How to Get Chatty Clients off the Phone
By Beverly Flaxington
April 8, 2014
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Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.
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My clients are very happy — I know because they call me with every little question and I respond. Some just call to talk about Obamacare or the market trends. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the conversations, but it gets very difficult to plan my day with this much chatting. What am I doing wrong, and what can I do to change this?
Pete E., Florida
I’m impressed with the phraseology of your question – “What am I doing wrong?” instead of “How do I get my clients to change?” I try to remind everyone that it’s much harder to change others, so we need to look at our own actions and reactions first!
Kudos to you for forging the strong relationships you have with clients – that gives you a solid ground to do some things differently. One of the things you are doing “wrong” is offering your time and not attaching a value to it. The clients shouldn’t feel that you are available on demand and can freely spend time “chatting.” In fact, it could send a wrong message that you don’t have enough to do in your advisory firm!
There are a few things you can do to turn this around:
- Review what you are doing now for proactive communication. Could you be pushing more information out so clients don’t have as many questions? Creating an audio recording every couple of weeks and making it available to clients might help. When they call, you can direct them to listen to your commentary first before they ask their questions. You could also ask clients to email questions, and then create a list of Frequently Asked Questions that you can send to clients every month. Having a webinar for clients or making a video each month could help too.
- Create a “menu” of options in your firm. Outline what you do now for client communication (assuming it is robust) and show clients what’s included in their fees and what’s extra. In upcoming meetings, review this with clients. Explain that you are providing a great deal of information, and while you welcome their inquiries, you have to limit your time on the phone responding to questions.
- Have a good “gatekeeper” in place. This could be an existing administrator, receptionist or client-service provider. Have your calls go to voicemail directly, with someone else checking your messages, or have them routed to someone else’s phone. This gatekeeper can take messages and find out the clients’ questions in advance. Whenever possible, have someone else on your team respond to the client inquiries. If you aren’t as available, the calls will likely slow down.
- When a client does get you on the phone, and you’ve answered his or her question but the call doesn’t end, use the old line: “While I would love to keep talking, I have a client/colleague/investment manager waiting outside my door to speak with me. Have I answered your question sufficiently?”
- Be sure to look at your own behavioral style. We all have behavioral and communication preferences and some people are influencers — a highly verbal scale. People who are strong on this scale like to talk and will get distracted by a good conversation. Make sure you aren’t allowing your need to verbalize (if you have one) get in the way!
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