Client Communication: Define the Client Experience

Every interaction you or your team has with a client forms that client's experience. This includes everything from in-person meetings to birthday cards. Successful advisor/client relationships are based on a mutual understanding of expectations. This is achieved through a service model, an articulation of the experience you plan to provide to your clients and the time you're promising to commit.

Service models should answer these questions:

  • How often/under what circumstances will you meet with your clients face-to-face?
  • How often/under what circumstances will you meet with clients through conference calls instead?
  • What other communication will you offer (e.g., e-mails, written correspondence)?

"We have a client service contract. On an annual basis, we promise to do certain things. There is no misunderstanding about what the client should expect from us." — G.R., Midwest

You should also make sure your clients are aware of the full range of services you offer. Many advisors have lost clients who simply didn't know their advisor offered a service that was being advertised elsewhere.

Case Study: Flexibility Is Key to a Successful Service Model

Good — Emerging Elite Advisor
The advisor read The Supernova Advisor by Rob Knapp and now dutifully sends short check-in emails to each client every month. Occasionally he will send out a white paper provided by his parent company. It is time-consuming, but at least his clients know he is thinking about them. He explained his service plan to everyone, but now he can't help but notice some of his very best clients are hard to reach and occasionally sound annoyed on the phone.

Great — Elite Advisor
This advisor used to follow the 12/4/2 plan*, but it didn't fit with his laid-back style. Also, he discovered that even his best clients didn't need such frequent contact. He started asking everyone what they preferred, and he also listened during their meetings. Some clients — especially new ones — are still on the 12/4/2 plan, but he has adjusted for most others. For example, Mr. Jones ($2 million in investable assets) has his annual in-person meeting and then only likes to be called when the market has moved significantly, while Mrs. Smith ($500,000 in investable assets) likes calls twice a quarter, but never reads emails.

* The 12/4/2 Contact Ritual ensures regular contact with clients so these factors are addressed. Here is how it works: 12 scheduled contacts (one per month), 4 of which include quarterly reviews of the full portfolio, with 2 of the scheduled reviews as 60-minute face-to-face meetings with a broad agenda.

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