Client Communication: Segment Clients Appropriately

It's a universally accepted truth among advisors that there are not enough hours in the day to provide top-tier service to all clients. Allocating your time efficiently requires acknowledging that, while every client is important, they may warrant different levels of service. And their service models should reflect this.

If you have not adopted some version of a partitioned or segmented service model, chances are you are not making the most of your time, talents and resources and, ultimately, may not doing the best for your clients. Tiering your service model can help you ensure that you are using your time wisely and allowing enough resources to serve each client appropriately.

The following suggestions can help you segment your book of business and define an appropriate service model for each.

  1. Start with assets and revenue
  2. Rank your book by asset level and revenue to help you establish a preliminary threshold for top-tier clients. It's critical to get these relationships right first — and that will help you establish criteria for each of your tiers.

  3. Broaden your view
  4. When identifying your A-level clients, look beyond assets. Assess the relationships they may have with other clients or high-net-worth prospects. Spend time cultivating A and B clients who have the potential to be advocates for you and your practice.

  5. Recalibrate service levels
  6. The key to handling B's and C's is consistency. A more moderate level of service, delivered when the client expects it, is generally sufficient. Success depends on both you and your client setting clear expectations from the start. Listening, questioning and clarifying in those first client meetings will help.

  7. Adjust your service model for each
  8. Look at your tiers and consider the amount of time and resources you will need to devote to the clients in each. Center your time on your top clients. Then, determine ways to provide quality service for the lower tiers in the most time-efficient ways. Always ensure that the floors between client tiers are flexible enough to customize service levels where necessary.

  9. Set expectations with clients and staff
  10. Segmentation is also very useful for setting expectations among staff and managing the practice's growth. Ensure your team members are fully apprised of the tiers and how their resources are to be allocated.

Case Study: Dividing and Prospering

Good — Emerging Elite Advisor
The advisor is a firm believer in segmentation, which is why he assigns each client to one of four buckets: more than $1 million = A, $500,000-$1 million = B, $250,000-$500,000 = C, and less than $250,000 = D. He is trying to plan the next "A" client event, but since the squeaky wheel gets the grease, he keeps having to call back a couple of demanding "C" clients. He's never done an analysis to find out how much those "C" clients are "costing" him, or whether those "A" clients are bringing in a large amount of revenue. With 800 households, he just doesn't have the time.

Great — Elite Advisor
This advisor believes in segmentation, and although he generally views $1 million+ as the "A" client threshold, he has been upgrading a couple of his "B" clients after learning about their connections at the Rotary Club. He figures it's worth the additional couple of calls to them if it means getting some of those referrals. He was shocked at how much his business grew after he fired a handful of time-consuming "D" clients two years ago, but he is holding onto a couple of his loyal low-dollar clients so he can train his new junior partner.

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