“Just do your job”

Last week I wrote about a recent Wall Street Journal article on client segmentation (Playing Favorites 9/20/2010). I noted that the article’s online comments from investors were not very positive. The following was written by one of them:

“Forget the hand holding, lunches and the schmoozing, I don’t need that. Just do your job and produce net returns in line with reasonable expectations. If you can’t beat a vanilla index fund I don’t need to be doing business with you. Too many advisors have got the relationship dynamics upside down.”

This comment struck a chord with me as I have long believed that too many advisors (and practice management “gurus”) focus too much time and energy on wooing clients with wine tasting and gifts, and not enough on what clients actually pay them for – quality planning and well-reasoned advice. I equate it to paying more attention to the wrapping paper and ribbon than what is inside.

While this reader focused on net returns and beating an index fund, I think clients today are actually looking for more than that, a lot more. Here are the five basics that should be on that list:

  1. In-depth understanding of clients’ needs, goals, relationships, challenges and concerns, including a thorough review of their history – prior planning and progress, current situation, successes and failures
  2. Some type of written plan and investment strategy that gives clients a roadmap for how to get to where they want to go – with milestones to measure progress
  3. An implementation process that has been fully explained to clients, with a timetable, follow up and attention to tax considerations
  4. An orientation discussion to answer clients’ questions about online access, explain statements, what to keep and what to expect going forward
  5. An agreed-upon schedule for ongoing reviews to monitor clients’ progress, make adjustments, make certain they are still on track

Now I’m not saying you should ignore the wrapping paper and ribbon – your total client experience can and should be well designed and nicely wrapped. Just make certain the value of what clients are paying you for is worthy of the packaging.

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