Updated Tuesday, July 22, 2014 as of 3:23 AM ET
Blogs - The Referral Doctor
Client Relationships: 6 Essential Points of Contact
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
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What is the ideal number of times to be in touch with clients each year? It's probably higher than you think.

A recent survey by Accenture Wealth and Asset Management Services told us something we have heard many times before: 67% of advisors surveyed indicated that they have a personal relationship with their clients while only 38% of high-income investors reported the same. While there are many factors that go into a client feeling like they have a personal relationship with you, how often you are in touch, and what you do when you get in touch, can be a significant factor. 

There are many ways to be in touch with clients, but the best combination and frequency of contacts can be most effectively developed with client input. How many meetings do they expect to have each year? Would they prefer to get regular communications by mail or e-mail? Setting expectations at the beginning of a relationship enables you to meet them.

Here are some ideas to consider when you put together your contact schedule for the year:

1. Client meetings: How many times per year do clients want to get together with you? How often should you revisit the financial plan? How often does it make sense to review portfolio performance? Should there be separate meetings during the year to discuss specific financial planning issues in depth?

2. Telephone meetings: If the client wants to discuss their financial plan or portfolio performance several times per year do they want all of them to be in person, or would they prefer that some of them be by phone? Some clients may appreciate a brief conversation to bring them up to date without the commitment of traveling to your office.

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3. Virtual meetings: Would clients be open to meeting remotely with the use of technology to facilitate? In my practice, I use MoneyGuidePro for financial planning which supports remote client login. It has been a tremendous help to me when clients have moved out of town. We can all log in and take a look at the plan and discuss it by telephone in realtime. I can make changes to the plan and ask the client to refresh their screen so that they can see the new results.

Would clients -- think of those snowbird clients, for example -- like to see you even if they can't come in? Skype, GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, and other technologies make it possible to "meet" face-to-face when you are in different locations.

4. Newsletters: Regularly scheduled newsletters enable you to bring a large number of clients up to speed on current issues without talking to them individually. They can be distributed physically through the mail or electronically by e-mail at the client's preference. If you want your relationship to be more personal, include brief articles or news bites about what is happening in your office or with your family.

5. E-mail blasts: When something significant happens in the markets or in the news, you can send an analysis outside of your normal newsletter schedule. One thing I have from clients is that while they do not want their e-mail inbox clogged with trivial communications or promotional announcements, they deeply appreciate a timely update on significant events that may impact their financial well-being.

6. Client events: Another good way of bringing value to many clients at a time is through events. Some advisors’ clients like social events, others prefer strictly educational events. Producing a message for a group enables you to dedicate more time to create the right messages, the right visuals and the right support materials. Many clients appreciate the additional thought and preparation that go into what you present to them.

As you consider your client service strategy for the coming year, consider how you might utilize some of these tools. Are there other ways you keep in contact with your clients? Are there other creative ways of keeping in touch that have worked for you? Please share them in your comments below.

Steve Wershing is president of The Client Driven Practice, a firm that coaches financial advisors on referral marketing. He is the author of "Stop Asking for Referrals."

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(3) Comments
unfortunately the author doesn't answer the question of how many times to contact the client. There used to be a study that was done every 3-5 years that addressed that very question. The number changed but it was always close to 26. All of the author's types of communication counted but interestingly official communications didn't (i.e. statements, confirms, privacey notices, prospectuses etc.). The communication had to be relevant to the client's goals and wishes not just required by law.The bottom line is that good communication ALWAYS starts with listening.
Posted by Jack N | Wednesday, January 08 2014 at 2:22PM ET
Personally I have found that a client service day really works for both my clients as well as my team. This is a day dedicated to that particular client wherein we discuss change in objectives, change in strategies, change in the financial environment which could have an impact on his portfolio, change in expectations, fee discussions and the like. This has been much appreciated by our HNI clients.
Posted by tasha123 s | Thursday, January 09 2014 at 12:14PM ET
Jack - You are correct that I did not address how many times to contact a client. I'm sorry I did not make it explicit - it depends on the client preferences. Some, like newsletters and other mass communications, are usually done on a practice wide basis while others, like meetings and phone calls, can be tailored to the client. Ask the clients how often they want to have meetings, calls, etc. And then ask your client advisory board how often they want things like newsletters and what they want in them. Frequently interesting and always valuable. And, yes again, I did not include official communications like privacy notices because clients do not perceive any value in them so they don't contribute to the perception of service. Portfolio reports maybe but statements probably not.

Tasha - The client service day sounds like an interesting idea! Can you tell us a little more about how you conduct one?

Thanks to both of you for taking the time to contribute!

Posted by Stephen W | Thursday, January 16 2014 at 9:11AM ET
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