Managing any group of clients who are seeking financial advice can be a daunting task. You need to be quick on your feet, observant and thorough to ensure all of your clients feel informed and respected. You also need them to stay focused and engaged in your plan for their financial health or the financial health of their business. All the sound financial advice in the world is useless if your clients do not follow through.
It is not realistic to expect that there will never be bumps along the way with clients, you can’t control absolutely everything, but what you can do is remain aware of some of the red flags that indicate your clients are not as engaged with your services anymore. Disengaged clients tend to start subtly looking for an advisor or practice that they feel may be a better fit. Sometimes their methods may be so subtle that they are hard to notice. Here are some warning signs that you may be about to lose a client due to disengagement:
Overt or overly-formal politeness in combination with only answering questions or offering input when directly asked can often be an indication of a client who feels uncomfortable. If you meet with a client who feels as though they might be nervous, consider re-examining your approach and handling of the client’s business. You should also closely watch to see if the client is following up after meetings or conference calls. If the client is not responding to you without being prompted or is not executing plans based on your advice, chances are you may be in danger of losing that client.
Delayed responses to emails and phone call messages are relatively clear warning signs that your client is not entirely on board with you. Along the same lines, if a client is frequently canceling or rescheduling regularly-scheduled meetings or update calls, you need to find out what the issue is.
Passing The Buck
Now, when you do get in contact with the client, they are always pushing you off to someone else. You send a communication, a form for signature, or a request for a decision and it feels like the client is always telling you that you need to talk to their spouse, business partner or other individual and is quick to get off the phone with you. They are always ‘passing the buck’ that someone else needs to discuss this with you or make the decision you are waiting for.
The Unreachable Client
Then, you have the client that you can’t ever actually get ahold of. If a client you used to work well with suddenly becomes distant and lacks a willingness to commit to any long-term plans or does not want to talk about new opportunities, it is a sure indication to look deeper for a problem. Further, if the client will not disclose information that is necessary for you to manage their financial future effectively, you should take that as a sign of disengagement or a lack of trust. These are issues to identify early and try to resolve quickly. Another telltale sign that a client is losing interest or confidence in you is frequent requests to consult with a third party even after he or she has signed off on a plan.
Expectations Exceed Reality
Every strong partnership between an advisor and client should include healthy constructive criticism. When this criticism becomes one-sided, it is time to worry. Keep an ear open for vague criticism and offhanded, unhelpful comments when pressed about specifics. These comments can be strong evidence that your client isn’t feeling connected with you as their trusted advisor.
Many clients who are disengaged focus their criticism on your approach and/or the pricing structure. If the feedback you are receiving is consistently negative and nothing is ever good enough, you need to take a step back and figure out what the real problem is.
Ways You Can Re-Establish Your Client Relationships
If you notice signs of disengagement from a client, all is not lost. There are ways you can right the ship so you and the client can get back on track in a way that works for both of you. The first step is identifying the problem. As soon as you know what the primary issue is, you can work on fixing it. Here are some areas to look at to see if improvements need to be made:
- How is your rapport? Do you struggle to develop a personal connection that establishes trust with the client?
- Is your client misdirecting aggression? Is the client frustrated or upset with someone else or by something else? Is there a barrier to your progress that you simply do not know about?
- Are you talking to the correct person within the company or is there a better person within the organization to speak to about your services?
- How has your work been? Have you made a mistake or caused a delay with the work you are doing for the client?
Ask For Help
Ask a senior colleague to act as an objective third party and have a relationship meeting. Involving senior staff and meeting with the client to get to the bottom of the issue shows how seriously you take the client’s relationship and how important he or she is to your business.
Be vigilant and on the lookout for the warning signs of disengagement by a client. Doing so will allow you to diagnose the issue and improve your client relationships over time. Overall, you will see a reduction in your client turnover rate. Your vigilance and attentiveness will pay tremendous dividends for you and your clients (and make you a better advisor in the long-haul).
Opinions expressed are those of Signature Wealth Group and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. All opinions are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete.