DALLAS - What is a “madvocate”? You won’t find the term in Merriam-Websters but Kristin North, the Texas-based vice president of sales and a strategic relationship management team for TD Ameritrade, uses the word to describe a client who complains and shares those sentiments with others.

North says a client who complains will talk about their dissatisfaction with on average another 26 people, likely other clients or prospective clients.  Worse, affluent clients are 30% more likely to share a negative experience than others, she says.

All bad news when you consider that each lost clients represents on average $528,000 in lost income for a financial planner, North says.

The TD Ameritrade vice president said at the Women Advisor Forum on Thursday that she has solutions. It’s possible to transform “madvocates” into “advocates who help you grow,” North says.

She recommends soliciting client feedback, developing a plan to refine the client experience based on that feedback, then executing that plan, and finally communicating the plan effectively to your staff and your clients.

Many options exist to solicit client feedback; advisory boards, focus groups, and surveys all serve that purpose.

Executing the plan you devise after evaluating that client feedback, however, will invariably involve retraining of staff and giving employees new tools. What are staff members allowed to do to respond to an angry client? Send $50 worth of values without checking with a principal? North says a financial planner has to empower staff with such options to address the complainer immediately.

For North, the final step of communicating the new policies and procedures takes a commitment on the part of the leaders at the financial planning firm.

“The principle really needs to buy in; otherwise the staff will think it’s just the fad of the day,” she says.

As new employees arrive, inculcate them with the new attitudes, she says. Ultimately, “Management is the key to a superior service,” she says, and the ability to avoid “madvocates.”

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