You dont need me to tell you that delivering great client service is crucial to your success as a financial advisor.
But ask yourself this: Are you really delivering a service experience that delights your existing clients and practically ensures that theyll introduce you to the right new prospects?
Ive written in the past about the gap between knowing what to do and actually doing it. Client service is one of those areas where advisors often dont act as they know they should.
Even if you are certain that you offer clients a great experience, its important to keep looking for ways to enhance that experience and do more to impress your clients. You want to strengthen their engagement with your firm, and keep them from considering what your top competitors might offer.
Consider: What else can you be doing to cement your relationships with the people you serve especially those key clients who are responsible for a disproportionate amount of your results?
Here are four steps that many of the advisors who are my coaching clients are already taking.
1. Get to know your clients (again).
Elite advisors do not assume that they know all there is to know about their best clients after having served them well for many years. Quite the opposite, in fact.
These advisors are increasingly taking their valued clients through a process of rediscovery a formal, sit-down meeting during which the financial advisors ask clients about their biggest current concerns, needs, goals and values.
These are, of course, the exact types of issues that you probably discussed with your clients many years ago, but the answers may have changed. This rediscovery process ensures that you are up to date on clients lives and goals and can offer service and solutions that are right on target.
Some advisors hesitate to conduct this type of meeting, fearing it will cause clients to view them as out of touch. But the planners I work with have told me that their clients find it extremely reassuring.
These clients appreciate the high level of focus on their own overall well-being.
This meeting also acts as a great reminder of the advisors commitment to clients which, in turn, helps foster a greater sense of engagement and loyalty that sets the stage for client retention and new client introductions.
2. Keep up with clients in real time.
Connecting with clients on Facebook or Twitter can help you see whats new in their lives and, in turn, will help you serve them better and offer little gifts that will impress them.
These social media connections offer you a steady stream of personal and family-related updates that you can use to craft a higher level of service.
Facebook status updates might reveal, for example, that one client is headed to the Mediterranean soon while another has a daughter who is expecting a baby. Based on that knowledge which your clients might not otherwise think to share you can send the client a guidebook on Italy or an article with tips for new grandparents.
This level of detail is more valuable than you might think. Weve repeatedly seen that the best types of client contacts (or touches) are personal contacts that arent focused on investing or the markets.
Such interactions do a great deal to strengthen client satisfaction and loyalty.
3. Connect clients with the best advice.
Think about all the issues and concerns that your affluent clients want help with. Challenges probably include reducing taxes, protecting assets (from creditors, identity thieves and other threats), generating a reliable retirement income stream, passing on wealth to heirs and giving back through charitable donations.
Now think about how complex the laws and rules around each of those issues have become in recent years and how much more complex theyre likely to become going forward.
Finally, let me give you a reality check: Are you truly the best person to address each and every one of those components of your clients financial lives?
Elite advisors know that the answer is to work with specialists who can provide better service and solutions.
Make a point of building professional networks of experts outside your firm to help provide exceptional value to clients. Instead of trying to do everything yourself and perhaps offering mediocre service as a result work with a team of professionals who already have the expertise your clients need.
Who should be on your team of experts? That depends on your specific client base and the biggest challenges they face, of course. That said, these teams often feature just three key players: a private client lawyer, an insurance specialist and a tax specialist.
By working together with these professionals and coordinating their efforts on behalf of your clients, you should be able to tackle nearly all of the issues that most of your wealthy clients face enabling you to deliver a comprehensive offering that will truly amaze clients.
Creating this type of expert network doesnt happen overnight. You have to put in the work to identify the very best professionals in your area and get them to agree to work with you. But many top advisors who have taken this step tell us that its allowed them to grow their practices faster than ever before.
4. Use client feedback to create a service system.
Dont assume youve got client service in the bag. You do various types of gap analyses for clients, right? Do the same for yourself by identifying any shortcomings in your client service model.
Once a year, ask clients especially the ones you value most to take an anonymous survey.
Seek their feedback on their overall satisfaction with the service they get from you and your team members, including internal staff and any outside experts to whom youve directed them.
Add a couple of survey questions that actively seek negative perceptions your clients may have about your firm. This will accomplish two things: It will help you identify actual problems in your service model, and it can also help demonstrate to clients that you truly want to hear their honest opinions both good and bad.
You can use a service like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey to send out surveys that clients can respond to with anonymity.
The key, of course, is to not let those survey results gather dust. Share the findings with your team, recognize clearly the baseline level of service you currently offer and create a benchmark for future service levels then develop action plans for hitting that bogey going forward.
Design systems that ensure everyone in your practice knows exactly what to do at every step in the client service experience, so your whole team can make promises and keep them every time.
The bottom line: Dont pay lip service to client service. If youre not giving your clients an amazing experience that leaves them wowed, youre planting seeds of doubt that will make them wonder if youre the right advisor for them. And thats all it takes these days for a competitor to swoop in and take your business.
Your clients are counting on you to help them achieve everything thats important to them. Dont let them down.
John J. Bowen Jr., a Financial Planning columnist, is founder and CEO of CEG Worldwide, a global training, research and consulting firm for advisors in San Martin, Calif.
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