The intent of the annual review may have become lost in our current climate of regulate, regulate and re-regulate.
In most service propositions, firms make dispensation for an annual review. The frequency differs depending on circumstance, but the practice is mostly the same. A review each <insert period of time here>.
But I don't understand why anyone would want what we all call a review, delivered on the anniversary date of their plan being implemented, as opposed to:
- A review when it's requested;
- A review when the client believes it’s needed;
- A review when the adviser believes it’s needed; or
- A review when some serious stuff has gone done and it’s obvious to everyone that something needs to get fixed fast.
So, the question I’m asking is this: what's stopping us from delivering reviews on an as needed basis?
There’s a good reason for me asking this question, borne from personal experience
Like many coaches, I once believed there was only one way to do coaching; via ‘regular’ meetings where each month we'd turn up and either:
a) Get some great work done at the exact moment it was needed;
b) Realise we'd actually covered everything in the "need help now" call two weeks earlier; or
c) Go through the motions because everyone was clear on what came next until it was done but this was how we engaged.
Then some really smart people showed me how to help people on a "just-in-time" basis. When it's needed, we get together and create a plan.
When it's not, we all get on with making it happen until:
a) The next step isn't clear; or
b) Someone gets stuck.
So, why can't we just have a review as and when it's needed?
In other words, when either you and/or the client think/agree it's needed, you go ahead and book it.
Because, frankly, unless you’re dealing with some seriously detail-orientated high-net-worth CFOs paying you a motza to actively manage their affairs, I question whether most clients or firms actually need or want it.
Is it really efficient to do it this way? Is it really the only way of monitoring a plan over time? It most definitely can lead to service fatigue, both for you and the client. You can have too much of a good thing.
OK. Fair point. There’s a pricing challenge in there. Having an "as needed" review offering opens you up to correctly estimate what might be needed.
Frankly though, when I do pricing, estimation is pretty much what we’re doing for a lot of the inputs anyway (e.g. time, expenses, percentage of your time that is actually client-related). Truth is that unless you want to do timesheets, estimation is inescapable. You've got to make some assumptions.
Maybe another relevant concern might be that if we’re not going to do an annual review, how can we rely on the client to know when it's needed?
Well yes, and this is one massive opportunity to get better at communicating with your client base.
One of the many tools on 'The Leveraged Advice Firm' program we have is a PDF flyer called the "LET US KNOW list".
It’s an infographic, listing 16 life events that may necessitate clients making contact with their adviser to assess whether a plan remains relevant. I suggest sending it out to each and every client every six months, preferably via an email marketing tool that can track activity.
Similarly, we've built service models based on systemised personal touch points – with you, your team or even outreach via SMS, email, video, whatever – to provide a way to check where things are at. Around 90 per cent can be semi-automated.
In this environment, wouldn't it make more sense to say to clients, "If we need to sit down and review your plan, we'll do it. But you’re not paying me for my time, you’re paying me to help you get an outcome. Plus you’re busy. So, let’s maintain quality communication and contact, and keep an eye on the events that may necessitate a review."
In other words delivering value, instead of stuff.
Thing is I don’t actually know if it's possible in this environment of heightened fear of non-delivery on ongoing service requirements.
I hope so, but I worry intent has been swamped by the frenzy to regulate, regulate and re-regulate.
I get the need for reform, but this idea that everybody has to sit down on an annual basis to "review", whether it's wanted or not; is that really in the client's best interest? It seems like forcing someone to pay for a three-course meal and eat it all just because it's 7pm.
If you're in the know about this, I would love your input. Is there anything to stop advice firms offering annual reviews on an as needed basis, supported by an effective communication program, so both the adviser and the client are fully aware of the circumstances that would necessitate having a review?
I hope the answer is in the positive, because for all the talk of the evolution of advice, I worry that it's the evolution of legislation may be the bigger problem for more progressive firms in our industry who are ready for the future of advice.
Stewart Bell is the founder and principal of Audere Coaching and Consulting.
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