Honesty and relevance in unprecedented times
As the COVID-19 global pandemic continues to affect everyone, the need for reassurance has never been more important. Households are struggling to make sense of ongoing quarantines, business closures, school closures, and social distancing. For many, a big cause for concern is the economic impact that all of this is having, from the short-term effects of job loss to longer-term retirement goals.
We’re all in uncharted waters right now — there’s no playbook for how to best cope through a pandemic. As an advisor, your first instinct was probably to touch base with your clients as the economic shock suddenly turned the robust bull market to a bear. You more than likely picked up the phone and offered advice and reassurance. But now what? Here’s a bit of guidance to help you continue being a trusted source of support.
With social distancing our new normal, technology has never been more of an asset to your business. While in-person meetings aren’t an option currently, now is the time to embrace video. There’s a powerful psychological element in being able to see the person you’re speaking with. In fact, communication research conducted by psychologist Albert Mehrabian found that only 7 per cent of what we communicate involves the literal content of the message. The tone, intonation, and volume of our voice takes up 30 per cent, and as much as 55 per cent of communication consists of body language.*
Getting started with video chat is relatively easy, with a number of tools now available. Professional platforms used most often include Skype and WebEx. Most social platforms and smartphones also have video chat features. Here are some tips for success:
- Avoid the freeze-frame. Video chat works best with a high-speed internet connection. Check with your service provider if you need an upgrade.
- Can you see me? Laptops, tablets, and smartphones have built-in cameras, but you’ll want to test the connection to see if everything is working well. If you have an older laptop, you might consider a plug-in webcam that offers a considerable upgrade in video quality for a small price.
- Testing…1…2…3. You might have a good image, but can you hear each other? Invest in a good pair of ear buds with a built-in microphone, or a headset. Check your audio in advance to make sure you have good sound quality.
The anxiety that investors feel is ongoing and the reassurance that you can offer is invaluable. The personal touch is best. If you can’t video chat, then pick up the phone and call. If you can’t reach someone by phone, then send an email. And above all, don’t avoid your clients. If they contact you, return the call or message as soon as possible.
A regular cadence of touchpoints with your clients can strengthen your relationships. But it’s important to think about why you’re reaching out and what you plan to share. Here are some tips:
- Be genuine. Ask clients how they’re doing, and how their family, friends, and colleagues are coping. Be a good listener.
- Be prepared. Your clients will likely have ongoing questions and concerns, and will expect your guidance. Always be ahead of the conversation, anticipate their questions, and be ready to discuss the latest economic developments and the impact on your client’s portfolio.
- Have solutions. Many households are finding themselves in a great deal of change with work stoppages. Career paths, household budgets, school dreams, travel, and retirement plans may feel very up in the air for a lot of people. You can be the calm in the storm by helping your clients talk through how plans may need to be adjusted. This is not your opportunity to pitch for new business, but rather your opportunity to be a friend who cares and wants to help.
- Take notes. Keeping track of your client conversations will help you stay organized in following up on any questions or requests that your clients may have. It’s also important to record client communication preferences, information that you’re sharing, and potential opportunities that you may want to explore when the time is right.
- Share relevant content. Follow up that phone call or video chat by sending your client information on topics that make sense for them. The Solutions “Market Volatility” section has client-friendly videos and articles on many topics.
During times of economic volatility, your clients are looking to you for honest advice and direction, but it’s important to gauge how to communicate that. Some clients may need a gentle approach, while others will want you to tell it to them straight. Be prepared for tough conversations and emotional outbursts. Understand that you may be one of the few emotional release valves that your client has for letting off the frustration and fear they are likely feeling.
Remember that we’re all in this together.
*Albert Mehrabian. “Silent messages: Implicit communication of emotions and attitudes.” Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1981. http://www.kaaj.com/psych/smorder.html
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