~Sally Stalcup, Stalcup Consulting

In this ever-changing world of asset management, it can seem like there is a never-ending list of to-dos that keep the days, weeks and months full. While crossing out “to-dos” once they are finished can be quite satisfactory, it’s also important, on a regular basis, to slow down, assess and prioritize where your energies need to be (re)focused. Let’s start with client retention. Would you say your current client service approach is designed to “build loyalty” and retain clients, or does it merely “check the box” [of minimal requirements]?

Recently during a client retention project, a city treasurer shared the following with me as her point of view on the importance of client service being “client-focused”:

“If other managers are doing whatever they can to provide client-focused client service to us and you aren’t, you will be left behind…”

Organizations need to define what a “client-focused” client service program means and commit to it. It takes teamwork. It takes being proactive and non-complacent.

Here’s a S I M P L E starting point to create and deliver an effective client service program – it’s not to suggest that client service is simple, rather, it’s more about executing a thorough approach in a simple manner.

S Set expectations up front with your clients so they understand exactly what they will receive as part of your client service offerings. Be systematic with what they receive and stay committed to ensuring deadlines are met. Work on building rapport with them – be authentic and genuine in your interactions.

I Initiate “human” contact. While email can be a very efficient form of communication, so can simply picking up the phone. A good habit is to track in your CRM exactly how your clients like to be contacted – some prefer email, some still like hardcopies, and there actually are still those out there who like to have a phone call – it can quite refreshing, and efficient, too.

Face-time makes a big difference, too. Traveling to see clients on a regular basis demonstrates your commitment and willingness to go the extra mile(s).

M Management collaboration and commitment. There needs to be a strong internal plan developed and agreed to with senior management to ensure the successful external execution of it. Sharing the plan with clients and their consultants helps to keep expectations clear.

P Provide timely and accurate information. Customizing reports to meet the specific needs of your clients shows you are willing to go above and beyond for them. Taking the time to share industry trends and developments that aren’t expected is appreciated as well. Remember, people don’t know what they don’t know and they may not have read that great piece!

L Listen and learn. You know the saying, you have two ears and one mouth – listen twice as much as you speak, especially during client update meetings with an engaged client. Put yourself in their seat and relate to their current circumstances. Ask good questions. Check in by asking “How else could we be providing you this information to ensure it is meeting your needs?”

E Enhance your relationship. Consider having an annual “discovery” meeting where you take time to re-engage in a dialogue with your clients. Refresh and update pertinent information outside of the mandate for which you were hired.

Make it a priority to take time to “check in” on your current client service program. Assess how effective your retention efforts are and determine what you need to do to ensure you are delivering a program that “builds loyalty” and helps you to keep your competitive edge.