It’s popular to tell clients you’ll be available for them anytime they need you, but is that wise?
This is a problem I see a lot of advisors get into unwittingly. Last week I spoke with two advisors who realized they’d painted themselves into a corner by saying this at the outset of the relationship.
You really make a rod for your own back if you do not manage your client expectations well. Telling them that you will be available for them anytime they call really sets you up for some problems.
There is some easy language to use when you’re onboarding new clients to clarify for them how you work, especially if you’re the only advisor in the office. It’s very different if you have two or three advisors, but it can go something like this:
“Often when clients call me, they’re wanting to get to me, and that’s understandable. Yet typically you will end up talking with Sarah or John (or whomever your assistant is) because I’m going to be in meetings, kind of like this one right now.
“Right now, the chances are my phone is going, and Sarah’s answering it. She’s taking messages because I’m here with you. So sometimes you’ll call, and I’m going to be in a meeting with other people. But we will answer you immediately if either Sarah or John can handle that request for you. If it’s something that requires my time and attention, you’ll hear from me at the soonest possible convenient time for me to respond back to you.”
So that’s one piece of dialogue that you want to use with onboarding new clients.
You might also want to mention this:
“Sometimes people do come on board with us, and they expect to get me every time they call. As you can see, right now we’re busy. So my phone’s probably going, and they’re getting Sarah or John.
“It’s kind of like when you call your doctor or your dentist. When I call my own, I’m never expecting to talk directly with my dentist. I know I’m going to talk with the receptionist. I know I’m going to talk with his or her assistant, and they’re going to take care of my needs immediately and ensure that if there’s anything deeper that needs taking care of, I’ll hear back from either the doctor or dentist or someone who will be taking care of this issue later on that day. So that’s how we run here at our office.”
So there are just two examples of setting up language in that person’s mind where you’re clarifying and using examples to show them, I’m not here at your beck and call every single time you call. I’ve got things that I’m going to be doing. We will get to you. We understand you need to hear from us, so leave it at that, and we’ll get on just fine. So,
- Set expectations out of the gate. When you’re bringing on new clients clarify for them how it is you work.
- Listen for those clients who are expecting to be talking with you every single week. These people will often waste your time, they’ll chew up emotion, and you need to do a better job of clarifying, that’s not how we work.
- If they don’t back down or, after they come on board they start changing to where their expectations are way out of whack with what you’ve told them to start with, you have a hard conversation to have with them. You have to clarify where the boundaries are and why and how you allocate your time accordingly.
Set yourself up out of the gate as a professional who manages your time properly and thoroughly. Set the expectations with a new client coming on board, and get the relationship off to the strongest start possible.