Most financial advisors would surely prefer to spend the bulk of their time providing great service to existing clients as opposed to seeking out new business, which is stressful and costly.
And yet, too many advisors spend a great deal of time acquiring clients and not nearly enough time working with clients after they sign on. That may be a huge mistake.
FIRST 100 DAYS
The service provided during the first 100 days after a prospect becomes a client is a major determinant of future success.
So says Joey Coleman, who as the chief experience composer of Design Symphony in Evergreen, Colo., has helped scores of companies deliver amazing service to customers.
Consider his findings:
- Across all industries, businesses lose 20% to 60% of new customers within the first 100 days.
- For the banking industry, the “defection rate” is 32% within the first year, with half that occurring within the first 100 days.
- For a subscription-model business, such as software as a service, the dropout rate is 20% within the first 100 days.
Although Coleman doesn’t specifically track attrition rates for advisors, research by my firm, CEG Worldwide, found that 97.5% of investors with more than $2 million in investible assets have two or more advisors.
So though an advisor might not have lost a single client in the past decade, clients may only be partly on board.
And if 30% of an advisor’s new business comes from client referrals, what is that advisor doing in the first 100 days to help ensure great introductions?
Why do so many clients defect in short order, or why do they entrust an advisor with only a portion of their wealth?
When customers decide to do business with someone, they go through a series of different emotions identified by Coleman. The first is “activation,” in which clients hand over their money and feel hope and relief that they have found the solution to their problems.
But soon, clients start to ask questions such as, “Is this really the right financial advisor for me? Am I paying too much? Will this advisor be there for my family after I’m gone?”
Fear, uncertainty and doubt set in, as the client experiences classic buyer’s remorse. These reservations occur most strongly soon after the purchase or engagement.
Unfortunately, most firms don’t address those doubts when they are at their peak. There is usually little to no contact during this time when new clients are busy second-guessing their decision to work with an advisor.
So what is the solution? How can advisors keep clients engaged, happy and loyal?
If the likelihood of defection is strongest within the first 100 days, then securing loyalties early on can win the advisor a customer for life.
At CEG Worldwide, we teach advisors to conduct a 45-day follow-up meeting with new clients. This should be part of a formal process used to attract, serve and retain clients over time.
Plan the 45-day new client meeting to accomplish the following:
1. Greet the client. Advisors should let their clients know that they continue to be excited about how everything is progressing and reinforce that the clients made a good decision by hiring them. And be sure to reference something personally important to the client, something not related to investing.
2. Respond to questions.Advisors should ask if the client has questions and make sure they have received all of them before responding.
3. Ask about the client’s life. To stay on top of big changes, such as a new job or a recent death in the family, that can require adjustments to the wealth management plan, so find out if anything important has occurred since the last meeting.
4. Give the client an organizer. Present the client with a tabbed notebook that includes sections for various documents such as the wealth management plan, brokerage statements and regular progress reports. Place all the documents in the appropriate sections and explain what each is for, showing the client how to read the various documents. Clients will frequently remark on the volume of paperwork that they are receiving. Invite them to bring that paperwork, along with the notebook, to future meetings to help them remain organized.
5. Place short-term progress in a long-term perspective. If the market did well in those first 45 days, the advisor will look like a genius. If the market is down, the negative returns will make the client wonder why he or she is paying the advisor. Turn either situation into a learning opportunity by explaining that what has happened in the past 45 days has little to do with achieving the client’s long-term goals. In the short term, no one can know with any accuracy which way the market will move, but making prudent decisions over the long term can maximize the probability of success.
Here are a few other actions, based on Coleman’s suggestions that can really wow new clients as soon as they begin doing business with a firm:
- Send each new client a short personalized video message thanking him or her for signing on.
- Follow up with a small personal gift. That type of unexpected move makes a big impression.
- Contact the client using Skype. This is a more intimate form of communication that most of us use with family and friends. Using it to contact the client sends the message that he or she is very important.
- Mail a handwritten note thanking the client once again for working with the firm and encouraging him to reach out with any questions or concerns.
Of course, when the first 100 days are over, the systems must be in place to continue to impress clients. One good way to maintain relationships is to take full advantage of quarterly and annual portfolio reviews.
All the while, advisors should keep asking how they are doing relative to the other advisors out there gunning for clients’ assets.
Advisors should ask themselves if they are doing all they can to learn more about clients and understand their lives more deeply; whether their communications with clients reflect that understanding; and whether they surprise clients occasionally with unexpected touches that make clients want to make referrals.
Do these things and 100 days will extend to 10,000 days as clients are transformed into lifelong advocates who send a steady stream of new business the firm’s way.
John J. Bowen Jr., a Financial Planning columnist, is founder and chief executive of CEG Worldwide, a global training, research and consulting firm for advisors in San Martin, Calif.
This story is part of a 30-day series on how to prosper as an advisor. It was originally published on Oct. 1, 2015.