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With summer vacation season now in full swing, advisors and staff are taking advantage of fewer COVID-19-related restrictions and travelling overseas for the first time in three years.
But in a waning-pandemic world where the lines between work and private lives have increasingly blurred, taking a long vacation often requires planning ahead so clients don’t feel abandoned in increasingly volatile times.
The good news? By harnessing the power of automated technology and preparing support staff to step in during their absences, advisors can still ensure a great customer experience even when they’re away, says Nick Giovannetti, certified financial planner (CFP) at SafeBridge Private Wealth in Toronto.
“Advisors today can’t get away with, ‘I’m on vacation and will get back to you when I return,’” he says.
“They need to recognize that they’re running a business, and businesses should follow standard office hours, regardless of vacation schedules. Well in advance of their absence, they should be assembling a team that is readily available to manage their clients.”
Mr. Giovannetti points to tapping into digital tools such as online file storage, interactive planning software, booking calendars, and virtual assistants that can cover issues across multiple time zones and beyond official business hours.
Luckily, clients have become much more open to virtual communications amid the pandemic and remote experiences that can better accommodate their busy lives, he says.
“Advisors must embrace modern ways to ease the effort required for clients to interact with them,” he says. “One example might be a mobile app that brings everything together in one place – these types of tools, in my opinion, represent the future of financial advice.”
Brandon Chapman, CFP and principal at SaaS Wealth Insurance in Vancouver, says the service standard at the firm is to respond to any client inquiries within one business day.
“This is a huge value-add since clients never need to wait on hold on a 1-800 number during their busy days,” he says. “Ensuring clients have a handy e-mail address or phone number for getting quick responses back can provide the assurance they need during bad economic times.”
Mr. Chapman will also reach out proactively with educational content and host webinars with subject matter experts who can explain market fluctuations and how to stay ahead of the volatility.
“Additionally, having one-on-one meetings to help clients take advantage of discounted market prices is going to set them up for success long-term,” he says. “This has allowed our clients to enjoy the summer and not feel like they need to make a knee-jerk decision based on monetary policy or political instability.”
We’ve all been in front of computer screens for far too long during the pandemic, he says, adding that while many have saved on their travel budgets, their mental health requires some investment this summer.
Advisors should ‘lead by example’
When it comes to health and well-being, Cindy Marques, CFP and chief executive officer of Money MakeCents Inc. in Toronto, is a firm believer in practising what she preaches to clients.
“Yes, the investment market is looking bleak right now, and some clients may need some soul-soothing, but we’re also human beings beyond just our advisor roles,” she says. “My clients prioritize personal care and well-being enough to celebrate my personal downtime. We deserve to enjoy our lives, summers and the benefits of travelling.”
After all, advisors spend their time helping clients achieve their work/life balance and enjoy their money as a tool that brings joy through experiences and purchases. So, they should lead by example, she says.
Whenever Ms. Marques is out of the office and not checking her e-mail inbox regularly, she relies on WhatsApp to stay connected with her clients. The free instant messaging platform runs on wireless internet, so users don’t have to worry about racking up overseas roaming charges. It also allows her to respond to clients more effectively with voice notes instead of long-winded texts or e-mails.
“The voice note aspect also provides a sense of comfort to the client to actually ‘hear’ from you,” she says.
“It feels more personal than an e-mail and, at the end of the day, those personal touches can go a long way to making a client feel cared for.”
As Ms. Marques works independently, she automates her business as much as possible. Automated responses on her website acknowledge receipt of inquiries until she can follow up personally, while her social media accounts feature links for booking a consultation call that sync automatically to her calendar.
“This way there’s no back and forth required to settle on a time to speak, and I don’t have to worry about being booked during my vacations since I set the parameters of my own availability,” she says.
“Ultimately, regardless of my ability to respond, clients have multiple avenues to both view my availability and book a formal time to speak with me that doesn’t require any response from me whatsoever.”
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