You Got the Client! Now, Keep Them Happy
Taking on a new client with an existing plan is a special opportunity for a provider to make a strong first impression, and to reaffirm why you were selected to begin with. Using case studies and easy-to-remember best practices, consultant Sarah Simoneaux, CPC, told attendees at the 2014 ASPPA Annual Conference Oct. 28 how they can make a first impression the best impression, and continue a strong relationship with a new client well past the introductory meeting.
Simoneaux said new providers have to be particularly strong communicators and critical thinkers. She said there should never be a “no” answer; rather, the answer should be, “Here’s what I can do.” She advised that nothing can compare to being honest, earnest and eager to fully disclose all details throughout the onboarding process.
Simoneaux cited a survey that reported that 88% of onboarded clients would not come back to an advisor in the aftermath of some kind of mistake. However, she added that clients who do return were treated particularly well in the aftermath, and were apprised of whose fault the mistake was and what was being done to rectify it at every step in the process.
Simoneaux offered an example: An provider dropped the ball on filing 5500s for a client. The provider caught the mistake, took responsibility for it with the client, and was able to continue the relationship after making an error that could have been very damaging to their relationship.
“It might seem like simple advice,” she said, “but people fail to follow it all the time and it imperils their business.”
She also highlighted the importance of face-to-face (or at least "ear-to-ear") contact throughout the onboarding process. She explained what she called the "Rule of 2" -- that is, there should never be more than two emails from each side of a conversation. After that, it’s time to pick up the phone and resolve the issue in much shorter order.
“Some people are introverts, they don’t want to pick up the phone, and you may need to give them some training,” Simoneaux said of employees who might be nervous to make a phone call and give into the urge to send emails and deal with issues passively. “But if you want to have credibility, you have to be able to solve problems and be direct with your clients.”
Simoneaux also told attendees how they can deal with a frustrated client in a way that diffuses the immediate problem and actually translates into positive results going forward. It's on the provider to listen, to show restraint, to reassure the client that their concerns are valid, and to then suggest ways to fix whatever the problem might be.
“Employers hate surprises involving money that doesn’t go into their pockets,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean it has to be fatal.”