Ask Bev: Lessons from the Human Side

What follows is the initial installment in what we hope will become a regular column from Beverly Flaxington, a practice management consultant. She will answer questions from advisors facing human resource issues.  To submit your question, email us here.

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

Beverly Flaxington

The financial business is all about numbers. Or is it? Human capital is the most valuable resource in most firms. And the “soft skills” to engage deeply with clients and build loyalty are critical for generating referrals from existing relationships. Centers of Influence have their own preferences and needs.

So, even this numbers-driven business is all about the people! This column is dedicated to helping financial advisors deal with the people issues in their firms. Whether yours is a small firm with one administrative partner or a worldwide financial services conglomerate, people will always make the difference.

Let’s get to your questions.

Dear Bev,

I run a small firm of five people. Every person plays a key role, but one of my most important staff members has terrible communication skills. When this person is involved, clients’ phone calls aren’t returned and they often don’t understand information when they do get called back. Clients have complained to me on several occasions, and yet I need this person on the front lines. There just aren’t enough people to go around!

How do I get this person to communicate effectively with clients?

Jim S., Investment advisor; Portland, OR

Dear Jim,

Several issues underlie your question. One is the need for the five people in your firm to play a number of different roles. The truth is that sometimes a very analytical, quality-control-focused person, who is responsible for making sure client reports are on time and correct, will not also possess strong communication skills. It might behoove you to take another look at the roles within the firm. Is there any way that someone else could have more client-facing interaction and this person could remain more behind-the-scenes? Or could another team member, more adept at personal interaction, partner with this person?

Another consideration: Do you have an effective tracking system, where information is stored and shared in a customer-relationship management (CRM) system? Are your clients hearing back about their questions and concerns? Maybe you need a process in place to log in client requests and crosscheck to make sure someone has followed up.

Lastly, be sure that the requirements for everyone’s roles, whatever they are, are clearly defined. It is possible that your employee does not believe it is part of his or her job to interact and communicate with clients! It may be clear to you, but often such problems simply arise because employees are confused about expectations!

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