Clarifying Client Communications – What They Really Want from an Advisor

Do you know how often your clients want to hear from you and what they want to know? Would you bet your business on it?

It turns out most advisors would lose that bet.

The client relationship is delicate. Under communicate and you could lose relevance, or worse, make clients feel unappreciated. Over communicate and you risk losing attention and becoming a greater source of annoyance than value. Communicate the wrong things, and you miss the mark completely.

So, what’s an advisor to do?

With such uncertainty, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of guesswork. Appropriate for some industries, advisors simply don’t have the luxury of operating on their gut. We are dealing with real money – the livelihood of real people.

The stakes are a little higher.

Thanks to Dimensional Fund Advisors’ 2017 Investor Feedback Survey and Advisory Benchmark Study, we can shed some light on how clients want to communicate with their advisors.

The survey uncovered a very interesting trend – that advisors and clients may not be on the same page when it comes to communication.

Advisors tend to overestimate how often their clients want to hear from them. Advisors estimated, on average, that clients want to hear from them 5.3 times per year. Their clients actually prefer 3.9 touch points.

That may sound insignificant, but it introduces a gap in perception between advisor and client that could negatively impact the overall investment experience. Let’s dig deeper.

When considering frequency, it’s important to note that all communication channels aren’t created equal. Clients indicate their preferred communication frequency by channel:

In-Person Meetings – Clients prefer once per year (40%), followed by semi-annually (30%).
Phone Calls – Clients prefer quarterly (33%), followed by semi-annually (28%).
Email – Clients prefer quarterly (44%), followed by monthly (27%).

Unsurprisingly, clients show a higher tolerance for less invasive communication channels, a trend that extends into their preferences for receiving information.

Digital channels are established as a clear favorite among clients in terms of receiving financial information:

Performance Reports – 54% of clients prefer digital delivery.
Market News – 87% of clients prefer digital delivery.
Education Materials – 85% of clients prefer digital delivery.

The survey also found that when it comes to subject matter, advisors and clients are misaligned.

Advisors assume their clients are more interested in their service offerings and experiences than they actually are. Surveyed clients indicate a heavier interest in investment performance – both in the content that they consume (through their advisor’s website) and in evaluating their advisor relationship.

The Takeaway

What should you take away from this? Not that your clients don’t want to hear from you, or that they care more about returns than their relationship with you, but that it’s easy to become disconnected.

Look at how you’re operating your own business. Are your communication habits in line with the clients surveyed?

Regardless, the most important thing you can do is talk to your clients. Ask them what they want, how they feel about your current relationship, and what you can do to improve it. Do it in person, or at a minimum, over the phone. You’d be surprised how forthcoming they will be – especially when it pertains to improving their experience.

We recommend making a process of it. Reach out to a few clients each month. Also, consider a yearly review of your processes to ensure you’re meeting your client’s expectations.

Financial advice is too commoditized to gamble on the client experience. Another advisor, or perhaps more frightening, another robo-advisor, is a Google search away. Take some time to ensure you’re deeply in-tune with your client base. Your clients will appreciate the effort, and your business the clarity that comes with it.

Original Source: Understanding Your Clients: The Investors Survey – Presented at National LINC 2018