Client Communication Tips During Uncertain Times

In one household in quarantine right now, there are two schools of thought: one, this is an unprecedented event that we will recover from; and two, this is the end of the world as we know it.

Both feelings are valid. And they’re feelings your clients likely might be having as people across more and more cities are ordered by mayors and governors to stay put in their homes.

Here are some tips to communicate better with your clients during this time:

Avoid shaming and judging. You might not understand where a client is coming from when they spent $750 in two weeks stocking up on stuff because they’re scared. They may be freaking out at the constant grim news of the coronavirus and the turbulent market and subsequently may make ill-advised financial moves. They’re probably also home watching “Contagion” to help them make sense of all this. But try not to judge them for any of these things.

Connect with clients on social media, if they’re open to it. Likely, your clients (and you) are spending  your days working at home, batting off distractions from their kids, spouses or pets. Likely, they take respite in social media to connect and catch up on their memes or news. Research from Broadridge Financial Solutions found that clients want engaging and actionable advice, including on social media.

Social media “presents a real opportunity for advisers to provide more personalized communication and experiences,” said Chris Perry, head of global client solutions at Broadridge Financial Solutions at the SIFMA Private Client conference, as reported by Wealth Advisor.

Social media can give you a glimpse into what is going on in your client’s life and head right now. For instance, if they’re posting conspiracy theories, they’re likely freaking out and might need a touch-base. If they’re lamenting about how they had to cancel their wedding or their child’s graduation party, they might need some sympathy, wisdom and guidance from you. Connecting with them on social media can help you be more proactive.

Tell them good news. There is a shortage of two things right now: toilet paper and good news. Your clients could use a win or a glimmer of hope. Reach out and tell them something good.

Keep your word. Things feel uncertain for many people and they’re scared right now. They’re worried about the health of their elders, about their financial stability, and whether they’ll have a job at the end of all of this. The world feels unreliable to many of your clients. Provide reliability for them by keeping your word. If you say you’ll call in 30 minutes, call in 30 minutes. Don’t make any promises you can’t keep right now. Keep your Zoom meetings on schedule. When you can, under promise and over deliver.

Know what they want and expect. It will be helpful to truly understand what clients expect from their relationship with you right now. Ask them how often they need to hear from you.

Also, after you determine how frequently they want communication, remind them of their purpose and goals they set out in your first meetings and remind them how you will help them get there.

FPA is here to help you through these turbulent times. We are supporting members by offering an online Volatility Resource Center to help you  navigate the markets and better serve your clients. And, see the new community on FPA Connect, “Navigating Market Turbulence Related to Coronavirus.” Here you will find recordings of four calls with profession leaders on how to support your clients through this uncertainty. Also, join the March 25 fireside chat with Rick Kahler on market uncertainty at 3 p.m., Eastern.

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

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Enhancing Your Client Experience for Your Future Business

One constant within the financial services industry is the care and concern advisers and financial planners have for their clients and this won’t change as we move into the future.

Although technology advancements can certainly help us improve our relationship with clients, care and concern cannot be outsourced to technology.

What You Can Start Doing Today to Prepare for the Future

I’m often surprised at how little personal information advisers know about their clients beyond financial goals, time horizons and risk tolerance. You may know which clients golf or enjoy traveling, but do you know which charitable or civic organizations they support and why, which sports team they cheer for, or what unique skill or talent they possess? Do you know about how and where they grew up, why they chose a particular career, or how they met their spouse?

Some of you reading this will say, “Yes, I know the answers to these questions.” For the rest, consider starting a campaign to get to know your clients on a deeper, more personal level. Be inquisitive.

Technology Can Help

Each time you meet with or speak with a client, make it a point to learn something new about them. Then use technology to keep track of the information and, if appropriate, set reminders for yourself to reach out to clients regarding important events or milestones happening in their lives. By starting to gather information and keeping track of it now, you will be in a position to use this information in the future to deepen relationships by “remembering” important facts about clients.

How surprising is it to a client when they receive a gift card for their favorite restaurant as a thank you for a referral?

“How did you know I love this restaurant?” They’ll say

“I remember you mentioning it once.” You respond.

“Wow…what a good memory!” They’ll reply.

How fun would it be to put on an event for a small group of clients with a similar interest uncovered during this personal data gathering campaign? Using technology to track interests allows you to capture the data necessary to link clients with similar interests.

