By necessity, those of us in the financial services industry have embraced video conferencing as a part of our day-to-day work. While the health of our families and colleagues is our top priority, we should not overlook the value of virtual meetings as an addition to our client experience toolkit — and a powerful way to add scale to your firm.
This has not been a smooth ride, even if you were fortunate enough to have hit the ground running with remote work equipment and technical know-how already in place. Across the industry, our tools didn’t always work the way they should.
We learned the angles of our cameras gave our clients and coworkers a more revealing glimpse of our domestic lives than we liked. Or we tried to keep our composure during unfortunately timed (and very audible) meltdowns from our children.
Empathy matters now. Every technical hiccup or photo-bombing family pet is also a shared connection with the people on the other side of your screen.
Your clients understand your plight because their work, their lives and their families have all collided in sometimes messy ways. But after a few months of this, we’ve seen how dramatically remote service can improve with just a few changes to the advisor’s setup and approach.
1. Make the Most of the Hardware You Have
First, a quick word on hardware: Not all of us had invested in high-quality microphones and webcams before we migrated to remote work. To be fair, these tools might not have been necessary in our day-to-day tasks beforehand.
And when it comes to staying safe and meeting our immediate needs, webcams rightly took a back seat to food staples, medicine and cleaning supplies. Unfortunately, video conferencing hardware has become scarce thanks to unprecedented demand.
But you do owe it to your clients, right now, to make the most of what you have on hand. That could mean using a wired, Ethernet connection to the internet for more stable calls or learning to optimize your video settings. In a pinch, the cameras on our phones are likely superior to the ones built into our laptops.
Our clients can forgive a glitch here and there. But the foundation of our work is to understand and be understood by the people we serve. A consistently bad connection will undercut your best efforts to communicate and establish a good client experience.
2. Look at the Camera
The image we project has always been part of the client experience, and that’s still true in a virtual environment. We’re all discovering a new balance of comfort, couture and confidence.
For example, I like putting on perfume for myself, but I am less inclined to style my hair and wear makeup than I was when I went into the office every day. But here’s another trick I’ve discovered to stay engaged with your clients: Remember to make eye contact with the camera lens.
It sounds simple, but it makes a powerful difference in the way your client perceives you. Our instinct is to look at our clients’ faces on the screen when we talk. But this makes the gaze appear downcast, which can give the impression the client isn’t getting your full attention.
3. Embrace Your Shared Experience
Right now we all live with some level of stress, concern about our own health or that of our loved ones. But we also share the common, human experience of our lives creeping into the lenses of our conference cameras.
It’s comforting to see my clients’ and colleagues’ cats creep across their desk or a dog curled up in a chair in the background. On one of my recent calls a client struggled to keep his 2-year old daughter calm and out of the video.
We invited him to pull her onto his lap and she became a willing participant in the call. We welcomed her cherubic, smiling face as a distraction from the more serious financial market issues we were discussing.
Video conferencing will be a fundamental skill for the indispensable advisor — and it won’t be the only change to our industry after these volatile times are over.
Yesterday’s innovations have a way of turning into tomorrow’s table stakes. I encourage all of us to think about how our clients’ expectations will change, and how we can adopt other tools to free our practices from the ties of geography and maximize our client-facing time.