With the bailout package passed, a new President elected, and the markets beginning to settle down (we hope) a little, it’s a good time for advisors to take a deep breath and do some clear thinking about the future for their clients and their practices. As the saying goes, it’s turbulent times like these when independent advisors really earn their pay: Now is when your clients need you more than ever. Being there for them can solidify relationships that can last a lifetime. Now is when practices that have been properly positioned can really shine.
Over the past few months my advisor clients have asked me to share with them the top issues that they should be focusing on in their businesses to manage an increase in workload, such as the extra client service that is being done and, in many cases, the growth in new clients that they may be experiencing. Tough economic environments present unique challenges for independent advisors and in many cases call for a different set of management steps that need to be taken to ensure that their firms stay on track to hit goals and client service requests. As a result, here are eight practical suggestions on where to focus your resources in your practice today.
Suggestion #1: Keep Reaching Out
The rough economy provides a true test of our high-quality client service. The key is client contact: lots of contact. Your experience and training help you to think clearly when others are blinded by emotion. While it’s doubtful that any of us have seen anything like this before, you’ve certainly seen enough to know what your clients should do, and more important what they shouldn’t do: don’t panic, don’t overreact, don’t run with the herd, and so forth. The more often they hear from you, and the more reassuring you can be, the better.
Suggestion #2: Conduct a Client Survey
Many advisors are already on a rotation to conduct a client survey every two years. However, it’s during tough times that you need to know what your clients are thinking. Now is a great time to do a client survey, to see if they’re getting what they need from you, and if there’s anything else you can do for them. We recommend that in the next month, you conduct a special client survey to get direct feedback about how clients are feeling, including an open-ended comments box for clients to express their more personal or specific concerns, so that they can be addressed more individually. They’ll be impressed with the timing, and you’ll see an unusually high response rate.
Suggestion #3: Ask Clients for Referrals
Your high-quality client handholding during a difficult time combined with lots of friends of your clients looking for new advisors can add up to a flood of referrals. If you are experiencing growth then you know that your client service programs are working properly. It is also a good idea to extend a helping hand to clients who may have friends who are not quite as lucky in the advice that they have received. I suggest that you send a friendly letter or e-mail to your top clients, offering your services to friends and family who may be in need of independent and objective advice about their financial situations. In the coming few months, be prepared for new clients.
Suggestion #4: Don’t Fire Any Clients
This is a bad time, however, to reengineer your client base. It’s probably your inclination to think about cutting the cord with those bottom-tier clients you’ve been meaning to get rid of–the ones who take an inordinate amount of time and effort, yet contribute a disproportionately small amount to your top and bottom lines. But even though it would help to free up your already pressured time right now, dumping them when they need you most is something that you’ll undoubtedly regret later, and is the kind of community buzz you don’t want to create. We recommend you hold on any client base cleaning until economic times are a little less volatile and scary for the client.