Close Close
Popular Financial Topics Discover relevant content from across the suite of ALM legal publications From the Industry More content from ThinkAdvisor and select sponsors Investment Advisor Issue Gallery Read digital editions of Investment Advisor Magazine Tax Facts Get clear, current, and reliable answers to pressing tax questions
Luminaries Awards
Headshot of financial advisor consultant ngie Herbers

Practice Management > Marketing and Communications > Client Outreach

3 Steps to Speed Up Your Client Response Time

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

Financial advice is always going to be a people business. Because of the way that money is connected to human emotions, our clients are always going to need to interact with real people. They will always want to feel understood, and they will always want to see in your eyes whether you’re truly confident in the advice you’re giving.

At the same time, the industry is increasingly making room for technology and for good reasons. One recent example of how technology is becoming more critical has to do with clients’ changing service expectations.

Over the past three years, we’ve seen clients wanting their advisors to respond faster and faster to their inquiries. Clients used to expect their advisor to respond to a call or email within 24 hours. Not long ago, that window had shortened to the end of the day, and now, based on what we’re hearing from the hundreds of firms we serve, more and more clients are disappointed if they don’t hear back within 90 minutes.

We don’t know precisely what’s caused expectations around response times to change. It could be a symptom of our modern, anxiety-driven culture. It could be a form of fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. It could be driven by the fact that we can get pretty much anything we want instantly on Amazon. But based on feedback from our clients, there’s no question that the response-time bar has been raised.

Thus, the yardstick for client service today not only consists of the old basics — technical knowledge and professional advice — but also quick response times. So how are advisors accommodating their clients’ needs in this area? One main way is that they are building a digital client experience.

Before sharing examples of what a digital client experience can look like, it’s important that we define the term. That’s because in other industries, the digital client experience is often connected with social media, email marketing and other parts of firms’ marketing programs.

In a recurring revenue model, where a client pays for the service they receive once a quarter or once a month, the digital client experience becomes critical after the client has hired the advisor. The primary goal is to keep existing clients engaged and connected.

It’s critical for advisors to understand clients’ preferences when it comes to digital communication, and which mode of communication will be most effective. Should you communicate with clients via text? Is email better? Phone calls? How about document management programs?

Some of those forms of digital communication can increase response times significantly, but they also can put a burden on compliance. Every firm’s approach has to be mapped out intentionally. And the digital experience must align with, and sit on top of, the initial client experience.

If your fundamental client experience has holes in it, your digital client experience will be flawed as well. Assuming you have a solid client experience in place, it’s time to look at the ways that the digital client experience is evolving to shorten response times.

1. Set a response time goal.

A foundational part of creating a successful digital client experience is establishing a response time goal. Whether digital or otherwise, what is the time in which the firm expects to deliver responses to client inquiries? Does the firm expect all advisors to respond to clients within 24 hours? 90 minutes? One hour? Expected response time will determine the solutions that a firm will have to build into its digital client experience.

If the target response time is, let’s say, 60 minutes, then the digital client experience will have to be robust. If the standard is to respond to clients by the end of the day, then the digital client experience won’t need to be as complicated. It’s worth keeping in mind, however, that many advisory firms are now striving to respond to clients’ financial planning needs in under 90 minutes.

That can present challenges for the typical advisor firm. If the advisor that the client wants to hear from is in a meeting with another client, or they’re stuck in back-to-back meetings, then responding to the inquiry properly becomes pretty hard. Setting an expected response time is important because it will allow firms to prepare solutions for such scenarios.

2. Review client communications.

After determining desired response times, the next step in creating a digital client strategy, before implementing any technology, is to analyze how clients communicate with the firm the most. Do many of the clients call? Do many of them email or text? What is the primary communication method? And how, optimally, would clients like to communicate with their advisors?

I’m not a big fan of client surveys that seek feedback about satisfaction levels with advisors. But I do endorse client surveys that ask practical questions such as how clients want to communicate. Much of the digital client experience will be built upon what you learn by researching your client base.

If you’d like to communicate with your clients primarily through email, but they say they want to interface with you primarily through quick Zoom calls, or more client meetings, then there’s a disconnect. Firms must cater to the way that the clients prefer to communicate. That’s client experience 101.

3. Embrace micro-technology.

So how should advisors start tapping technology to respond quickly to clients in the ways they prefer? A single technology program that solves the whole dilemma is elusive. I suggest that advisors begin by harnessing micro-technologies that are readily available.

Email rules are a great example of a micro-technology that can solve specific communication issues. Let’s say you want to prioritize your 10 largest clients in terms of responsiveness. In that case, you could set up an email rule, or a rule in your CRM, to ensure that the advisor or the service team is notified immediately when any of these clients contact the firm.

Another micro-technology example: We have a client firm that specializes in divorce; it has set up technology to quickly scan emails for keywords and respond with templates to questions that come up again and again. The firm has 20 to 30 pre-populated emails for clients who are facing a particular issue in their divorce. Think of it as FAQ responses that are pushed out to clients immediately.

A final example: Firms we’ve worked with have successfully decreased client acquisition costs by using videos during the onboarding process to explain the client experience, and next steps.  These emails can be general, but it dramatically reduces clients’ questions about “what’s next”?

A thoughtfully designed digital client experience, making use of commonly used micro-technologies, can be very effective in shortening client response times. And financial advisory firms that are focused on response times in today’s digital age have more clients, and more referrals.


© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.