Is your annual review process about you or your clients?

Review or progress meetings are an important element to maintaining an ongoing relationship with your clients. But it you're finding your clients are less than enthusiastic about attending, there are a few things to consider.

 

 

Do your clients jump at the chance to attend their annual review, or are they reluctant participants in what they see as an administrative part of your process?

The problem

I was recently asked if I had any ideas as to how to increase the attendance rate at annual client review meetings.

The business was finding they had a far higher uptake when the markets took a turn for the worse, but when things were economically ticking along smoothly, they were receiving feedback such as, "Everything is going well and we don't feel the need to come in this year".

So I took a wee look at their process and the communication the business was using.

The current process

The business sends out a snapshot, generated from Xplan, of the key client details on file, and a fee disclosure statement (FDS). The client is asked to make changes to the document to show what things have changed.

The snapshot and FDS is accompanied by a letter (below), and followed up a week or two later with a phone call to offer a review.

Dear <first name>

Part of the ongoing service that we offer as your financial advisers includes the opportunity for a face to face meeting each year to review your financial position and discuss any changes to your goals or objectives. An annual review meeting will cover:

     *  Your portfolio and its recent performance      

*  The current economic and broader market conditions

     *  Your goals and objectives

     *  Assessing the current strategies we have in place

     *  Identifying any gaps or changes that need to be made

     *  <business name> Referral Policy

My assistant, <name>, or I will call you shortly to arrange an appointment. You are not obliged to come in for a review each year but we will make the offer to you.

Please bring the enclosed review documentation form with details of any amendments to our meeting and we will use this as the basis to review your situation and ensure your objectives continue to be met.

Regards,

If the client accepts an appointment, each adviser handles the meeting slightly differently, but it includes:

  • reviewing any changes to the client's situation

  • discussion around future financial goals

  • a technical look at the funds invested

  • any recommendations e.g. investment switch

The suggested solution

There are a few things to consider in this situation, but they ultimately all come back to a single core message.

An annual review should be about the client — not about you.

I'm not suggesting the business doesn't care about their clients or aren't client focused in any way, but looking at things from a client's perspective can help highlight where things may be going awry.

Is it required or is it optional?

The letter sent to clients makes it clear the review meeting is optional. However if this catch-up is an important part of the financial planning process, then make it a "must do".

That means positioning it as such from the time the client comes in for their first appointment, through to the wording used in the letter.

If you've ever sent invitations to a party, you assume the people you invite want to, and will come. If you think of the review meeting as an invitation, rather than a "take it or leave it" offer, your wording (and the response from your clients) will likely change.

What's in it for me?

As consumers, we're all interested in me me me.

The old school marketers will be screaming, "Folks only listen to radio station WIIFM (what's in it for me)".

It's important to consider how the review meeting is seen and positioned by the business and the client. If it sounds administrative and a little boring (hello economic and market updates), rather than compelling, you need to adjust how you are communicating.

For example, let's look at a snippet of the letter sent to the client:

 An annual review meeting will cover:

     *  Your portfolio and its recent performance

     *  The current economic and broader market conditions

     *  Your goals and objectives

     *  Assessing the current strategies we have in place

     *  Identifying any gaps or changes that need to be made

     *  <business name> Referral Policy

For each of these points, put your "client hat" on, and rank each on a scale of 0 (zzzzz) to 10 (can’t wait!) from the client’s perspective, not yours.

Which way does the see-saw lean?

Perhaps your clients are more interested in relaxing over a cuppa and Tim-Tam and chatting about:

  • what's been happening in their lives

  • how everything's going (including the money stuff)

  • what their plans for the future are (this year and beyond)

  • who in their life they want to help

I'm not suggesting you use those exact words, but the way you frame it, and of course, how you go about having the conversation, can have a huge difference to where you rank on the 0—10 scale.

The reality is, you're probably covering a lot of the same content — just in a more WIIFM kind of way.

Is it logistically easy?

When you have a full-time job, scheduling things like a visit to the dentist, a car service or an appointment with a financial planner, can require a day off or permission from the big boss to leave early, arrive late, or duck out for a longer lunch.

Some people spend a chunk of their annual leave running around doing those things that are difficult to do during a normal work week. I bet they'd rather be chilling at home or with their feet up in a hammock somewhere.

Depending on your client base, perhaps having the option to schedule early or late appointments may make it easier for your clients to come in for a review. You may find your employees also enjoy the opportunity to have a bit more of a flexible day (good-bye peak hour traffic) once or twice a week.

Alternatively, maybe a phone or Skype catch-up could be a happy medium. Explore the options; try them and adjust.

What do your clients want to discuss?

Setting an agenda for a review meeting is a great place to start. It helps create a consistent process and experience throughout the business, particularly when there are multiple advisers involved.

But you also need to consider what the client wants to discuss.

Actually, this is the most important thing.

It will tell you a lot about where their head's at, and what's on their mind. It also helps to switch the focus of the meeting from you to the client.

Do they want to know about portfolio performance, or do they want to know how the results of their investments have gotten them closer (or further away) to achieving their kitchen renovation / retirement income / overseas travel / time off to have a baby.

Are they on track? Are they okay?

By simply bringing the focus away from the what (managed funds), and back to the client's why (3 months in Paris to relive their honeymoon), the conversation changes in an instant.

So step back, take a walk in your client's shoes, and try to fulfil their needs first, and yours second.