Leave a comment

Building Client Trust in a Bear Market

Clients come to you for help and they want to know that you always have their back, and they won’t feel that way if they don’t trust you. Here are some ways to build client trust that will help keep your clients calm during a bear market:

Make a Connection

Of course, you need to keep your professional relationship professional, but you can’t connect with a current or potential client if you start talking numbers and processes right away. While that may feel like client communication 101, it’s a fundamental step to remember if you’ve forgotten.

Know Your Clients’ Values and Goals

You can’t serve a client in a way that makes them feel you have their back if you don’t know their values or goals. “Some financial advisers have unfortunately learned the hard way, they are not entirely sure what the client wants or values,” Rob Crowe writes in a Summit Brokerage blog post titled “Client Communication Tips: How to Better Communicate with Financial Advisor Clients.”

Knowing these things is vital, especially during market turbulence. When your client starts freaking out and wanting to do things that are not in line with their goals, remind them of all the goals you’ve helped them achieve already and keep them focused on the goals that they are working toward.

Be Transparent About Fees and Process

A study by Financial Engines found that 93 percent of those surveyed think financial planners should be fiduciaries. Demonstrate to clients that you have their best interests at heart by being transparent about your fees and discussing any potential conflicts of interest. Transparency breeds trust. Also, be clear about the planning process and explain what you are doing in terms they can understand.

Communicate Consistently and Respond Promptly

If you don’t do this, when you do finally send clients correspondence, it will likely cause them anxiety or stress. If you reach out with monthly or quarterly newsletters or reports, they’ll come to expect communications. Also, if they have a question, answer it promptly in their preferred method of communication, not yours. Concern yourself with their happiness. Be genuine about this. Inquire about the things that are important to them. Show them that you care, and it will build trust, says Angie Herbers in her ThinkAdvisor article, “The Four Steps It Takes to Build Client Trust.”

Ana TL Headshot_Cropped

Ana Trujillo Limón is senior editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org, or connect with her on LinkedIn


1 Comment

5 Exclusive Tips To Maximize Customer Experience—The New Frontier

Beware the new reality: Marketing is no longer in control of your brand. Rather, customer experience (CX)—the actual experience your customers are having—is.

Because customer expectations are at their highest levels, CX has superseded customer service and branding to become a key driver of retention and acquisition. Consequently, a brand’s success hinges on creating personalized experiences and delivering them in an authentic manner that resonates with customers and makes them feel valued and appreciated.

Astute and innovative companies are swiftly diverting significant budgeted dollars from branding and marketing initiatives toward CX. In this new paradigm, customers dictate all aspects of their relationship with your brand, thanks to the ubiquitous mobile, social and web technologies. In the words of customer service expert Jack Mackey, “You can say what you want about who you are, but people believe what they experience.”

Gartner defines CX Management as “the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations and, thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.” CX is the emotional representation of how your audience perceives your brand. It is about listening to your customers and acting accordingly. Delivering a successful CX is crucial for an adviser for the achievement of three key strategic goals: (1) Drive customer loyalty; (2) create brand evangelists who will promote your brand; and (3) attract and retain new assets.

Make CX Your Best Product Offering

When it comes to competing on CX, engagement is of paramount importance. Consequently, begin by making CX the best product your firm provides. Make your message memorable, entertaining and valuable, and leverage any available client data to extract maximum value from the interaction at any touch point of the sales journey.

To create a powerful and effective CX, you must ensure that your clients’ offline experience matches the online one. For the latter, the use of video is of paramount importance. Consumers’ thirst for video seems unquenchable and marketers are responding in kind. Video, far better than words, appeals to the visual and emotional part of a consumer’s brain, thereby facilitating a better and faster understanding. Most important, video establishes an emotional bond that even the best-written material cannot achieve. (For more details, read my InvestmentNews article, “Use Video to Connect with Clients.”)

Five Ways to Improve CX

Any CX must be able to deliver highly targeted and personalized messages to your audience at the correct touch point. I suggest five basic steps that advisers can take to create a meaningful and rewarding strategy that will help them improve client satisfaction, expand their book of business and increase revenue:

1.) Establish your vision

The easiest way to define your vision is to create a set of statements that act as guiding principles and that will drive the overall behavior of your organization. Every member of your team should know these principles by heart and they should be embedded into all areas of training and development.

2.) Become customer-centric

Put your customer first, and at the core of your business. Becoming customer-centric means you use any client data available to better understand your clients, and align your business growth strategies and policies with their needs. This is not only a sound business strategy but, as a Deloitte and Touche research pointed out, it also empowers a company to become up to 60 percent more profitable.

