Despite the fact that the vast majority of financial professionals do extraordinary work for their clients, a persistent ‘Type A-ness’ always has you questioning what you could do better. And while it may be tiring, it’s a noble characteristic. One of the most common laments that I hear is a desire to meet with clients more often, perhaps spurred by the nagging sense that something is falling through the cracks and that clients may not be getting everything they were promised.
It’s obviously important that we get the frequency of contact right but if we can believe 100,000+ clients I’ve surveyed over the years, this isn’t a big issue. It’s quality not quantity that should be our focus when it comes to client reviews. Enhance the perceived value of the time that clients spend with you and you drive deeper engagement. Drive deeper engagement and you drive more referrals.
Perception of Value Drives Deeper Engagement
Here’s what we know.
- Just under half of clients (47%) say the meetings they hold, with their financial advisor, are ‘very valuable’ (a five out of five). While achieving a ‘top box’ score isn’t easy, it strikes me that we should strive for nothing less in this category. Let’s give ourselves a solid ‘B’ on this with the caveat that we could do better.
- The most engaged clients perceive significantly more value in the time they spend in review meetings. This is probably the more interesting finding. It tells us that frequency of contact is not enough – we need to think about how clients feel about the process when they are there.
Ask yourself this. Do your clients see your review meetings as something they have to do or something they want to do because it impacts them in a meaningful way?
All of this forces us to think long and hard about whether our review meetings are truly engaging. I’ve written about how new technologies can create deeper engagement during reviews but today I wanted to focus on one simple idea: encouraging clients to participate in crafting the agenda.
Change your agenda; change your review
By inviting clients to participate in crafting the agenda, you automatically create deeper engagement. The challenge is helping clients to participate in a meaningful way. Our investor research shows that 90 percent of the most engaged clients are involved, in some way, in crafting the agenda for their review meetings and that 40 percent are ‘actively involved’. Those numbers drop to 67 percent and 25 percent, respectively, for those who are not engaged.
Good, Better, Best
So how do we implement this simple idea that is so strongly connected to engagement? There is an answer that gets you to good, one for better and one for best. Call me mildly intense, but I’ve never understood the concept of going for anything but the best.
You can set an agenda for your reviews and ask the client if they have anything to add at the beginning of the meeting. A report from the Financial Planning Association shows that only nine percent of advisors say they always send an agenda in advance of a meeting and 27 percent say they do sometimes.
You can send the agenda to a client in advance and give them some time to think about whether they have anything to add. Or, you might call in advance to check in.
Acknowledge that most clients have a hard time coming up with meaningful agenda items. Ask most clients if they have anything to add and you’ll get a blank stare or a suggestion that you know best. The fundamental problem is that we’ve taught clients what a review should be so they may not be able to think outside the box. They are thinking about what they ‘should’ discuss rather than the myriad of things that worry or concern them the other 364 days of the year.
So here’s a suggestion. Rather than asking clients if they have anything to add to the agenda, send an agenda with a more provocative question that digs a little deeper. For example you might include something along the lines of the following, asking both spouses/partners to respond separately. The response code is a simple 1 to 5 rating from ‘not at all concerned’ to ‘very concerned’.
In advance of our next meeting, I’d like to ask you to rate the following based on your level of concern. We’ll discuss how this will impact your plan when we meet.
- Leaving a financial legacy for a charity
- Caring for elderly parents
- Leaving a financial legacy for my children
- Ensuring my partner/spouse is taken care of should I pass away first
- Coping with a significant market downturn
- Maintaining sufficient assets to meet lifetime income needs
- Coping with the unexpected, such as an accident
You can see how the responses to a question like this could act as a launching pad for a deeper conversation on topics that the client may never have raised without prompting. Financial professionals are masters at getting clients to open up about their biggest goals in order to inform the plan; this idea extends that skill to the creation of the agenda. Speaking as a client, if I can spend time with you and grapple with the things that I’m worried about or want to improve, I’ll be calling you to ask when I can get to see you next. You’ll create a bond that can’t be broken and…..I’ll tell people about it.
It’s Not Really About the Agenda
The reality is that when you want to engage clients in setting the agenda, you don’t really want to know what they want to add to the agenda, you want to know what’s on their minds. Give it a shot with a few clients this month and let me know if it changes the conversation.
Thanks for stopping by.