Communicating for the good of your clients

Clients don’t always know if we advisers are doing a good job.

Sure, they know if they’re reaching their financial goals, or if they’re making or losing money. But even then, all too often, they aren’t always sure if their adviser is really making a substantial difference in their financial life.

Several years back, I heard a financial executive remark that if an adviser provides the absolute best service possible, they will have a 99% retention rate. And if they totally ignore their clients? He believed they would still have a 95% retention rate.

I couldn’t disagree more. Because most clients are not highly educated about finance, they typically judge us less on the financial aspects and more on the level of service and care we provide. In fact, I’ll take it a step further: I believe that great client service leads to overall better outcomes, not just for your clients’ net worth, but their quality of life, as well.  

Case in point, think back to the short-lived bear market that occurred during the early days of COVID. You undoubtedly had clients who immediately wanted to reduce their exposure to equities. Most you were probably able to convince not to sell during the panic, but there may have been a few who ignored your advice and sold anyway.

Odds are, those whose emotions got the best of them, who turned a temporary decline into a permanent reduction of assets, didn’t have as much confidence and trust in you as those who heeded your advice and stayed the course. 

From my 30 years of experience as a financial adviser, the best way to build trust and confidence with clients is through great service. And that begins by emphasizing communication.

For starters, you really need to care about clients as human beings. Most advisers are in this business because they enjoy working with people, but there are some who only care about the financial rewards. But let’s face it, you personally know when someone you’re in a business relationship with cares about your interests, and you know when they don’t.

Communicating isn’t just for when you are in meetings or providing guidance, it extends to operations, as well. For instance, all calls should be answered by a live person, voicemail is offered only as an option, all calls are returned within four hours, all emails are returned within 24 hours, and so on.

The more you focus on communication, the easier it becomes.    

Then there’s communication outreach. Have systems in place so that clients experience a personal connection on a regular basis. This includes reminders to call or email them simply to touch base and let them know you’re thinking of them. Also, look for any relevant opportunity to send a small gift or other token of appreciation when the client least expects it.

These simple things go a long way toward building a great relationship with your clients, which not only makes them more loyal to you, but will keep them from making life-altering financial mistakes during bear markets. 

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Scott Hanson is co-founder of Allworth Financial, formerly Hanson McClain Advisors, a fee-based RIA with $8 billion in AUM.

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