CPD: Five steps to client engagement in times of crisis – part two

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The double whammy of a health and financial crisis means the need for you to connect with clients is more important than ever.

Uncertain times generally mean anxious clients. The double whammy of a health and financial crisis means the need for you to connect with clients is more important than ever, but comes at a time when face to face communication is not possible. The first part of this article, sponsored by Zurich Australia, examined the first three steps you can take to enhance client engagement at this time. This second part covers steps four and five, to help engage with your clients to best position your business to survive and thrive in the ‘new normal’.

You’ve no doubt been inundated by emails from every company you’ve ever done business with, providing their response to the COVID-19 crisis. So too are your clients. The news cycle continually provides updates about the health crisis and headlines regularly feature bad news about the flow on effect on the economy and markets. While the availability of information 24/7 via the internet can be useful, it can also provoke anxiety.

In the first part of this article, we talked about the importance of communicating your ‘business as usual’ approach to your clients, how you need to ‘show up’ for your clients and importantly, to ensure you adapt your business processes to your new operational setting.

In part two, the focus is on communications. Your clients will have received an abundance of information – and will continue to do so – so it’s important that your communications are tailored, targeted and cut through.

Step four: Communicate, communicate, communicate

It’s to be expected that your clients are worried. They may be worried about their health, older family members, their finances, their kids losing jobs or having to lay off employees. You will need to develop a range of communication channels, from one on one conversations through to presenting information to groups of clients.

One on one communications

Heightened anxiety may have your clients wanting more of your time. Over time you might find ways to answer commonly asked questions in a group forum – for example a video published on your website, or a Q&A newsletter – but it’s important to speak to your clients one on one as and when required.

This can be done by phone or using one of many video conferencing services such as Zoom. Video conferencing can be particularly good for those occasions where you wish to discuss specific documents, as most allow for on screen document sharing. It can also facilitate discussions among several people, such as a family group or business partners.

Asking questions, active listening and then asking further questions will help your clients to feel safe disclosing their fears at this time. It’s not the time for ‘sales’ mode; rather, consider the solutions that might help your client through this challenging period.

Speaking to clients via a video conferencing tool is a little different to sitting face to face. Tips for active listening include:

  • Don’t speak when the client is speaking (sometimes challenging when several people are in the meeting)
  • Put the client at ease with your body language – it can be evident across a video application
  • Show you want to listen – look at the camera when you and others are speaking – not at your phone or out the window
  • Remove things in your new environment which can distract you from what clients will say – close down your email and make sure your phone is on silent
  • Show empathy with your eyes – many of your clients will be experiencing some degree of difficulty, or they may simply be fearful in a general sense – they need to see that you have heard them
  • Be patient – take your time in listening and allow the information and concerns to be articulated
  • Ask questions and keep listening to what is being said.

Email

Email is a quick and easy form of communication. As well as being an easy platform for one on one communications, it’s also an efficient way to get information quickly to a group of people.

For example, you may have a number of clients with small businesses. Both federal and state governments have announced a number of initiatives to support small business. This provides a good opportunity to send those clients a summary and offer to help them determine eligibility for different subsidies. Rather than waiting for the next newsletter cycle, you can quickly email the pertinent information to the relevant group.

Newsletters

Newsletters are often a common element of an adviser’s communication strategy. A newsletter is a useful tool to keep clients connected to the practice between meetings.

A regular newsletter at this time is a great way to keep people in touch with a range of topics, including:

  • Market updates
  • Fund manager and product updates
  • Updates from Centrelink and the ATO detailing support packages for individuals and businesses during this period
  • Educational articles

Either as part of your newsletter, or as a separate email, a weekly roundup of the top 4-5 articles you read during the week and think your clients would appreciate. There’s so much information (and mis-information) in circulation, separating the wheat from the chaff and providing quality articles spanning a range financial topic can direct their attention away from the chaff.