3.) Listen to the voice of customer (VOC)

The secret to attract and retain clients and assets is not fees or products, rather it is the CX that an adviser offers. Consequently, taking into account the voice of customer (VOC) is of crucial importance. VOC—a term coined by Abbie Griffin and John R. Hauser in an MIT Marketing Science paper—is the process of capturing client’s feedback to formulate a detailed understanding of their requirements. Customer feedback is an invaluable asset for an adviser. It provides crucial intelligence to gauge what works and what needs improvement. VOC allows you to leverage one of the skills clients value the most: your willingness to listen.

4.) Build an emotional connection

In the words of consultant Simon Sinek, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Ergo, make emotional connections with your clients your competitive advantage! The best customer experiences are grounded in emotional connections. Scientific research confirms that emotions shape attitudes and drive decisions. Loyalty is directly correlated to a customer’s emotional attachment to a brand. According to an article titled “The New Science of Customer Emotions,” in Harvard Business Review, “When companies connect with customers’ emotions, the payoff can be huge.”

5.) Deliver omnichannel customer experiences

Clients are expecting from you the same level of multichannel engagement they receive from companies like Amazon and Zappos. To be effective, your omnichannel engagement must go beyond the mere distribution of information through different channels and match clients’ preferred means of communication. The line between online and offline engagement is blurring fast and consumers demand engagements that allow them to seamlessly switch channels or devices while interacting with your brand.

Consumers have developed high expectations as a result of interacting with brands that offer them a user-centric CX. Advisers should switch their focus from customer service to CX as a way to prove to their clients a genuine commitment to customer satisfaction. Allocating time and resources today to deliver an engaging and compelling CX will put advisers ahead of the curve and position them well to cash meaningful dividends for years to come.

Claudio Pannunzio

Claudio Pannunzio is the managing director of Cürex Group Holdings. He was formerly the president of i-Impact Group Inc. in Greenwich, Conn.


2 Comments

4 Steps to Redefining Your Reference Point

Most financial advisers settle into a routine after a few years in the business. However, oftentimes routines turn into ruts. Many of my clients wonder why their business is coasting along but not growing. I tell them that it may be time to take a moment to evaluate and possibly restructure their activities.

If this is happening to you, don’t be discouraged. Rather choose to redefine your reference point. Our past experiences can hold us back from future success because they may limit our confidence to try new things.

Pablo Picasso said it best when he said, “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

The secret to redefining your reference point is to think out of the box, find someone who has done what you would like to do, learn from their example and take action.

Let’s take a deeper look at each one of these steps.

Step 1: Think Out of the Box

As with most journeys in life, the first step is always the hardest. You must ask yourself the tough questions in order to begin. Questions such as, “Where am I now? Where do I want to be? What do I need to do differently to get there?” Asking yourself these types of questions and analyzing your answers helps you to think out of the box. It encourages the mind to look for solutions.

Jeff K., a financial adviser with 28 years of experience, had been on a production plateau for year. After attending a free Adviser Solutions Mastermind Session and hearing some of the tools and resources I recommend to other advisers, he contacted me to discuss his business. This act of asking for insight was foreign to him since he had never spoken to a business consultant/coach before.

Step 2: Find a Mentor

The next step is to find a mentor who can help you determine all of the steps needed between where you are currently and where you would like to be. This can be a difficult step for many advisers especially veteran ones who may have to consider advice from others who have not been in the business as long as they have. The key is to find a mentor who has proven results and whose opinion you value.

Step 3: Learn from Their Example

In order to produce the same types of results that other successful advisers have, find out what they have done to accomplish those positive outcomes. It’s important to fully understand their step-by-step process so that you can tweak that for yourself.

Once Jeff explained his situation to me I knew we needed to map out a great prospecting campaign and since he had a large client base I explored the possibility of prospecting by asking for referrals. Over the years, he had tried numerous times to get referrals but ended up very disappointed with the results. I detailed out the process for him, we role-played the dialogue and I coached him on the reasons why a focused referral system works.

Step 4: Take Action

The most important step is to take action—without doing so everything else is just wishful thinking.

Jeff began the Adviser Solutions Client-Centered Referral Process right away and within a week he reported to me that he had received five referrals. That is more than he had gotten the entire previous year. He was so excited about it that he gave me a referral to his boss who he believed needed to hear this process and whom ended up having me teach it to his entire region.

Why Redefining Your Reference Point Works

The key to creating success is to constantly redefine your reference point because it keeps you open to exploring new ways of improving.

If this blog resonates with you and you’d like a free consultation with me, email Melissa Denham, director of client servicing for Advisor Solutions.

Dan Finley

Daniel C. Finley is the president and co-founder of Advisor Solutions, a business consulting and coaching service dedicated to helping advisers build a better business.