Where I see the biggest opportunity with technology is in virtual reality. Advisers are often challenged in getting clients to implement the advice they are being provided. Imagine being able to show a client—who you are encouraging save more for retirement—a virtual reality session illustrating what the client will look like 20, 30 or even 40 years in the future. This could be just what the client needs to see to make them want to save more for retirement.

Virtual reality could also illustrate what a week in retirement might look like. Instead of just having a graph showing assets increasing (or not) through retirement years, virtual reality could show clients what a financially successful retirement could actually look like—comparing time spent in Italy, if that is on their bucket list, to time spent in the back yard. Not that spending time in the back yard is bad.

What Hasn’t Changed

I know this information isn’t earth shattering or new, but it’s a good reminder to keep the client relationship front and center. As the old adage goes, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” As much as things will change, I firmly believe the essence of this statement will not.

The bottom line is this: when clients feel we have a clear understanding of their fears and desires, provide recommendations that are in alignment with these fears and desires and know them and care for them as we do our own family, unforeseen changes in the future won’t derail the adviser/client relationship.

How I Plan to Support Your Efforts

As the client experience coach in the FPA Coaches Corner, my goal is to help you improve the service you provide and the relationship you have with your clients. I will share tips and ideas for deepening relationships as well as improving your client service. Stay tuned!

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Teresa Riccobuono is a practice management and recruiting specialist for the financial services industry, helping financial professionals envision and then develop their ideal financial planning practice. Understanding that great ideas are of little value if unimplemented, Riccobuono works side-by-side with her clients to be sure ideas are implemented.

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Editor’s note: this article originally appeared in the FPA Coaches Corner whitepaper, “Action 2020: Create Business Success for Today and Tomorrow.” Download the whitepaper today


Coronavirus: How to Calm Anxious Clients

News of coronavirus cases hitting the U.S. sent financial markets into a tailspin, with U.S. stocks recording their worst week since October 2008. Naturally, many clients reacted with anxiety and fear. Many had concerned conversations with their planners. One of the best ways to learn new strategies for allaying client fears during volatility and uncertainty is to ask your peers.

In response to its members’ needs, FPA has created a new virtual community on FPA Connect for planners to share language and strategies for calming clients in the wake of coronavirus anxiety. This FPA Connect group held three live webinars in early March, during which the following tips were shared amongst planners (visit Connect.OneFPA.org to access this and other discussion groups):

Provide perspective.

Longtime planner and professional leader Dave Yeske, DBA, CFP®, said that during times of uncertainty, he starts conversations with anxious clients with the idea that whatever happens, human beings are enduring.

Yeske also provides perspective, demystifying the concepts of “the economy” and “the markets.”

“I always explain to clients that the economy is not some big machine that gets expressed in statistics, like gross domestic product, and consumer price index, and GDP deflator,” Yeske said. “[The economy] is just you and me, and everyone you know, and everyone you don’t know going about the business of earning, saving, spending and investing. Those individual decisions aggregate up to this thing we call the economy. And that’s why economies are resilient. And that’s why markets are resilient—because human beings are resilient. And that’s a fundamental regularity that’s not going to change.”

Offer weekly recaps.

Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA®, CES™, said it’s important for planners to find that balance between keeping clients informed on what’s going on, yet not creating anxiety. Her firm, Francis Financial, surveyed clients during the recent market turbulence and asked: how often do you want to hear from us? The No. 1 answer was one a week.

“What they want is a weekly recap that helps them cut through the hype,” Francis said. “We need to help them see what’s really important, and what they don’t need to pay attention to.”

Francis also passed along advice from Michael Kitces and Carl Richards, who suggested adding non-financial tidbits to your weekly recaps, such as upcoming community events or spring break travel tips—content that shows you’re paying attention to more than just the markets.

Be understandable and relevant.

Francis also suggested reminding clients that what the markets are doing is different than what their portfolios are doing.

Tell clients: “Your bonds are doing phenomenally well, and they’re doing exactly what we wanted them to do, so that when stocks are falling, your bonds are going up and really saving the day,” Francis said. “Let them know that the myth of, what happens in the market is happening to me, is just not true; show them that it’s not true.”

Experience more peer-to-peer learning like this through FPA Connect at Connect.OneFPA.org.

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Carly Schulaka is editor of the Journal of Financial Planning. Reach her at cschulaka@onefpa.org.