Do any clients really believe financial advisers' “out-of-office” replies anymore or that their advisers have only “occasional access” to e-mail?
Like the food in our cupboards, every once in while, we have to go through processes and remove what is stale. Too bad we can't can our processes and donate them during the next Thanksgiving Day drive.
When one of my personal advisers or business colleagues sends me an automatic response stating that they are away from the office, a few thoughts run through my mind:
1. I could have saved those last 10 seconds of my life.
2. I don't really believe his or her e-mail.
3. This response is either outdated, lazy or both.
4. So what if you are away? I am 100% confident that my e-mail made it to the back of your retinas.
5. I still expect a response, and at a minimum, an acknowledgement.
BIG INSIDE JOKE
Although one is free to disagree with my assessment, they are my reality and I am sure many of our clients reflect the same mindset.
The out-of-office response has become a big inside joke that everyone has caught on to. It is a terrible client touch point.
Some arguments as to why we perpetuate it:
The need to set client boundaries. I have three children and am able to spend significantly more quality time with them flexibly tethered to my phone than stuck in my office going through my inbox. On the flip side, if a client e-mails an adviser about a significant life-changing emergency, and the adviser doesn't respond for three days because the adviser was “out of the office,” then that adviser is in the wrong business.
The need to disengage while away at conferences in order to focus on learning. I just don't buy this. I would venture to say that there has been a net reduction of what advisers take away from conferences because they are simply not paying attention. I don't quite remember when the change happened, but many advisers attend conference sessions while actively working on client issues from their tablets and laptops. They pop their heads up occasionally when the guilt of their impoliteness strikes them.
There are many more reasons, and I am not trying to argue against a work/life balance. In fact, I need to be better at that.
All I am trying to point out is that the out-of-office response has become a technology artifact.
No one thinks when advisers are out of the office that they can't read an e-mail. And if that is the case, why bother with the auto-response?
Alex Murguía is a managing principal at McLean Asset Management and chief executive of inStream Solutions LLC.