The New Rules for Client Communication
When it comes to communicating with clients, the world has fundamentally changed over the past 20 years. Despite that, many advisors still operate by the old rules that defined the industry. Going forward, the hard truth is that only those advisors who adopt new methods of client communication will prosper.
The old reality
Until about 15 years ago, advisors’ communication with clients hadn’t changed for decades. The phone was the main method of client contact, supplemented by occasional face-to-face meetings. Some advisors mailed newsletters, but those were cumbersome to print and costly to mail. A few advisors might invite clients to annual evening updates, but again the logistics of getting these invitations out was expensive.
Things have changed now. Financial plans have become standard operating procedure with annual reviews much more common than in the past. Beyond that however, many advisors haven’t fundamentally changed how they interact with clients. Quite simply, many advisors haven’t adapted how they communicate to take advantage of the advances in technology of the past 20 years.
That may not matter that much when markets are calm. But when you see the kind of turmoil that we’ve experienced this year, clients have come to expect much more frequent contact from their advisors – especially when they hear friends talk about how they often hear from theirs.
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A new model for client communication
I recently spoke to a veteran advisor named William, one of three partners who leads a team of 10 advisors and support staff. He and his partners divide responsibility and as part of his role, William oversees client communication. Like most advisors, William and his partners make annual reviews the focal point of client communication with more frequent meetings for larger clients or clients who demand special attention.
Those meetings are supplemented by regular phone calls from an associate who is assigned to each client; that associate sits in on client meetings so that clients view that associate as part of the team and someone with a deep understanding of their situation. For these quarterly reviews, William’s firm increasingly uses an online webinar with clients logging on to a site to view a PowerPoint while someone from the firm walks them through the presentation on the phone.
In addition to meetings and phone calls, William works with an in-house communications coordinator to oversee all the other contact that clients receive:
- Quarterly market letter
Each quarter, every client receives a market overview and update. To make it stand out, this letter is mailed rather than emailed except to those clients who express a clear preference to get it via email.