"You're Welcome." Little Words Can Make a Big Difference to Your Clients
“You’re welcome.” It’s a phrase that every one of us learned to say when we were young.
Not just to be polite, but to express our willingness to give something—our time, money, or thought— to someone else. But in today’s increasingly casual world, the words “you’re welcome” seem to be falling by the wayside. I’m on a personal mission to bring them back.
Say thank you to a restaurant server, and many times, the reply you’ll get is a careless, “No problem.” No problem? I hope it’s not a problem for me to pay to for my burger and beer. And by the way, as the customer, isn’t is it my call as to whether there is a problem or not? Sheesh. Say thank you to anyone—from a cashier to a banker to a close friend—and an off-handed “sure” is the likely response. The unrequited thank you is just as prevalent on radio and television: the host thanks the guest for coming on to the show, and the response is not “you’re welcome,” but “Thank YOU!” There are now billions of thank you’s out there waiting for a you’re welcome. They are figuratively starting to pile up on our streets and in our communities. Like sentences without periods, boomerangs waiting to return the unfulfilled thank you is more than an unfinished social nicety, it can be a missed opportunity. Now is the time to make a change.
As an advisor, your client relationships drive your business. If you’re guilty as charged of taking your clients’ thank yous for granted, here’s why you need to change your ways and your words:
Talking about money makes your clients vulnerable.
Amy Florian, the author of No Longer Awkward: Communicating with Clients Through the Toughest Times of Life, gets it. Whether your clients are coming to you in times of crisis like a divorce, death of a spouse, or financial dilemma (which Florian covers in detail), or times of opportunity like a marriage, career promotion, or inheritance, many conversations about money are charged with emotion. To help advisors avoid the trap of using language that unintentionally alienates distressed clients, she offers specific suggestions for how to respond appropriately to clients. “You’re welcome” is just the beginning when your client is in crisis, but it’s an awfully good place to start.
Your words have the power to strengthen your client relationships.
I’m no psychologist, but I know the impact that words have on my own relationships with people. If I can tell someone is taking in what I’ve said and responding with a thoughtful reply, it tells me not only that they value what I have to say, but also that they know I value what they think. By choosing your response and your words carefully, you are telling your clients that you’re really listening. Assuring them that you care about what they think and what they feel is the strongest relationship builder there is.
Careless language can be misinterpreted as careless business.
I’m not suggesting that every word you say should carry the weight of the world, or that you only use highly proper language when speaking with clients. Every client is different, and it’s important to adapt to your audience. But there’s a big difference between being welcoming and friendly, and being so casual that you appear careless. An offhand comment or careless response to a question can be translated into “You don’t take me seriously.” In many cases, your clients are entrusting you with their life savings. That’s business that should never be treated lightly.
It may sound petty, and I might sound like an old guy ranting on the demise of the English language, but details matter. Words matter. And as an advisor, paying attention to the words you speak to your clients is a critical part of your communication. Saying “You’re welcome” is another way to say, “I hear that you appreciate what I did to help.” That’s something that can be important to say, even if the words sound automatic. Even better, it opens the door for you to continue to help—and that’s what being a trusted advisor is all about.
Let’s face it: it’s hard for people to talk about money. As an advisor, it’s your job to try to make the conversation as easy as possible and to be sure your clients feel that their fears, joys, and expectations are being heard. When you’re able to help, whether that’s with a kind word or the financial guidance they need to take the next step, their “thank you” means a lot. Treat it with the respect it deserves, and fill your “You’re welcome” with the same amount of care. All those forgotten thank you’s that are piling up around us will someday thank you in the end.
Retirement Planning Has Its Limits: How to Prepare
Retirement planning is one of the issues that commonly leads clients to consult financial advisers. One of its essential aspects is creating a plan to save and invest in order to provide a comfortable retirement income. Ideally, this starts many years ahead of retirement, even as early as your first paycheck.
As retirement comes closer, planning for it expands to take in a host of other considerations, such as deciding when to retire, where to live, and what kind of lifestyle you hope to have. When retirement becomes a reality, the focus shifts to carrying out the plan.
All of this planning is crucial. Yet, for both financial advisers and clients, it's good to keep in mind that planning has its limits. In the post-retirement years, it may be helpful to think in terms of preparing for old age rather than planning for it.
The older we get, the more important this distinction between planning and preparing becomes. Too many life-changing things can happen without regard to our best-laid plans. Often they occur unexpectedly, resulting in emergency situations where urgent decisions have to be made. A stroke or a fall, a diagnosis of terminal illness, a broken hip that leaves someone unable to go back to independent living—and suddenly, right now, the family needs to find an assisted living facility, arrange for live-in help, or sell a home.
What are some of the ways to prepare for these contingencies?
- Explore housing options well ahead of time. Find out what assisted living, home care, and nursing home services and facilities are available where you live and whether they have waiting lists. Have family conversations about possibilities like relocating or sharing households.
- Research the financial side of these options. Investigate the cost of hiring help at home, assisted living facilities, and nursing care centers. Find out what is and is not covered by Medicare and long-term care insurance. For example, people are sometimes surprised to learn that Medicare does not pay for nursing home care other than short-term medical stays.
- Designate someone to take over decision-making, and do the paperwork. Execute documents like a living will, medical power of attorney, and contingent power of attorney. Update them as necessary, and give copies to your doctors, your financial planner, and appropriate family members.
- Start relatively early to downsize. Well before you're ready to let go of possessions or move into smaller housing, start considering what to do with your "stuff." Focus on the decisions rather than the distribution. There's no need to get rid of possessions prematurely, but decide what you want to do with them—and put in writing. Do this while it's still your choice, rather than something your family members do while you're in the hospital or nursing home
- Do your best to practice flexibility and acceptance. No matter how strongly you want to live in your own home until the end of your life, for example, it may not be possible. The physical limitations of aging can limit our choices, and even the best options available may not be what we would like them to be. It is a profound gift to yourself and your family members to accept these realities with as much grace as you can muster.
Finally, please don't underestimate the importance of planning financially for retirement. Because the bottom line is that you can't plan for all the things that might happen as you age, but you can prepare to deal with them. One of the most useful tools to cope with those contingencies is having enough money.
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