Industry PR and marketing expert, Joe Perri, reflects on the critical importance for advisers and advice businesses to steadfastly maintain their focus on the fundamentals associated with serving their clients’ needs and placating their fears amid the medical and economic turmoil presently engulfing the world…
Although many professional advisory businesses are facing a tsunami of unprecedented challenges as a result of the economic impact of the coronavirus, it’s imperative not to lose sight of the fundamentals that begin with reassuring clients.
As usual in situations such as this, accountants, financial planners and legal firms find themselves dealing with a deluge of anxious clients when share markets plummet, businesses are forced to close and employment is lost as the economy falters in response to the virus and government action.
Panic and fear are natural human reactions in these situations and the first anxious calls are invariably to advice practitioners seeking solace, reassurance and an understanding of current events.
In good times clients need their professional service providers to guide and assist them to achieve their desired financial, business, retirement, wealth creation or lifestyle goals. But it’s in troubled times, such as the present, that clients become fearful and need reassurance – which is why the relationship so important.
The personal touch
As the seriousness and gravity of the health and economic impact of the coronavirus began to be realized, many organisations reverted to bulk emails as a means of communicating operational, administrative and general information quickly to clients.
…nothing beats the impact of a phone call and reassuring chat
As effective as this modern-day medium is in situations such as this, nothing beats the impact of a phone call and reassuring chat in times of unprecedented concern.
Technology is, and will always be, well placed to communicate a ‘hygiene’ message quickly to a broad audience, but it cannot convey empathy and care of the trusted adviser’s voice or key contact within the business.
In normal times, and for a multitude of reasons, many advice and service professionals gradually lose sight of the noble reasons that guided them into an advisory business in the first place. Impersonal email broadcasts and non-descript newsletters become the ‘go-to’ communication mediums for the months in between the annual reviews.
A crisis such as a severe economic downturn, natural disaster or the current coronavirus serves as an important reminder that clients are at the centre, focus and purpose of all activities – and the communication process has an important and crucial role to play.
First make sure your own house is in order
But before articulating any messages to clients, stakeholders or suppliers in the current environment, the first priority is to secure the financial health and operational framework of the adviser’s own business and ensure it is functioning effectively in the ‘new norm’.
In responding to the health and administrative challenges of the coronavirus, the insightful advice practices have fast tracked new operational models that facilitate off-site workplaces and adoption / application of new best-of-breed technologies and cloud-based strategies.
Although a burden initially, the benefit of these Initiatives will be ongoing well after the effects of the coronavirus have passed.
…the message and content must position the adviser as a beacon of calm in this troubled sea
With respect to client communication during this period, the message and content must position the adviser as a beacon of calm in this troubled sea – communicating and interpreting in a compliant manner the latest government announcement regarding taxation or stimulus packages to which they may be entitled.
Most importantly, only communicate when there is something to say – quality trumps quantity.
Take the time to walk in your clients’ footsteps
Furthermore, each client sees the world and situation from a perspective that matters to them as individuals. So, when crafting any narrative or message to clients, the advisory business owner needs to step outside of themselves and see things through the eyes of the recipient.
Although inundated with tasks and intense pressures at present, the importance of client communication demands time be set aside for this function.
Finally, there’s no doubt that the financial impact of the coronavirus will result in many businesses reopening in financial distress once the green light to do so is given. Tragically others won’t be able to reopen at all.
However, history has repeatedly demonstrated that there are businesses that thrive and grow in uncertain and troubled times. For them the end of the coronavirus crisis will be a new beginning for their enterprises.
Good, effective communication in these challenging periods is invariably rewarded with strengthened relationships and heightened business reputations and brands elevated by the word of mouth endorsement and promotion of appreciative clients.