Life changes sometimes send your clients far out of your geographical reach, but it doesn’t mean your business relationship has to end. Learn how to use online technology and some old-fashioned customer service to retain that connection.
“We’re moving cross-country to be closer to the kids and grandchildren.” Your reaction is mixed: While you fully understand the decision, from a business perspective you’re worried you’ll lose their business.
Advisors often say solid client relationships are the cornerstone of their business. The products and services one advisor offers aren’t all that different from another’s, they claim, so it’s the personal connection with clients that sustains the relationship. Whether it’s through in-person meetings, calls, e-mails or other means, successful advisors pride themselves on staying in touch with clients.
That thinking raises a question: Can advisors maintain client relationships if distance makes it impossible for the client to drop by the office or come in conveniently for regular meetings? According to the advisors interviewed for this article, it’s not only possible but easy with the right combination of communications methods. In fact, in some instances the advisor and client have never met in person.
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Marc Schindler, CFP, partner with Pivot Point Advisors in Bellaire, Texas, works with clients around the world, some of whom he’s never met. “We communicate by telephone, e-mail, etc.,” he says. “Some people like to sit across your desk and look you eye to eye, but, for the majority of our clients, we have found that it’s not important.”
Rick Kahler, MS, CFP, president of Kahler Financial Group in Rapid City, S.D., says 40 percent of his clients live outside his immediate area, so he relies on a variety of technologies to stay in touch. Kahler uses GoToMeeting, an online conference service that offers integrated desktop-sharing and audio, in conjunction with Skype video-conferencing.
His firm’s website is interactive and offers access to a client portal, budgeting software, brokerage accounts and forms. Kahler notes that he works best with clients who have at least a basic mastery of computers and the Internet. The technology-centered approach works well: Kahler says client feedback has been positive, and his client-attrition rate is low.
Constance Stone, CFP, ATP, president of Stepping Stone Financial Inc. in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, also uses Web conferencing with both local and out-of-town clients. The arrangement saves clients driving to her office, she says. In addition, she uses the usual mix of phone conferences, e-mail and regular mail when needed. Stone cites an example of a client whose travel for work has prevented her from meeting with Stone in person. Nonetheless, Stone says, the relationship remains strong, and they continue to work together.