Let’s face it—when it comes to raw efficiency, nothing beats email. You can compose exactly what you want to say, send it when it’s convenient for you, and allow the person on the receiving end of your email to view your message at their convenience. And to reply to exactly what you wrote.
Here’s why it’s bad to rely on email too much for your business:
It distances you from your clients.
They can’t hear your voice, you can’t hear theirs. There may be issues they need to discuss. They may not feel comfortable with something you’ve implemented for them. They may have a fear or anxiety about their money they’re not telling you. And if the subject doesn’t come up in your email you may never know about it. You may simply get hit with the transfer papers when the client leaves you.
Anything that distances you from your clients puts you at a competitive disadvantage to the advisor who is willing to pick up the phone and call or meet personally.
Your personality creates a client experience
I’ve mentioned my favorite CPA before, Todd Kathol, in La Vista, Neb. I’ve lived in five states since I first met Todd in 2002, but we always go back to him each year to do our taxes—and to help us with quarterly payments. I suppose most accountants aren’t known for their bubbly personalities. But Todd is. He bubbles over with energy and enthusiasm whenever he calls me. And considering he’s always calling about the unpleasant subject of taxes, it’s remarkable that he still makes my day—just hearing his excitement.
Why does he call? Sometimes it’s just a quick question he needs answered about my tax information. Sometimes it’s to deliver bad news—you owe more money to the government. And I’ve often wondered why he doesn’t email me with the same questions and information. (He does use email occasionally.) Email might be more efficient (we always spend more time on the phone talking about our kids and current events than we both probably can afford to spend.)
But he’s built a dynamic and successful business over 20 years delivering a superior client experience, no doubt partly because he’s willing to pick up the phone and spend the time getting to know his clients! We’ve gotten to much more about each other over the last 15 years than just the tax details. I’m certainly loyal to him because of it—even as his business has grown. (Todd delegates some of our tax work to his nephew, who is just starting in the business, but he still takes time to let me know that he’s reviewing everything.)
Overcoming phone anxiety
So how can you get over your phone anxiety?
Just pick up the phone! Call your favorite clients first. Start with some you know well and haven’t spoken to in awhile. Call them to check in about their portfolio performance, and ask them if you could update any changes that have happened in their life. Certainly you could delegate this task to your assistant, but you will make a favorable impression calling your clients personally.
Then, make a habit of calling clients regularly, instead of emailing or texting them. Get to know what’s going on in their lives. How are their kids, their parents, their jobs and hobbies?
As the business coach Steve Saenz used to say, “If you can’t talk to your client for 10-15 minutes about things outside of their portfolio, you don’t really have a sufficiently deep relationship to serve them well or earn their loyalty and referrals.”
It’s also a good idea to use this time on the phone with clients to informally get some feedback on how you and your staff are performing for them. Just say, “How are we doing? What are we doing well for you? What do you think we could improve on?” Then keep your mouth closed, listen intently and just let them talk.
Bottom line: Email is a wonderful tool that can help your business grow efficiently and serve a greater number of clients. But it can’t replace your voice. Clients need to hear it!
(If you’d like a sample client contact schedule, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can chat on the phone later!)