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Could you do away with client reports?

Do you really need to produce regular reports as a means to justify receipt of ongoing remuneration? asks Brett Davidson, chief executive of FP Advance.   


• What value do clients really place on regular printed reports?
• If you stopped producing them how would most of your clients react?
• How could you better spend the time and costs saved?

When it comes to ongoing reviews for their clients there remains a lot of confusion around what must be done to justify receipt of ongoing remuneration. Many advisers have over-engineered the solution by promising quarterly reporting to their top clients and half yearly or annual reports for the others. There are two problems here:

1. The reports are often time consuming to produce

2. Clients don’t really value them very highly – they have just been trained to expect them (by you).

Add to this the fact that many advisers are charging less than they would like to for their ongoing service and you have a major problem.

What do clients value?

It is worth considering which parts of your ongoing review service clients actually value. After a face-to-face client review meeting do you believe that your clients go home and say: “Wow that report we received was fabulous”? Unlikely. What you deliver is a package of services that when combined provide clarity, focus and comfort for most clients. The key deliverable in this is personal access to a trusted adviser via a mix of face-to-face, telephone and email contact. You can confirm this by simply asking your clients.

One firm we know well made the decision to simply stop delivering any kind of reporting to clients. They were up to their necks in report preparation, running late with reports promised, making mistakes and having to re-do reports that had been prepared in haste.

Most of their back office time was being taken up with this job.

No warning was given to
clients, they just stopped sending valuations and reports and explained the rationale for the decision at the next face-to-face meeting or telephone contact. They were fully prepared for
some clients to insist on receiving their report and were happy to supply one if required. Guess what? After a simple explanation that the firm had decided to
focus more on personal delivery
of their information, rather than via reports, no one insisted on receiving a full-blown report. Some clients asked for information that required something to be printed from the back-office system or wrap platform, but these were exceptions to the
rule and easily produced. The result was a massive reduction in back office work and an equally significant improvement in client satisfaction.

They discovered that less is more at review time.

With a massive saving of time and cost in the back office, a firm can then focus on the services that really do build client goodwill. Activities such as:

Client seminars

Once or twice a year seminars can be arranged for the client base with a guest speaker talking about topical issues (like markets, pensions or taxation), helping to reinforce the key messages of the business. This is a cost effective and high impact way of keeping clients informed. These can also be ‘bring a friend’ events and the business gets to generate new work from simply servicing its existing clients.

Targeted client newsletter
Rather than send a generic newsletter try creating short but targeted communications that
are sent to clear client segments with similar interests, in the format preferred by individual clients (for example, email, post, Twitter, Facebook). This level of customisation can be set up easily in your CRM system.

Lunch with ‘A’ class clients
Whenever an ‘A’ class client comes in for their annual review (the major review of the year)
ask them to block out some extra time and take them for lunch at a suitable restaurant. This provides time for getting to really know the client, to continue reinforcing your key messages and to dig a little for some high quality referrals.

Corporate hospitality

During the course of the year some corporate hospitality can
be organised for key clients, key introducers and even some quality prospects. Not only is this fun but it generates business as well.

Being available

Finally, use your reduced workload to be available when clients call so you can address their issues in a less frantic fashion. This ensures that clients feel genuinely well served rather than simply loaded up with reports and information.

This package of services can only be delivered if time is freed up in the back office first. The change in your business can
be huge as staff and owners don’t have to work nights and weekends to keep up with their promises to clients; the workload can be delivered during normal business hours. These simple changes can move your firm back into the advice business and get you out of the ‘generating tons
of paperwork’ business, which is a win for you and a win for your clients.

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