While the world of financial services in Australia remains firmly focussed on the outcomes of the Royal Commission, we shouldn’t forget that business must go on. And, as the business of financial advice remains a personal thing and is based to a large degree on the quality of the ‘relationship’ between client and adviser, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt us to reflect at this particular time on two of the key components for developing (and maintaining) successful client relationships.

  • Depth and quality of information collected through the advice process.
  • Personalisation and relevancy of the communication you send to your clients.

If you accept that there’s much more happening in your client’s life than merely their financial planning, what other data should you collect to allow you to build a deeper, richer relationship with each of your clients? How about their favourite pastimes (sport, the arts, travel etc), the hopes they have for their family, the role they’d perhaps like to play in their wider community, their next major life event (children graduating from university, getting married, birth of their first grandchild and so on)? This type of information is truly ‘relationship building’ and, once collected should be stored (in your CRM), maintained and updated regularly. ‘Progress to plan’ meetings offer the perfect opportunity for this to occur.

It’s this type of information which goes to make up the fabric of your clients’ lives and the quality of what you do (through your financial planning) will add or detract accordingly. Once collected, the question becomes – how can I use this information to enhance the client relationship? One of the more interesting, and often overlooked, ways I believe to use this information is through milestones – they’re important, relevant and meaningful to all clients. And it’s an area where most advisers don’t appear to be paying much attention.

Milestones can be business or personal. And they apply to most of the people your business regularly interacts with – your clients, staff and centres of influence.

For your clients – why not recognise their key anniversaries with your firm? Say after their first year or on reaching a significant length of time as your client, say ten years – it’s a long time right? Interestingly, through our client survey tool (CATScan) we’ve noticed that a significant number of clients begin questioning the relationship they have with their adviser around the 5 year mark (what is my adviser really doing for me? Is their service still valuable to me? – A ‘5 year itch’ if you will). So maybe a specific recognition of the 5 year mark, accompanied by an overview of what you and your client have been able to achieve together over the last 5 years, could be in order?

Turning to your client’s personal side – acknowledgment of a major birthday, wedding anniversary or retirement from work, a child graduating or getting married for example, are all significant events which are perhaps worthy of an acknowledgement from their adviser.

Of course, most of the above comments can be equally applied to your staff, who play such a vital role in the ongoing success of your business. Do you know their key life dates (birthday, wedding anniversary) and relationships (their children’s names and what they do) for example?

Ditto for your important centres of influence/referral partners. Why not say ‘thank you’ when they pass say 10 referrals in a year?

As to how to acknowledge these milestones, this is always a personal issue but in our experience a phone call, hand written ‘thank you note’, celebratory lunch or personal gift are all appreciated, and unexpected, by most clients.

And for your staff, while I’m sure most practices will celebrate birthdays and weddings through a special morning tea or lunch, one of our more ‘out there’ clients goes the extra mile and acknowledges key tenure dates for their staff by giving them and their partner an all-expenses paid weekend in the city (5 year anniversary) and a week’s holiday (10 years).

Other advisers we work with place an ad in their local newspaper or, at the very least on the firm’s website, when a staff member passes an exam or gains an important qualification – nice, personal touches which clearly demonstrate how the boss appreciates and values his/her staff.

In short, while it’s very easy to focus on, (become consumed even) by the issues that confront your business every day, I urge you to step back, take a look at what you’re building and recognise the contribution so many people have made and continue to make, to ensure your business’ success. A nice way to say thank you and show appreciation is to celebrate their important milestones – whatever they might be.

For your consideration.

Terry Bell

Business Health Pty Ltd