If You Loved Me, You Would Know

One of the better workshops I attended at FPA Denver 2010 was Harley’s on asking questions. One of her most important points was that clients don't tell us what they want – they just expect us to know. Unfortunately, as she jokes, those clients don't present at our conferences. So you will have to incorporate it in your individual engagements. She also conducted an interesting exercise – list five prospects who left and list the reasons why.
The cornerstone of the client driven practice process is soliciting client feedback. While I am mostly concerned with the clients as a group, it is just as true on an individual basis. From client to client, in fact, you have an opportunity to tailor your service. Maybe not really customize, but enable the client to select from a number of options you can easily (and probably do) offer. Would you prefer to meet or keep in touch by phone? Be contacted by phone or e-mail? In the morning or the evening?
You can turn it around as well. You know what a financial advisor does, but does your client? How thoroughly to you discuss expectations on both sides when you take on a new client?
The most intriguing of the questions Harley asks her clients is about pet peeves. It's something that never occurred to me to ask. It offers the opportunity to avoid the worst possible reason to lose a client – because you did something that was annoying without realizing it. An example she offered was a client whose pet peeve was being late. For almost all of her meetings, she was consistently 15 minutes early. One time however, she arrived 5 minutes late. A year later, the client was still referring to that particular meeting and her tardiness. It amazed her that it continued to come up in conversation, so she asked. It turns out that being late is that client’s pet peeve. It didn't matter how many times she was early, the one time she was a little behind schedule was the one that lived in the clients memory. Picky, to the point of being silly? Sure. But that does not change how much it annoyed the client. And it is absurdly easy to avoid if you know about it ahead of time.
So, beyond the macro feedback I usually discuss – surveys, advisory boards, etc. – consider the micro as well. Include in your on-boarding process a few questions to assure that your service is just what the client wants.


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