Advice business consulting firm, Business Health, recently assembled a checklist of best practises it has observed from advisers during the Coronavirus pandemic period. Our thanks to Business Health’s Terry Bell and Rod Bertino for the opportunity to share this checklist and its associated messages with Riskinfo readers…

There’s been a lot written over the last few weeks about COVID-19 and its impact on business, and here we are, adding to the long reading list! But we wanted to keep in touch, and let you know that we’re thinking of you and to offer you as much encouragement as we can.

It’s during times like these that loyal relationships can be cemented, new relationships begun or existing ones sadly destroyed. Is your CVP continuing to be applied and delivered to your clients? And is it being reinforced through your client communications?

We’ve put together some of the best practices we’ve observed from advisers – in the hope that one or two of these will benefit your own business.

Client communication

Client demand for adviser communication has jumped dramatically (47% from February to March in North America) and we expect a similar stat for Australian practices. So, how do you satisfy this demand?

Not all communication is equal. Business Health research has continually shown that a) frequent, b) personalised and c) meaningful communication works best:

  • There’s so much commentary out there already – don’t fall into the trap of simply regurgitating it. Chances are that your clients have already heard it from press, TV and social media. What they’re looking for from you, as their adviser, is what it all means for their own plans, the wellbeing of their families and what are you actually doing for them.
  • ‘How’s things’ calls are genuinely appreciated by everyone. And while it mightn’t be possible to call every client, there will be some you should personally contact. ‘Best practice’ recognises that clients don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Client communication as a driver of profit:

*All statistics have been derived from the latest analysis of the Business Health, HealthCheck and CATScan data warehouse…

Staff communication

We suspect working from home (WFH) might become the norm for many advice business staff post COVID. Here are a few tips and ‘best practices’ to help keep those lines of communication open:

  • When WFH, it’s probably fair to assume that your staff’s productivity levels won’t, at least initially, be the same. A work environment shared with family, kids, pets etc. will suffer more interruptions. Adding to that may be a less efficient broadband connection and a less work-friendly space. Perhaps expectations should be lowered somewhat at this time?
  • Following on from the previous point, are the current staff KPIs still valid? Given they were most probably agreed well before COVID, should they now be amended to reflect new working conditions?
  • Video conferencing is preferable to voice calls for business meetings. It’s always nicer to see people, and visual cues (smiles!) can aid communication enormously.
  • Sticking to an agreed schedule for calls is important – just like being in the office. Avoid the temptation to defer.
  • For most of us, working from home disrupts not only the staff but also their families. Wouldn’t it be nice for the boss to reach out to enquire about them as well? Better still – why not shout them an Uber meal from time to time? Just to say ‘thank you’.

(Further reading: This topic is covered in more detail in: Make WFH a positive for your business).

Strategic partners communication

Staying in touch with your strategic partners at times like this should not to be overlooked or assumed to be travelling OK. Most of the above points relating to client and staff communication can be equally applied to this group.

  • We know that most practices already have their own version of a Business Continuity Plan, but ‘best practice’ encourages the business to confirm its existence with not only clients and staff, but also manufacturers, service providers and centres of influence – all of whom have a vested interest in knowing that your business can still be conducted even through disruption.

Peer and colleague communication

Find the time, make that call and ask how your mates are going. It’s tough for all of us, and a friendly ‘how’s things’ will never go astray.

While it’s not quite business as usual, it still is nevertheless business

A few best practices have caught our eye over recent times:

  • Review your current business plan – does it need to change to reflect this new environment? Who would have thought COVID when plans were prepared a few months ago?
  • While changes are being made to the business, it’s important that a mechanism is put in place to provide feedback to the owner, to inform and forewarn of any ‘hiccups’. Are your changes working or detracting? Identify lead indicators that you can measure, eg the number of client complaints and exits, turnaround times for service, open rates for various communications and so on.
  • Don’t stop doing the things that you know work for you. Meetings and seminars can still be held through joint calls, video conferencing, webinars and podcasts for example. Friday night drinks can be held virtually.
  • And if new client acquisition was on your agenda – it still can be. There will be plenty of opportunity for marketing. Leverage your newsletters, for example, through social media and post to your LinkedIn profile. Perhaps it’s time to consider new forms of community outreach during this time, such as offering a complimentary financial check-up for those struggling with the Government’s Stimulus package.

Turn those lemons into lemonade

We’ve all got them – jobs that have been put off for another day (which usually never comes). But maybe now is the time! When COVID first started to hit, our local café was immediately impacted, but rather than cutting his staff David (the owner) decided that his premises needed a fresh coat of paint – one of those jobs that he had successfully deferred until now.

So, if you’ve got some excess capacity, perhaps now’s the time? Here are some of the most popular jobs deferred by practices for another day …any look familiar?

  • Update your website
  • Build your practice’s LinkedIn profile
  • Review your fee structure – start by working out your costs associated with providing a review service
  • Investigate that online scheduling technology
  • Review your current provider agreements – are there better deals around? Are you paying for software you’re no longer using?
  • Work up an education/development plan for key staff as well as yourself. Better still, complete that exam
  • Update staff job descriptions
  • Review your range of services – is it time to introduce aged care or estate planning into your offer?
  • Update your CRM with the latest client ‘relationship building’ info

Business Health is an independent organisation specialising in customised advice and solutions to the financial services industry…

A note to advisers from Business Health on seeking client feedback:

Seeking feedback now may not seem to be the ideal time – surely clients have been through enough? And the adviser probably won’t have time as they strive to get to their new ‘normal’ (whatever that may look like). But, in a relationship-based business such as financial planning, perhaps the question should be – why not seek feedback now? Advisers will learn a lot of things from their clients, which can only make their practice better.

In an effort to encourage practices to draw that line in the sand now, before they embark on major change, we’ve put together a package of 5 CATScans, COVID modified introductory letter, plus personalised debriefs with the adviser and/or PDM, for a super low price of $2,500 + GST (an individual CATScan retails for $900 + gst). So, if you’ve got 5 or more practices looking to survey their clients let us know: (click here).

While the offer closes 15 June, the survey itself can be implemented at any time at the practice’s discretion. Hope to hear from you soon, but in the meantime our very best wishes for a safe road out of COVID.

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