The secret to offering service that is so good that it’s memorable is to pay attention to the details. Here are 10 small steps for treating clients well, starting with one that’s so simple, yet sometimes easy to mess up.
1. Get the client’s name right.
I’m sure we’ve all cringed when we hear a stranger mistakenly call a colleague by the wrong nickname or accidentally call someone by his last name instead of his first. Write the client’s name on your notepad before your meeting begins. Writing something down can help some people remember better than typing the same thing.
2. Ask questions…
Advisors typically ask clients what their goals are or what they want their money to do for them. Communications strategist and pollster Frank Luntz of Luntz Global says asking follow-up questions shows that you’re listening and responding to what they say, not going off a pre-written sales script.
3. … and listen.
Asking relevant follow-up questions signals you’re listening to what clients are telling you. Make sure to give them room to respond without interrupting them.
4. Jot down hints your clients mention about their lives, and have a system for storing those details.
My friend Nick once gave a co-worker a birthday gift that was a big hit: It was a set of Lip Smackers lip balms. It turns out she had once made a wistful comment about loving Lip Smackers as a kid.
As Nick tells it, to avoid the dread of gift shopping, he had developed a habit of immediately scribbling down anything that people mentioned that they even remotely like so that he knew what to buy them for birthdays or holidays. Charming! You can jot down a note when your clients mention going back to their alma mater to catch a football game or pursuing a hobby like cycling or restoring cars. Those details can help you build deeper relationships with your clients.
The “Contacts” tab in Microsoft Outlook provides space to keep notes about your clients.
5. Invest in the memorable stuff that won’t cost a lot of money.
Even high-income clients are touched by small gestures that mean a lot. We know a mortgage broker who volunteers to write and send “a letter from Santa” to clients’ kids. You can decide whether your clients would appreciate having you deceive their children for them.
6. Make it about them. Everything.
Clients appreciate when you put them first, even when it comes to the words you use. For instance, in one focus group that Transamerica held with the communications strategy firm Luntz Global this year, investors said they liked hearing about advisors’ “results” more than their “track record.” One investor explained that's partly because a "track record" is all about the advisor, but “’Results’ is for ME.” Interesting. (By the way, check out the 14 Phrases for 2014, if you’re interested.)
7. Celebrate birthdays and holidays.
Sending a card is an easy way to stay in touch. Enough advisors are doing this that customers now expect to get a card from you on their birthdays.
8. Experience your office from your clients’ point of view.
Do your clients have trouble getting up from chairs that might be too low or too soft? Is the text on your documents or brochures large enough? If not, pull up a digital version on a tablet like an iPad, where text can easily be enlarged.
9. They want to go where everyone knows their name.
I don’t love going to the dentist, but I do feel a little better when the receptionist greets me by name. It may not be possible for a receptionist at a busy practice to recognize everyone, but he or she can at least have a list of who’s scheduled to come in that day and greet everyone warmly.
10. Be responsive.
Many of your investors want you to return phone calls within hours and emails within the same day, according to 2014 data from Spectrem Group. If it takes time to get an answer to a client’s question, send a quick email to let the client know you are researching the answer. That lets you acknowledge your client’s request and fend off frustration from a client who just wants to know what’s going on.
Do you have other tips that have worked for you? Or an example of how good customer service has paid off for you? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Explore the Your Client Is Now a Family program for more on staying valuable to today’s clients.