Learning To Listen

In a choral group, you might think the primary goal is to make the right sound. You'd be right, but for serious singers, being able to hear is just as important as being able to produce sound. Being able to hear allows you to listen to the other parts and blend your note, your sound, with the other singers. That's why a good director will physically intersperse tenors with altos, men with women, during rehearsals and performances, so each individual can be immersed in the sound of the other parts. That's what the director means when he asks a group "Can you hear?" A good performance space is defined, at least for the choral set, as one in which all the singers can hear well.

Do you provide a good space to listen? Our cover story this month (page 36) is based on a survey of more than 700 advisors conducted by Investment Advisor and Financial Psychology Corp. Along with a survey of consumers, the findings should serve as a wake-up call to advisors, since it suggests that advisors think more highly of themselves and their communications skills than do advisors' clients. As one example of this disconnect, 71% of the responding advisors said they believed their clients were content with their investment management performance and communication skills, and 39% thought their clients believed they were receiving good value for their services. But the consumer responses tell a different story. When asked if they were getting good value from their advisors' money management, 40% of the consumers answered no, and a full 57% said their advisors fell short of their expectations. The story's authors make suggestions on ways to close the communications gap.

When it comes to closing such gaps and finding ways to listen to clients, no one provides better advice than our own Olivia Mellan. Her column this month (page 88) continues her theme on how advisors can help clients deal with the uncertainty introduced by the events of September 11.

Many advisors called their clients in mid-September to reassure them that the world of investing, the world of money, had not essentially changed. Clients appreciated the chance to speak to a calm, reassuring voice. Mostly, advisors listened and the clients spoke.

One of those advisors was Dave Huber, a planner in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, who told me that he even picked up some extra assets from existing clients as a result of his post-9/11 calls.

Huber is like many of you; he keeps open the lines of communication and education to his clients with quarterly get-togethers and client newsletters, and any client requests must be acted on immediately.

A no-nonsense kind of guy, he nevertheless is man enough to simply and regularly ask his clients if they are pleased with the service that he and his staff have provided. And then he listens.

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