You can add a human element, one not solely investment focused, by including an interesting piece on a non-finance topic. It might be something written by you or a member of your team, or something that grabbed your attention online. It could be a book review, an article on travel photography or a piece on the latest advancements in electric vehicles.

Video

Video continues to grow in popularity. In fact, it’s forecast that by 2021, most people will consume 100 minutes of online video per day[1]. This forecast was made before the current pandemic; arguably, one could make the case for this forecast to apply equally to the current environment.

Video is an excellent medium to engage clients. While they may be interested in reading what you write in a newsletter, email or online, video can connect you with your clients in a much more personal way. While its virtues as a marketing tool are often sold, the benefits as  equally as important.

It’s estimated that 65 percent of people are visual learners, and so respond better to seeing (and listening) to information than reading it. Videos also provide emotional cues to the audience and allow the presenter to show empathy with his or her audience.

You may already use video to keep clients engaged between face to face meetings. For example, you may have recorded some technical or educational videos to help clients understand specific strategies or investment concepts. You may already provide regular updates, whether from your practice or third parties.

The current situation is one that is perfect for video. You and you colleagues can talk to many, but on a personal level. You can answer common questions, impart information, demonstrate your empathy with the situation.

Consider the main issues clients are asking you about and thinking about how you can link in with third parties and various specialists to deliver quality content to your clients.

Webinars or live video

Consider a regular live update. Whether it’s a brief live stream on Facebook or a longer presentation through video conferencing or a webinar platform, a regular live update can help you quickly and nimbly communicate key messages to clients.

It might be a five minute session after a government announcement. It might be a special guest appearance by an investment or insurance specialist during which clients can ask questions. Having a regular time where clients can tune in live (or watch at their own leisure at a later time) can help them feel connected to you and your business.

Social media

Social media is yet another channel you can use to communicate with your clients (and prospective clients).

Twitter can be used to source and ‘tweet’ links to articles that may interest your clients. Encourage your clients to follow you and enjoy the resources you share with them.

Your company Facebook page can keep clients in the touch with what’s happening in your office – in this environment, you could share pictures of the remote offices from which you and your team are working during this time. You can also use your Facebook page to share articles of interest or, as detailed in the prior section, holding brief ‘Facebook live’ updates.

You can use LinkedIn to engage in conversation with peers and clients. There’s a range of discussion groups that might interest some of your clients. You could be an advocate for them, or also show that you are interested in what’s important to them outside your office.

A couple of final comments on social media – consistency is important. To successfully use social media as an engagement tool requires time and effort. If your social media accounts are left unattended for lengthy periods, your audience can disengage from your sporadic posts and tweets.

Step five: Review your online presence

A lot of communication can be delivered by your website. While you need to update your website to let clients know where you are, how you’re operating and key facts about your ‘business as usual’ don’t rely on your clients going to your site and reading that. Some will, some won’t – as such, important communications like that need to be ‘pushed out’ to clients.

Having said that, your website is the important central piece to your communication strategy. Videos should be embedded on your site, newsletters linked to web pages and appropriate links set up to your social media accounts.

Use your website as a communications platform to keep clients up to date, but not as your sole form of communication.

You could also consider using your website to support your local community. With so many smaller business having to pivot to different business models for survival, support for them will be appreciated by all. It might be a review of local businesses able to deliver fresh or cooked food, details of pharmacies delivering medicine to those in isolation or other businesses able to solve problems for people unable or unwilling to leave their home.

Although periods of uncertainty can bring out the worst in people (think toilet paper hoarding), it can also bring out the best in people. Google ‘the kindness pandemic’ to see the myriad of examples where kindness rules the day. It’s a time when you have the opportunity to prove to your clients that you genuinely care about them and their families.

Although it’s a time of crisis, it’s also the time to nurture your client relationships and create meaningful connections. That way, your business and your clients will not only survive this dark period, they’ll thrive.

 

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Read CPD: Five steps to client engagement in times of crisis – part one

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[1] https://www.smartinsights.com/digital-marketing-platforms/video-marketing/video-marketing-statistics-to-know/

 

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