.
Think about what the client is really saying by asking you to respond to the article/email/conspiracy theory:
- I don’t trust that you know what you’re doing with regard to my future
- I don’t believe you have clearly identified my goals and taken into consideration all plausible scenarios that could affect the outcome
- You have not done a good job of explaining your process to me or giving me the confidence in you that I need
- Due to my lack of confidence, I will continue to search out new ideas on my own and when I find a strategy that confirms by bias (confirmation bias), I will move the assets under your control somewhere else
Your clients’ questions are merely a symptom of a problem in the client service production line that may go back months (if not years). Advisors who get emails or articles from a client asking for a response, something is broken in their client service production line.
Can it be fixed?
Most advisors in this situation have a tendency to address the symptom and not the cause. I think this type of situation, if not resolved, can create problems for the advisor/client relationship down the road. If you answer the questionable email or article once, what’s to stop clients from burdening your office with these types of questions in the future? If they are really saying they don’t trust you, can you trust them as a loyal referring client? Do you always want to be on your heels, responding to these types of client requests?
The next time you get a request to respond to an article, don’t. Instead, explain to the client:
- Our firm and partners spend countless hours creating and maintaining a plan that is appropriate for you and your family on a risk-adjusted basis.
- Our dedication to education – both mandatory via licenses and certifications, as well as for our personal growth – means we are constantly researching and evaluating alternatives on your behalf. If there was a new strategy that would be more appropriate for you, we would have reached out to you before you sent this in.
- It has been our experience that many articles are written to excite investors into an action that usually only benefits the author or the company publishing the article.
More importantly, invite the client into your office for a personal one-on-one meeting to discuss your process and their plan. Re-build their confidence. The quality control engineer in your business just found an error down the line and it has to be fixed.