IN Daily Opinion/Column

Service levels: Getting the message out

Feb 23, 2010 @ 9:52 am

By Maureen Wilke

I was reminded yesterday of the importance of communication — in an unusual way — as I checked out of a hotel in Miami where I was attending a meeting. I noticed that the person standing next to me looked familiar. Turns out it was John Travolta, who was in Miami filming a movie. He looked at me, smiled and had his friend or bodyguard snap a picture of me with him.

To be sure, I don't have a business relationship with John Travolta. But in a sense, I'm a customer in that I pay to see his movies. He knows that, and whether he's truly as nice as he seems (and he did seem genuinely nice), he took the time to snap a photo with me and in the process made me a fan for life. In fact, by taking a moment out of his day, he communicated to me and everyone who was milling around that his fans are very important and he has time for them. Keep that message in mind when you are communicating with your clients, because you want them to rave about you, too.

Every touch makes a difference and reminds clients of your value.

One successful adviser in California realized that his clients couldn't enumerate and didn't understand the services his practice delivered that contributed to their financial and personal success. While he had a brochure and website to explain what he did, he never promoted these tools to his best clients or even explained his services in his discussions. When he realized he was missing an important opportunity, he began to include his branding statement in e-mails and his quarterly newsletter.

Even if you think your clients understand what you do for them, it's important that you remind your best clients of the value you bring to them. You're not going to offend them by tooting your own horn; they're probably too busy to notice all the high-level services you bring to them. Also, be sure to celebrate and share the ways you have helped clients and made a difference. Now is the time.

Here are few tips to execute your plan and measure results:

 Commit to a quarterly review during the last week of each quarter (put it on your calendar right now).

 Identify three communications that need to happen each quarter.

 Assign team roles and responsibilities – have job descriptions, goals and specific responsibilities for each team member. Hint: One adviser tied quarterly bonuses to each team member's ability to attain the practice's overall goals. The result was that every member developed a sense of ownership and excitement.

Need more? These three client messages require little or no time commitment and position the value of your practice.

1. Create a quarterly e-mail newsletter with a perspective on the markets, risk management or Roth IRA conversion information. Call your key wholesalers this week for an approved newsletter or see the MMI's website for an industry white paper on risk management.

2. Send a checklist for clients on the Roth IRA conversion opportunity to help clients determine if they qualify. Again, leverage any resources your wholesalers have available on this subject that have been approved by your firm's compliance department. Even if clients don't qualify, they may have family and friends who do.

3. E-mail top clients your communication, seminar and event calendar for the year. Proactive communications to clients reinforces how you are helping them achieve their goals and keep them in mind; clients often leave a practice due to lack of communication. This calendar can be a great referral tool.

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