Last week Brad Fox, CEO of the Association of Financial Advisers (AFA), gave a very interesting presentation at our Value Alliance New Year function, where he emphasised the importance of client contact and building relationships for service organisations.
Brad was talking about financial advisers, but the same can be said of all service organisations.
It is something I feel particularly strongly about. Even public relations practitioners need to remember the “relations” part of their name and ensure that they help the people they work with to build strong relationships, as well as doing it for themselves.
For financial services organisations in particular, reputation and consumer trust took another battering during 2014 and repairing this has to be a priority for individual organisations.
Regular communication with clients, and building and maintaining relationships, is the way to build trust.
By having a strong relationship with an organisation, clients remain comfortable with that organisation and are more likely to recommend the adviser they use.
As Brad pointed out in his presentation, financial planners have a growing market available to them. However, they need to have a reputation of providing trustworthy solutions, and not appear to be part of the problem, if they are to capitalise on this.
It might sound easier said than done, but with a disciplined approach, it can be easier than many might think.
Perhaps the hard part is that there are no shortcuts. Changing attitudes doesn’t happen overnight, no matter how good the organisation is. It does take time and consistency.
People must firstly find the time to regularly do the things that, deep down, they know they should be doing anyway, which is often easier than people believe if a program is documented and followed.
An essential element in building trust is doing the right things by existing clients, including maintaining relationships. If this happens, word of mouth communication will deliver the messages of trust to a wider audience – thus building reputation and business development.
Financial planners and others should be using social media strategies that focus on communicating with their own clients, but which can also be used to reach others.
However, such approaches must be used as a supplement to other communication and contact programs, not a replacement.
The trap many can fall into with social media is that, as it offers low cost communications, it is used to replace other client contact programs to reduce expenses. This can be a major mistake.
Personal contact through regular meetings, supported by activities such as client receptions and other functions like mini-seminars, will always build stronger bonds.
Offering these approaches builds relationships and enhances reputation. Even if clients do not take advantage of the extra opportunities offered, they know they are there and see them as adding value.