Client Conversation Center
No matter how much you prepare clients for market volatility, it typically comes as a surprise and sparks a roller coaster of emotions. Consider these client engagement best practices and resources to navigate the current environment toward deeper and more trusting relationships with your clients.
Who should I talk to?
The sheer number of calls to manage during periods of market volatility can feel daunting. Who should I connect with first? How can I create a process to ensure the most impacted clients feel served?
Consider prioritizing your proactive client contact based on the client's circumstances today:
Clients in retirement and worried clients
This client group is typically most affected financially by market volatility and may require an immediate review of their plan, and potential changes. Reassure them that you have reviewed their plan and explain any changes you recommend.
Clients nearing retirement
Review whether these clients are still on track. Some plans may require adjustments. Let these clients know whether any immediate modifications are needed, and that you’ll schedule a more in-depth conversation soon.
Clients planning for retirement
Contact these clients via phone, letter or email. Encourage them to focus on their long-term outcomes and share regular updates on the markets. Let the clients know that you will be setting up meetings with them in the near future.
What should I say?
How can you best engage your clients? Authentically ask, listen, and empathize.
When navigating uncertain environments—particularly one like today—many clients simply want to have human, calming, effective conversations with their financial advisor. They want reassurance that you understand their priorities and fears, and that you empathize.
Consider these 8 best practices:
They want to know you understand and empathize with their feelings. Getting the emotional and human side of the conversation is probably the hardest but the most important in terms of calming their fears and anxieties. Market volatility is only part of what is causing client concerns. Health concerns and family responsibilities are also on the forefront of many clients’ minds. Don’t feel the need to solve their challenges immediately. Rather, Ask, Listen, Empathize.
While you may have worked to prepare your clients for inevitable market volatility, emotions can be, well, emotional. All team members should be prepared to support clients during this time of uncertainty. Responsiveness, empathy and authenticity can go a long way in putting clients at ease. When fear is at its highest, a consistent, personalized message can instill reassurance and confidence.
One of the primary obstacles to investor success is not investment performance, but investment behavior. Your ability to manage clients’ emotions and expectations during this time will be what sets you apart and is likely to set them up for long-term investment success.
When addressing clients’ market-related questions, drop the jargon and resist being too technical. Have a thoughtful and consistent core message for clients to help them focus on what matters most. After all, most clients will simply want to know: How is the market environment likely to impact my life. Am I, my family and my future going to be ok?
Letting your clients know that you are willing to talk to the people they care about will provide entry into their inner circle.
With many individuals working from home in the short-term, embracing technology will help you be present for your clients. Note that virtual conversations are typically much more impactful if you can observe body language. Consider technologies like Facetime, WhatsApp, Zoom and Skype that allow you to see the client while you are speaking with them.
Ensure that clients’ portfolios are still in line with their long-term plans. Portfolio allocations have likely shifted in the recent market volatility. Evaluate if any changes are needed. If all is in order, protect the plan you’ve created with the client. Making irrational decisions today can have long-lasting negative consequences on the health of a client’s wealth. By learning more about client biases and where they are on the roller coaster of emotions, you can help the client stay focused on how and why investment decisions were made in the first place.
Managing your practice during uncertainty
Right now, you are likely trying to balance calming your clients’ emotions, supporting your team, managing your business, and attending to your own personal and family situation. That’s a lot to juggle!Consider these prompts to help you stay productive—and healthy—in the short-term:
Emphasize client-centric engagement
Once the dust settles, it’s time to re-discover your clients and ensure you and they are crystal clear on their priorities, which may have evolved as a result of the recent environment.
- Client Discovery Cards & Worksheet
- Client Engagement Roadmap
- Family Planner & Organizer
- Client Discovery podcast episode
Look to the future like a CEO
Sometimes unexpected situations present opportunities for change. Striving for continuous improvement will help build a practice focused on efficiency, profitability, and sustainability.
- Practice of the future consultation
- Strategic Planning Assessment
- Custom Business Analysis
- Skills and Time Analysis
- Team Formation Guide
- Team Readiness Assessment
- Team Capacity Analysis
How can I help my team most effectively navigate this environment?
The best leaders put their People first, provide Perspective, clarify Priorities and lead with Optimism. Here are 10 ways you can implement these leadership principles for your team:
End each day with a 5-minute team check-in meeting. Reassure them you’re all in this together, see how everyone is holding up, sync up on what happened today, and jointly prioritize and set expectations for tomorrow.
For some team members, this might be the first period of market volatility of their career. Many are likely experiencing an unprecedented level of personal stress. Understand that mistakes might be made. Focus on the solution and course correct without placing blame. There will be a time and place later to debrief what went well and what didn’t.
Now is the time for reasonable expectations and to ensure you have a Business Continuity Plan in case of unforeseen circumstances. Schedule a 15-minute morning meeting with your team to focus on each person’s Daily Next Best Action: Determine what must be achieved today and what can wait. Encourage your team to be realistic about their goals—and not to forget to also take care of themselves and their families.
What are the intentional changes the team is making to respond to this unusual environment? What should the team say, what should they offer to clients? Roleplaying likely conversations can help prepare team members and empower them to work for the benefit of the client while representing the team well.
Define and communicate to your team what types of client calls should be immediately escalated to you, which ones the team can handle, and which conversations can be postponed for a later date. You may be experiencing a temporary lull in client call volumes as clients are busy addressing the highest priority person and family issues in this changed environment. But be prepared for a likely increase in calls as the reality and impact of market volatility begins to sink in. Empathy, authenticity and responsiveness go a long way toward putting clients at ease.
Your business priorities have likely shifted over the last several weeks. Decide as a team what has to be done immediately and what can wait.
In addition to the daily 5-minute stand-up meeting and the 15-minute morning meeting, formalize communication channels to ensure required tasks are completed and that all member are taking ownership for critical tasks. Have a defined communication structure to determine who is Responsible for certain tasks, who has to Approve, who should be Consulted and who needs to be Informed. This sort of structure and transparency will help team members stay on the same page and ensure critical tasks do not get missed.
If you expect team members to take ownership, you must empower them to make decisions. The formal communication process in item 7 will allow you to trust but verify.
Reach out to your Russell Investments dedicated regional team for support: Whether it’s guidance on crucial client conversations, analyzing portfolios, framing market commentary in a client-friendly manner, or accessing business solutions tools and resources to run your business like a CEO—we are your partner.
Taking care of you
Sharing best practices to help you manage your clients, your team, and your business through this crisis is a priority for us. But most importantly, we want to ensure that you are taking care of yourself too.
Find your local town's website to stay informed about updated safety precautions.
Store plenty of food and supplies at home in case of quarantine.
Exercise, eat healthily, make sure you rest and get some sleep. Taking care of yourself will ensure you can continue to also care for your family, clients and team.
Stay present in the moment, optimistic and calm, especially when talking with concerned clients and team members. Create a process that can help you re-center and destress. Meditation apps such as Headspace, Calm and Aura may help.
Everyone needs someone that they can confide in. Find and connect with that person.
They need your energy and focus, not just your presence.
Use Technology to your advantage. Download a way to touch base visually with family, friends and clients. Clients understand right now that all of us are managing multiple priorities. It’s ok if your client sees your 4-year old in the background. Prepare for virtual engagement.
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