Taking the time to understand and introduce a client engagement process that is modern and efficient can make an enormous difference to your practice. Not only will your client benefit, but your business will as well.
If I had more time I would have written a shorter letter.
This quote has been attributed to many famous people and captures two important elements of any communication between parties. Firstly, that other people’s time is important to them and secondly that it takes effort on your part to ensure that their time is not wasted.
This is especially true of busy professionals who often make up the bulk of a financial planner’s clients and even retirees, who have busy lives with family and hobbies they would rather attend to.
For the most part, a meeting with a financial planner involves co-ordinating diaries between husband and wife, taking time from work (and perhaps organising babysitters), driving to the office, paying for parking and then 60-90 minutes of meeting. For the client this can easily be a 2.5 to 3-hour exercise requiring a degree of planning.
To then provide a client with an inefficient meeting sends all the wrong messages and to expect them to repeat the exercise by asking for say three meetings, when two would suffice, could be the difference between a satisfied client and an ex-client.
Electronic data capture and transfer saves valuable time for both you and your client, whether it be for your initial meeting or review meetings, so ask your client to complete an online fact find before the meeting. Most will do it willingly, if they understand there is a benefit to them.
Explain that by receiving this information beforehand you can provide them with a more valuable meeting as you will have time to consider their circumstances and any strategies that may improve their position. This approach helps save precious time that would otherwise be spent gathering mundane information.
For prospective clients, it’s important that your online fact find is designed to ask for easily identifiable and high level information, as there is always time to gather the detailed information once they have agreed to proceed with your service. While factual information is important, a good online process will also include a ‘feeling find’ that explores how the client feels about the various aspects of their financial circumstances, as well as asking them about their goals. This will broaden the client’s understanding of what services you provide and will provide a segue to discuss various topics that the client has identified as being of concern.
Your review clients should also have an easy way to update their financial details. Providing access to their database through a portal is one option, another is to send them an electronic reverse fact find allowing them to review and update their high level information. This can be a cleaner and quicker experience for the client. And don’t underestimate your clients’ “tech-savvy-ness”, most are quite comfortable with computers, tablets and smart phones – so don’t let them leave you behind in the tech race.
The ability to build your electronic database is also important, a specific meeting for estate planning may require a quick update of existing client information and also new information to be gathered specifically for the estate planning conversation. A good process will provide this ability to expand your database in a way that the client feels comfortable with.
Screen sharing software is also a great way to save your client’s time. Having a virtual meeting at home is often much easier for them to organise and having a screen with high tech visuals and easy to understand graphs can be a great alternative for a client rather than trekking to your office each time. If you’ve never tried this before then get some practice in before your first attempt, but software such as Zoom, Teamviewer etc are very easy to use for both yourself and the client.
Compliance can be embedded in your process with file notes that are generated in real time, reducing the need for lengthy post-meeting briefings and re-keying of data.
Hans Egger is managing director of Astute Wheel
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