It is our duty to communicate clearly to the client what the actual problem is, the proactive solution, and make good any remedy.
Whereas PI insurers would never want firms to admit liability, taking ownership of the problem is the best thing any business can do.
It is impossible to re-assure all clients, and some can be unreasonable, but the firm can still operate in an open, transparent and helpful way in most cases.
There are three areas of client servicing that are critical to any business:
- (1) The day to day communication with clients and the ability to provide regular updates;
- (2) Handling of errors and dealing with problems to a client’s satisfaction; and,
- (3) Discussing and advising clients when circumstances change (yours, theirs or general).
Firms tend to focus on (1), but the reality is that (2) is what can make or break a business.
Simple and transparent
With regard to point (1); the systems that any firm constructs, the procedures and its choice of communication are critical for both the client and the firm.
The client wants to feel that they are being looked after and determine their options; regular updates or less frequent contact, but reassurance that firm is focused on client’s money.
Being able to put things in a simple way is critical for quarterly updates and annual reviews.
Transparency on charges, gross and net returns, and the firm’s thoughts on current circumstances and plans for the future should make up the package offered to clients.
At OpesFidelio, we have built our own client engagement system; it is aimed squarely at the clients and the advisers with their interaction and ability to communicate while also keeping one eye on the compliance and new rules.
Finally to point (3) and changing circumstances.
Contrary to what the regulators say, clients do not want to be contacted unnecessarily and forced to do annual risk reviews or ensure that they still comply with what a product provider has written.
What clients want is to know you are there and can assist when changes impact on them.
Typically at lifetime events; such as retirement or moving house.
Assuming (1) and (2) have been dealt with appropriately, clients will be looking to you for advice.
This is where your firm can demonstrate its knowledge and technical skill as professionals.
The unwritten part of servicing comes into its own at this point – specifically, the ongoing competence and training of staff and advisers and their ability to communicate this knowledge with clients.
It can be boring to describe it as continuing professional development (CPD) but actually, if done well, then everyone benefits.
The foundation of a service proposition actually comes from a professional approach and high standards, which can be demonstrated through obtaining Chartered Status or equivalent.
Ultimately, a thorough understanding of the system and being prepared to work through any challenges to deliver the optimum outcome is the clearest demonstration of client servicing at its best.
This article was written for International Adviser by James Pearcy-Caldwell, chief executive of OpesFidelio – which won the excellence in client service (Europe) at the Best Practice Adviser Awards in 2018. The awards are run in partnership with Old Mutual International