Lower your clients’ expectations and create a lasting impression

By Daniela Cambone | January 19 2006 01:53PM

Following a survey conducted last spring, Jasmin Bergeron, a marketing expert for the financial services industry, found that advisors that lower their clients’ expectations actually leave a better impression.

“It is a golden rule,” he told the packed room of advisors at the 2005 Insurance and Investments Convention held this past November in Montreal.

For example, he says if a client calls and you cannot chat at that moment, tell them you will call them back by day’s end, instead of saying, “I’ll call you back by 3 p.m.”

It is all about the wording says Mr. Bergeron. A client’s satisfaction level is affected by how long they have to wait for service, he explains.

The same goes for an answering machine message, remarks Mr. Bergeron. It can be a powerful tool that advisors should word cautiously. Saying, “I’ll call you back ASAP,” is not a good idea, because if you don’t, the client feels let down, he warns.

Mr. Bergeron, a marketing professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal, conducted the survey that involved 600 financial advisors and 1000 clients. The survey helped uncover the factors that influence the sales of financial services. The motivation for doing the study, says Mr. Bergeron, was purely for research purposes. It was not requested by insurers.

However, the findings were eye opening, particularly with regard to what clients value most from an advisor. Surprisingly, he told the audience, confidentiality ranked first.

“At the start of any meeting with a client, you should stress that everything said is confidential. This assures the client,” Mr. Bergeron highlighted. When he asked the advisors in the audience how many of them do this, only a few raised their hand.

In second place came quality of service. “When you meet the client, tell them that you reviewed their file and you prepared for the interview. These are things you probably already do, but you don’t verbalize it. By telling them, they will feel that you worked especially for them,” he said.

Advisors should also be using phrases such as, “I was thinking about your file yesterday,” he adds. Another tip, suggests Mr. Bergeron, is to not include your cell number on your business card. Instead, add it on using your pen in front of the client. They will feel that you went the extra mile and you are giving them a confidential number. “It is all about making them feel special,” Mr. Bergeron explains.

Also, he says advisors should not leave their clients with only one business card. “You should be leaving at least 3 to 4 and say that you would like them to pass it along to people who would be great clients just like them. It creates an automatic smile.”

How often you contact your clients is also key to establishing a lasting relationship. “If you contacted your girlfriend twice a year, do you still think you’d be together in 10 years?” Mr. Bergeron asked the audience. He stressed that it is important to at least send an email once a month. “Even if they don’t read it, they see your name and it makes them remember you.”

Lastly, Mr. Bergeron stressed that the most significant point to remember is that the last impression you leave a client is more important than the first. “If you watch a movie and you find it good, but you’re disappointed with the ending, how do you think you will critique it to others? You will say that it was not good.” Therefore, it is crucial to leave a good and lasting impression on the client.

He concluded by noting that it is important to reassure the client that they made a sound investment decision. “It is more fun to spend money than to make an investment, so make sure to tell your client that they did something good and wise.”