As you’ll read in my upcoming column in the July issue of Investment Advisor (“The Death of the Rainmaker”), we believe that client service is the “heart” of successful independent advisory firms: client service forms the impression that clients have a firm, and great client services drives the referrals that create firm growth.
The “key” to great client service is great client service people. I know this probably sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many owner-advisors just don’t seem to get it. The reality is that no matter how great an advisor they are, the majority of every client’s contact with their firm will not be with them as the firm gets bigger: it will be with their employees. If those employees create a bad impression—are brash on the phone, are argumentative, don’t follow up, etc.—that’s how that client will see your firm.
Consequently, we devote much time and effort screening and hiring the employees who will interface with clients, and then training them to deliver the best client service possible. Here are the five qualities we look for in great client service people, and then, once they are onboard, training them how we expect them to act with the firm’s clients.
Trait 1: Emotionally Intelligent
This is probably the most important quality for people who work directly with clients—and probably the hardest thing to teach. Good client service people manage their emotions well: they stay positive, composed, and focused on the client and what he or she needs at the time. They don’t get defensive, and don’t take client moods or criticisms personally. Instead, they realize that their reactions to emotional or unpleasant clients can either make the situation worse, or turn it around into a positive experience for the client—and one that they won’t forget.
Trait 2: Accepting
Good client service people accept clients as they are. They don’t judge anyone or a client’s situation. They don’t bring their personal opinions to work, refrain from discussing their religious or political views and don’t react to any such views expressed by clients.
They know their job is to help all the firm’s clients, regardless of their personal opinions. They are equally open minded about changes within their firm. Again, their job is to represent the firm, not critique it.
Hopefully, management will seek out their opinions about potential changes: their experience with clients can provide an important perspective. But they must accept that when a decision is made, their job is to present it to the clients in the best light possible.
Trait 3: Conscientious