- Fees on assets: Some advisors charge a fee based on a percentage of assets under management (AUM). With performance down anywhere from 25% for typical retirement accounts to near 50% for more aggressive accounts, fees are significantly down, even assuming no attrition.
- Commissions: This is more the traditional brokerage model where advisors are remunerated via a commission tacked onto trading activity. Most investors, if they haven’t sold out already, are sitting on their hands and activity is way down.
- Per hour: Some advisors are moving to a model that compensates them just for time. In a move to be as objective as possible, these financial experts consult on portfolios and receive money for their time.
With these traditional revenue sources down, I’ve been advising my peers (see my post on Jim Cramer and the future of the financial advisor) about finding new revenue streams that are ancillary to their current financial practices. For financial advisors, it may be speaking engagements or teaching finance at a local university. In addition, there are still hard and fast ways to continue to bring in new prospects through the front door. Here are four things advisors can do right now to boost their businesses.
More importantly, I think hunkering down and focusing on current clients during this crisis will impact future business more than prospecting for new clients. Customers are scared, hurting, and unsure of their futures and if a service provider goes the extra mile to provide service beyond what’s expected, not only will clients stay sticky but the referral business on the other end of this crisis will be awesome.
Hurting clients must be treated as patients
Customer service is about providing what clients/users/customers need on their level, not the service provider’s level. If clients feel wounded right now, I suggest treating them as such. When I was a high school and collegiate athlete, we learned a very easy mnemonic for treating everyday ankle sprains, called RICE, for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. I think RICE, and the treatment of ankle sprains, can shed a lot of light on best practices in customer service during these trying times.
Rest: Ease clients out of shock and help accept our new reality?Rest is all about repair. When people experience shock and many body systems shut down, the result on the body as a whole is a heightened sense of stress and fear. It’s these feelings that allow us to fight or outrun predators. Investors/customers are living in an extended state of shock and it’s taking an emotional and physical toll on clients’ health.
So, the first thing a service provider has to do is help their clients acclimate to what’s occurred. It’s about acceptance. If this means a change in quality of life due to a shift in financial health, a financial advisor must not beat around the bush but take active steps in explaining this to clients as well as making concrete plans to help the client steer through this change. By helping the client accept and unload the burden they feel, this will help clients better cope with the current scenario and make any necessary changes required from the crisis. I work with many religious clients and work with them to help regain their faith. With others, we’re redoing financial plans to see how bad the damage is and what we can do about it.
Ice: Reduce the swelling and inflammation of the crisis?Ice helps reduce the inflammation caused by the body’s response to a physical trauma. In times of financial crisis, many clients are feeling a 360 degree pinch. The emotional strain of what’s occurring right now is influencing their marriages, their relationships with their families and their quality of work. Ice helps focus attention on where the wound is. Ice is about focus. Service providers need to help clients whittle down where the real issues are and address them at the spot of trauma. As human beings, we frequently take feelings in one facet of our lives and apply them universally. The message to financial advisory clients should be one of seriousness for what’s been lost but also of optimism and hope that really, the world isn’t ending. We all just have less money — let’s figure out how to protect better what’s left and how to recoup our losses.
Compression: Keep the clients close to nurse them back to health?Really great service organizations are doing things to swaddle clients during these tumultuous times. This doesn’t mean lavishing clients with gifts (although that’s one way to show you care) but rather making sure the client knows he/she is not alone in this process. This client compression, or customer hand-holding, will ultimately show that this relationship is about a lot more than business. It’s about shared life experiences and friendship. Those bonds are hard to break — no matter how bad things get.
We’re making sure that every month we speak to every single client and repeat the same procedure the next month. Even clients who are seemingly coping well are touched by the compassion and proactivity of this procedure.
Elevation: Making sure the client knows he’s on the top of the pyramid?You’ve got to treat your customers right and not just because it’s the right thing to do. They need to feel that the focus of your business is providing them with service. They don’t want to feel like you’re following the rules in some customer service manual. From your words and deeds, clients want to see that your business — from the owner down to an assistant — is focused on doing things right for them. The customer should not only be sublimated, but feel elevated to the top of your business needs pyramid. This will result in happier, more satisfied clients, stickier relationships and more referrals down the line.
Summary?If much of this client service rhetoric sounds like psychotherapy, it does! Providing a service, more so than producing a product, requires the ability to service in good times and bad. In times of crisis, clients require more than when things feel easier. By applying the same rules of first aid, service providers can assure that their clients accept the current scenario, keep it in perspective, feel supported and emotionally hugged by their provider and feel that the business is behind them in everything that’s going on.