Keeping clients through good and bad times – Part 2

11 April 2019 Myra Knoesen

While there are countless tips and expert advice on how to attract clients, much less has been said about how not to lose them. Keeping clients for life can be every bit as challenging as finding them.


In part one of the article Andrew Beattie, author of ‘Keeping Clients Through Good And Bad Times’, shared some recommendations to keep clients happy in either good times or bad.

Here are the last three recommendations according to Beattie:

  • Be candid - When markets are roaring and business is booming, there is no shortage of professionals ready to take personal credit for success. Oddly enough, economic conditions are usually blamed when the markets turn bearish. Shifting blame and making weak excuses is the specialty of pro-athletes caught doping, and the infiltration of this attitude into financial services is troubling. People with the integrity to take responsibility for their mistakes - whether truly market-induced by some black swan event or a personal mistake - may suffer initial client backlash, but most people will appreciate the honesty. The other option of smoothing over any past mistakes requires deceiving all your clients. Warren Buffett offers two great examples of integrity in the face of difficulty. He closed the first fund he managed when it was still successful, simply because he felt he could no longer chase a market he didn't understand. He used the Berkshire shareholders' letter to admit that his delay on closing down Gen Re's trading arm cost hundreds of millions in losses. There was no panic selling of Berkshire.
  • Be organised - It seems counterintuitive, but a person must standardise his or her approach to client maintenance in order to give personalised service. Getting organised frees up the time needed to tailor your services for each client's needs. Accountants, like dentists, generally see clients once a year, whereas a financial adviser or broker might be dealing with clients on a quarterly, monthly or even daily basis. It is important to commit a regular amount of face time/phone time to each client within every cycle - and to take notes on the meeting. Keeping a client file containing notes from previous meetings is an invaluable way to track how your client's concerns are changing over time. This, in turn, helps you to customise your approach and recognise patterns before they become larger issues. Setting a standard that you maintain for each client - a certain amount of follow-up, time commitment, etc - will help you figure out how much business you should be handling.
  • Create a natural network - Even professionals who survive through referrals often under-use their personal network. Knowing what businesses your clients are in and what type of clients they work with can help you in building a referral network. Despite massive leaps in technology, many clients are still gained through word of mouth. People usually ask their friends and associates for advice on a good lawyer, insurance broker, real estate agent, and so on. By maintaining a high level of organisation and contact with your clients, you'll be a natural choice when one of their friends is seeking a referral.

The bottom line
The secret to keeping clients is to be consistent. You can always do things such as increasing your services or offering discounts, in order to attract more business during hard times. However, you need to set a minimum standard that never wavers - even when inflows of new clients tempt you to short-change established ones. Ultimately, professional integrity means being consistent during all economic conditions.

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The Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) released a notice extending the CPD cycle for 2018 until 31 July 2019. What is your opinion on this?


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