Even though you can’t meet your clients face-to-face right now, you can continue to build trust and strengthen your relationships by connecting with them online.
In the pre-Coronavirus world, each client meeting was an opportunity to create a positive encounter. You were able to engage with them in personable discussions and gauge their responses firsthand. You may have even visited your geographically isolated or elderly clients in their own homes.
Now, at a time when your clients increasingly need your reassurance and practical assistance, you can no longer meet them face-to-face. This means you need to make sure you’re communicating with the same warmth, empathy and understanding in an online setting so you can continue to help make a positive difference to their financial goals.
If you’re meeting with clients using a video conferencing tool, it’s important to remain focused on your client in the same way you would in person. Use body language to show empathy if your client is displaying signs of stress. Reflect back to them what they’ve told you and acknowledge their feelings of anxiety without minimising their situation or immediately jumping into problem solving.
You may find that it’s more difficult to explain your advice by phone or video. Your clients may be uncomfortable communicating online, or they may have connectivity or audio issues. Take the extra time to make sure your client is following the conversation and understands the benefits, costs and risks of the financial products or strategies that you recommend. Check in with them regularly to ask if they have any questions or if they need you to repeat anything. Ask them to clarify what you’ve discussed so you can be satisfied that they’re in a position to provide their informed consent.
Use this time as an opportunity to build deeper and more trusted relationships with your clients. Embed the intangible value of your advice by proving your competency and integrity, and providing a framework to help them make informed decisions down the track. This can be done just as effectively online as it can in person.
Meeting with new clients
If you already have a good relationship with your clients, maintaining the same connection with them online should be relatively easy. However, if you’re meeting a new client for the first time, it could be more difficult.
In person, you can easily pick up on non-verbal cues for how they’re responding to you and the conversation. They may look away, fidget or cross their arms if they’re not feeling comfortable. Or there may be times when they look to their partner for reassurance or guidance. You may not notice these cues as easily during a video call, which is why you need to check in with them regularly throughout the meeting to ask how they’re feeling and whether they want you to explain anything in more detail. However, if you speak to the client over the phone instead of conducting a video meeting, you will miss out on these non-verbal cues entirely. That’s why it’s preferable to try video calling with all new clients for your first meeting – even though it may take some time and patience to get set up if they’re not used to the technology.
Treat every video call with the same level of preparation and professionalism you would use for a face-to-face meeting. Do your research, turn up on time, display positive body language and listen intently to what the client is telling you. Keep in mind that your prospective client will most likely have heightened levels of anxiety at the moment and they may not trust you easily – so you need to compensate by doing everything you can to put them at ease.
Forging stronger ties through regular communication
Your clients are relying on you to help see them through this challenging time. It’s important that they can depend on you to communicate regularly and meet deadlines in a timely fashion. Communication can be one-on-one, as well as possibly providing regular updates by email or social media about economic and market conditions and government assistance for individuals and businesses. Each communication is an opportunity to connect with your clients and remind them that you’re there for them.
Similar to your clients, in the coming months you’re likely to have questions that you can’t immediately answer. You’re also likely to be experiencing anxiety and uncertainty. Share your personal experience with your clients honestly. It will make them feel understood and supported, and connecting with your clients on a personal level will further strengthen the relationship you have with them.
Seven ways to build trust through communication
- Show sincere interest in your client’s ideas, goals and concerns.
- Be honest and transparent – even if you don’t have the answers yet.
- Behave consistently in every encounter.
- Do what you say you will do.
- Use clear, succinct language.
- Take responsibility, admit mistakes and share your own concerns.
- Ask for feedback and respond respectfully.
Colonial First State Investments Limited ABN 98 002 348 352, AFSL 232468 (Colonial First State) is the issuer of super, pension and investment products. This is based on the understanding of current regulatory requirements and laws as at May 2020. While all care has been taken in the preparation of this document (using sources believed to be reliable and accurate), to the maximum extent permitted by law, no person including Colonial First State or any member of the Commonwealth Bank Group of companies, accepts responsibility for any loss suffered by any person arising from reliance on this information. This information is for the adviser only and should not be handed on to any investor. This information should only be treated as educational and not taken as any form of advice including but not limited to financial, business, or marketing. Seek professional advice when necessary. It does not take into account any person’s individual objectives, financial situation or needs. You should read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and Financial Services Guide (FSG) before making any recommendations to a client. Clients should read the PDS and FSG before making an investment decision and consider talking to a financial adviser. The PDS and FSG can be obtained from colonialfirststate.com.au or by calling 13 18 36.