As we approach the one-month mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a good time for firms to take a critical look at their client communications to determine what’s gone well and where there is room for improvement. Connecting with clients is crucial as we all work to navigate a new way of working. As firms look to refine and enhance communications moving forward, here are three key questions to consider:
1. Are we communicating in proactive, personalized ways that add value?
In challenging times, it’s especially important to know what clients are going through — beyond the financial — and have a true understanding of their broader concerns and challenges. Remember, an advisor’s value is more than investments and planning. Are you actively listening and then personalizing communications to help provide peace of mind related to clients’ individual needs and concerns? For example, do they have an elderly parent who lives alone or an adult child who is newly unemployed? Your CRM system can also provide value — look for information about clients who now could warrant additional support and potentially benefit from the newly passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, such as parents with children in college or small-business owners.
Advisors can build relationships and draw out important details in client conversations by focusing on “what” and “how” questions, such as “What has your social distancing experience been like?” or “How are you juggling work and the kids being out of school?” Demonstrating genuine care and interest not only helps advisors learn more about their clients, which in turn helps them know where they can add more value, but also helps position advisors as trusted resources who clients can turn to for a variety of needs.
2. Are we effectively leveraging all available channels?
Look at the past month’s communications holistically and assess how well you developed a consistent firm-wide message, as well as the cadence of communications and how effectively you’re connecting through all of the channels that are out there. Many firms have rightfully been focused on one-to-one communications, and that will continue to be critical. But, now is also a good time to look at how else you can you provide peace of mind and useful information for clients. For example, consider how you’re using social media, which enables you to efficiently communicate your messages to many clients and still allow for two-way conversation. Think about how you might be able to leverage videos to keep your audience engaged. Social media videos are relatively easy to post and don’t need to be highly produced, especially in an environment like this, and go a long way in keeping content varied while also showing some of your firm’s personality.
Look at your website through a client’s eyes — is it easy for them to find information related to their current needs and concerns, such as health care proxies or charities related to the pandemic? If not, consider making that critical information easier to access by adding a homepage banner that directs clients to a dedicated COVID-19 page with a message from senior management and links to resources.
3. How else can our firm help to build community?
As the pandemic continues, firms have an opportunity to go from reacting and responding to cultivating connections. People are seeking community now more than ever, and one way for advisors to add more value to their clients is by helping to provide that.
We’re already seeing some firms build community in a variety of ways, like creating private groups on social media where clients in similar situations can connect for support and information-sharing. Others are hosting calls to bring together their clients around timely topics like long-distance elder care, managing anxiety, career coaching, cybersecurity and more. Some firms are encouraging clients to take time for self-care by hosting events like virtual meditation classes or sessions with nutritionists.
Take a look at what you know about your client base to determine what kinds of communities would resonate the most and how you can help. For example, if you work with a lot of small-business owners, consider bringing them together to discuss how the CARES Act affects them and share best practices around things like how to take care of employees who are like a second family to them. Then, create a private group on social media for the clients to continue the conversation.
These kinds of activities help generate the personal connections many people are craving in a time of social distancing, as well as create an opportunity to provide expertise and support from your firm. There’s a chance to inject some fun into these events as well, which can help build even deeper personal connections between your clients and team. For example, one firm we work with encouraged clients to submit short videos teaching others about a topic of their choice, and got entertaining content ranging from how to make pizza to how to teach your dog to spin.
While one month into the pandemic is a natural time for conducting an after-action review of your firm’s communications, make sure to also regularly solicit feedback from your clients and adjust as needed.
And above all, when taking a critical look at your communications, make sure you’re projecting an empathetic, human tone. While the markets are critical, the other elements of how your clients are feeling right now are just as important given the unique situation. Demonstrating the value your firm delivers beyond finances is especially important in these challenging times.
Anand Sekhar is vice president, practice management & consulting, Fidelity Institutional.