By Nate Biddick, practice development director, 1st Global
Tax season is once again behind us. In the months ahead, your calendar will continue to fill up with appointments that resulted from the client needs you uncovered during the first part of the year. Now is a good time to think about client service – how efficiently and effectively you deal with your clients’ needs, and how your clients perceive your value in their lives.
Three ideas stand out from the collective experiences of our advisors and facilitators and these may help you as you evaluate your own method of client service.
1. Efficiency is directly related to the processes you establish.
Your business works the way you build it. The output is the result of the input. This concept may seem so elementary that it doesn’t deserve space on the page, but it is always a good point of which to be reminded. If you are struggling with a particular issue in your firm, determine whether you are looking at a symptom of the problem or its actual cause. For example, one of the strategies for dealing with time constraints is to spend more time in the office. Of course, sometimes this is simply what must be done. A better option is to concentrate on making your business more efficient. Creating systems – even if you’re a sole practitioner in a small office – allows you to do more with the time you have.
That fire to put out will always be there. Give yourself a fighting chance for implementing proactive, value-delivering activities by creating a standard process for them. Once you have a standard process, the next step is to set a standard time for that process.
- Review what you do in a week. As you look over your calendar, consider if there are any business processes for which you “reinvent the wheel” each time they come up.
- Do you decide on an ad hoc basis to send out a marketing piece? Consider setting a day and time to sit down and put together a year-long marketing calendar. You can then plan for you or your assistant to send out pre-determined marketing materials throughout the year.
- Have you found yourself only calling clients when there is an issue? Consider setting aside two hours on your calendar twice a month to make outbound calls to your best clients simply to see how they are doing considering all that has happened in the markets. Then listen.
2. Process standardization makes consistency possible.
Many advisors say their client engagement process exists, but it is “informal.” Measuring the implementation of an informal process is difficult and takes detective work. It happens in retrospect. You do not know if you’ve accomplished your goal until it’s too late, and until that detective work is done, whether or not you have delivered value to your clients is a mystery.
- Consider the nuts and bolts of your client engagement process. Write down each step, from a client appointment reminder call to the preparation of paperwork – anything and everything that needs to happen to provide the highest level of service to your clients.
- Assign ownership of each task to the appropriate person. Here is the rule: Only place your name next to the steps that only you can do. Read that last sentence again. Don’t put your name next to a task that is not your highest and best use considering your experience, knowledge and skills. If you can't give a task away today, put a star next to it for later delegation.
- Review the process to make sure communication is clear on how and when each task is to be completed. Consider putting this in a procedures manual. You will be happy you did on the day your assistant is out with the flu and you are handing his or her duties to a temp – or doing them yourself.
3. Consider how your procedures benefit your clients.
It is at this point in building any process that a last consideration is typically overlooked. We spend time and effort in building the process the way we want it from our perspective, in a way that mostly benefits us. Since the process is ultimately the system to ensure you provide your clients with excellent service, consider how your clients will experience the procedures you've put in place.
- Sit down with your task list and a highlighter. Highlight each task that involves client contact. Examples include the appointment reminder call, type of greeting as the clients enter your office, information-gathering methods, use of standard meeting agendas and post-implementation follow-up.
- Read just the highlighted lines. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes. You may even want to run it by a friend or family member for an additional perspective. There is no perfect way to do this, but one way to think about it is by asking yourself, “How many 'win-win' steps can I establish? How many of the steps can I set up to benefit both myself and the client?”
- An example of this is the use of a client agenda. This benefits the advisor by setting a professional routine for client discovery, increasing efficiency and effectiveness. Part of the agenda for a first meeting with a new wealth management client should entail outlining your process – or revisiting it with an existing client, for that matter. Clients benefit by knowing where they are in the process, allowing them to feel confident that they are on a solid path.
When client service and client experiences are aligned, the results are efficiency and effectiveness for the advisor. For your clients, you will have provided tangible steps of value delivery. Your clients can then describe your process to others, a tangible way of talking about the intangible value you bring to the relationship.
This article and its content have been provided by 1st Global. With more than 450 firms affiliated with 1st Global, it is one of the largest wealth management services partners for the tax, accounting and legal professions. 1st Global delivers the required capabilities essential for wealth management excellence including progressive ongoing education, which places the firm in a unique position to offer wealth management knowledge.
1st Global was founded by CPAs on the belief that accounting, tax and estate planning firms are uniquely qualified to provide comprehensive wealth management services to their clients. Each affiliated firm is provided with education, technology, business-building framework and client solutions that make these firms leaders in their professions through dedicated professional client relationships built around wealth management.
1st Global Capital Corp. is a member of FINRA and SIPC and is headquartered at 8150 N. Central Expressway, Suite 500 in Dallas, Texas 75206 (214) 265-1201. Additional information about 1st Global is available via the Internet at www.1stGlobal.com.