What has the digital age meant for you? Does the information at your fingertips make you more decisive or paralyzed? Do you command your devices or do they rule your life?
All the technology and information available doesn’t replace the need for special client interactions. In fact, our industry is losing the heartfelt touch that defined what it meant to be an investment adviser years ago.
Communicating is Not Relating
Technology facilitates productive communication between people via email, texts, tweets and posts. However, communicating does not necessarily mean the adviser is relating.
Wealth advisory is a relationship business from beginning to end. When clients entrust their financial lives to an adviser, it’s more than just handling money. Wrapped up in the “money” are families, emotions, conflicts, histories, anxieties and aspirations. These are dimensions visible only through heart-to-heart socializing that make humans unique.
For the majority of the individual investor market, and all segments therein, a human adviser (vs. solely a robo/technology interaction) is the preferred medium for receiving advice and counsel; the trusted adviser is someone to relate to, to share with, and to be inspired by.
Both Feet Firmly in the Relating Business
Over-reliance on digital technology is the greatest temptation facing today’s wealth advisory business. Volume of communication doesn’t equate to a high-quality, adviser-to-client relationship. Advisers may know more surface details about their clients than ever before (because of social media), but this veneer masks what’s really happening within the client as a person.
The volume of “stuff” pouring through an adviser’s smart phone or other device overwhelms particular details about a client that otherwise would allow a relationship to deepen. All this disconnected information becomes white noise to the client/person the adviser needs to know.
Budgeting Daily Time for Relating
The adviser’s communication feed to its clients (e.g. newsletters, LinkedIn updates, Facebook posts, blogs, etc.) is delivered impersonally—but it sure is efficient!
That’s the problem. How often does an adviser pause and read a client’s Facebook page and send a personal email reflecting on the content? Or, after a meeting, sit down and write a meaningful, hand-written reply?
While keeping technology in its rightful place, an adviser can deepen client relationships with these four steps.
- Schedule daily relating time. In every day, there’s an hour available to do special relating with clients apart from the normal reporting and associated activities. The time is there, it just needs to be a priority and a matter of focusing on the “few” and not the “many”.
- Partition the hour to specific clients. For the allotted time, take, say, two clients and devote 30 minutes to each with the end task being a personal interaction of some form. Write a note thanking them for their business; send an article about one of their interests; write a meaningful comment about a family picture on a Facebook page; send a book with a note inside the front cover; place a phone call just to see how the client’s children are doing or the status of a parent’s illness. Unlike business-type communications, these relational interactions are of a higher standard: something the client will keep. Each keepsake you create for your client, the deeper his or her loyalty to you will be.
- Log the activity in your CRM. Make a note in each client’s activity file. It only takes a few minutes of the allotted 30 minutes, but it results in a diary of meaningful contact. Across the year, the adviser will see the volume of these interactions (i.e. there are about 260 business days in a year * two interactions a day = 520 quality interactions). Also, use the CRM’s follow-up system to create a client rotation program such that each client will receive at least two keepsake communications from you each year.
- Get the company involved. Make this “relating hour” a company priority. Encourage the team to come up with creative ways to express care and concern. Especially for a client’s life-changing events such as marriages, births and deaths, engage the company in the joy or sorrow.
In a people business like investment advice, clients want to be treated specially (and they’re paying good fees for this treatment). Attending to the inner person with focused—and unexpected—communication shifts the business from money to friendship. And, advisers that have both a business and personal relationship with clients always win.
Wealth Planning Consulting Inc.
Princeton Junction, New Jersey