How a Lesson in Trust Can Boost Client Service

‘People are loyal to people,' a marketing instructor for financial advisors learns in a very moving way.

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  • Client Communication and Miscommunication RIA policies and procedures must specify what type of communications should be retained. The safest course of action is for RIAs to retain all communications—to clients, from clients, and about client accounts.  To comply with fiduciary obligations, communications must be thorough and not mislead.
  • Client Commission Practices and Soft Dollars RIAs should always evaluate whether the products and services they receive from broker-dealers are appropriate. The SEC suggested that an RIA’s failure to stay within the scope of the Section 28(e) safe harbor may violate the advisor’s fiduciary duty to clients, so RIAs must evaluate their soft dollar relationships on a regular basis to ensure they are disclosed properly and that they do not negatively impact the best execution of clients’ transactions.

Some months ago, I received a copy of a marvelous email. 

Stephanie Peterson, who teaches courses in relationship-management and prospecting for Bill Good Marketing, forwarded it to me.  It’s from Elyse Ellison, client and event coordinator for EH Shum Financial Solutions. 

According to Ellison’s LinkedIn profile, her duties include managing all events for a 400-plus client base, developing and driving prospecting; exceeding her firm’s client goal for 2012; managing, coordinating and facilitating public seminars, marketing events, marketing partners and sponsorships; as well as working side by side with the CEO to expand and maintain client relationships.

I‘m not going to say anything else about the letter sent by Ellison, since it speaks too well for itself:

Dear Stephanie,

It was such a pleasure meeting you last week; I found your relationship-management course to be not only career changing, but also a valuable life lesson.

First off, I wanted to thank you. I’m really glad I came to Utah; to be perfectly honest, I was initially afraid that the material would be way over my head. I know now that this training will be a huge benefit to whatever field of business I choose to pursue in life. In addition to thanking you, there is something else that I wanted to share. It was one of the last Bill Good letters we read together, ‘Run in The Rain’ and an experience on my plane ride home that inspired me to share this story with you.

I do apologize for this being long and perhaps scattered, but I promise there’s a point...

About a year ago my dad was diagnosed with two cancers, and these last few months have been a real struggle. The hardest part about it for me is seeing my father—my hero, my best friend, and my parent—feel as though he has been defeated and will struggle to be happy again. Because I’ve always been a daddy’s girl, I tend to make him number one, just to make sure he’s happy. And it’s not because he’s sick now, it’s because my whole entire life, he’s done just the same for me.

One thing I’ll never forget, was when I was 13, my dad took me out to Modesto to buy me my first dog. Stephanie, this dog became my world. He was there for every birthday, every Christmas, every boyfriend break up and broken heart. He was the one I cried on, laughed with, bragged about—this dog stole not only my world but also my dad’s. Over the years, he’s become the light of our lives, and ever since my dad became ill, I’ve always thought, Winston will be part of his cure.

As I was getting on the plane to fly back home last Friday, my father called to tell me that Winston had passed away. My world stopped. There I was on a small plane, listening to my dad tell me something that I just couldn't imagine had happened. I couldn’t grasp it. I lost it and completely fell apart.

Just as my dad was telling me what happened, the flight attendants were walking up and down the aisles making sure all cell phones are off because we were literally approaching the runway and about to take flight. I could barely put words together, let alone get off the phone with my dad.  At that moment, all I could think was “This didn’t happen ... not my dog ... not my dog.”

Seconds later, a gentle hand reached across my lap, with a tissue and a voice said: “... I don’t know what happened, but I am so sorry. Are you ok?”

My hands were shaking, and I couldn’t catch my breath. I politely accepted her tissue and without responding, just continued to break down and cry.

About 45 minutes into the flight, I finally took a deep breath and tapped that lady on the shoulder to say, “I’m really sorry ... thank you for the tissue”.

She said back to me with this look of concern on her face, “Don’t be sorry, I don’t know what happened, but you made me cry.”

I finally built up some courage to tell her what had happened, and low and behold she shared a very similar story with me about her husband and a pet they had. We both got to talking, I slowly started to calm down and to my surprise, I began to feel safe with this complete stranger.

I told her, “You know, you’ve really helped me. I don’t know what I would have done for two hours, alone on this plane, feeling the emotions that I was feeling—if I didn’t have someone to talk to.”

I let her know that her words were really touching and asked her what she did for a living, because she was really good with people.

She said, “I work at a financial firm for an insurance company ... thought I was going to be a teacher, but I’ve been doing this for years now. I’m in part an advisor/client manager; I basically deal with all the client and customer-service issues”.

This is when I thought of you, Stephanie.

We got to talking, and she actually knew who my father was because she had been the insurance advisor for the company he used to work for about 15 years. First thought was—small world. I told her all about my Utah training and then she shared something with me that brought this whole entire experience full circle.

She looked at me and said “People are loyal to people. Just like your pet was loyal to you and your father. When you learn to master a relationship, whether the relationship is just a couple of moments old or 10 years old—if there is trust, loyalty will come. People don’t become loyal to the “name” or to the “title of the company” they become loyal to that person (the advisor). People are loyal ... to people”.

And she’s right. Trust is a very valuable component in life. I trusted this lady enough to open up to her, without a thought or fear that she wouldn’t understand because she was a stranger. She listened to me and talked me through (honest to God) one of the most difficult moments in my life.

Stephanie, your training moved me the same way. It delivered and set the same example. You gave a lot of really good advice, and I also sensed that you’re a very passionate individual. Don’t ever lose that trait, your compassion for other people and what you do is inspiring. Thank you again for a wonderful experience. I look forward to staying in touch.

Happy Holidays,

Elyse Ellison

Client and Event Coordinator

EH Shum Financial Solutions

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