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Tech Tools for Client Service and Prospecting

These tools can help your efforts amid a tough environment.

Joel P. Bruckenstein, 02/12/2009

I've spent most of the last month traveling around the country. I've had the opportunity to experience near-zero temperatures in New York, Boston, and Chicago, and sub-zero temperatures in Minneapolis. Thankfully, I've also experienced some milder weather in Las Vegas, San Diego, and Fort Lauderdale. Throughout my travels, I've had the opportunities to listen to advisors describe the practice-management and technology challenges that they are facing in the current environment.

During just about every conversation I've had with advisors, two common themes emerge: client service/retention and prospecting. This is not all that surprising. With the market turmoil of the last year, most client portfolios are down. For advisors who charge clients based upon the assets-under-management model this means that even if you haven't lost a single client, your revenues are probably down between 15%-30%.

It seems to me that there has never been a better time to focus your technology dollars on client service and prospecting. The objective in providing excellent client service is threefold. First, you want to retain your existing clients, because we all know, or should know, that it is cheaper to retain existing clients than it is to attract new ones. Second, providing outstanding service is likely to uncover additional assets or other cross selling opportunities. Third, happy clients who receive outstanding service are those most likely to refer new business to you. The object of prospecting is to bring in some additional revenue to help close the revenue gap by adding additional revenue sources. This column is devoted to helping you uncover technology tools and tweaks, many of them inexpensive, that can help you get the most out of your technology budget.

My first suggestion is to re-evaluate you Web site to see if it reflects your current business goals. For example, if your number on goal is to provide excellent client service, is your Web site doing all it can to help you further that mission? My guess it that the answer to that question is "No." There are numerous ways that your Web site can further client service.

One very simple thing you can do is post client-service forms on the Web. This sounds pretty obvious, but in my experience the majority of advisor sites I've visited still do not do this. By making forms available to clients, you give them 24/7 access to the tools they need. In addition, you lower the labor burden within your office. That's a good deal all around.

Another thing you can do is make the site user friendly. In recent years, there has been a trend within the industry to put a graphical splash page in front of advisor Web sites. This may be great for your ego, but it is extremely annoying to clients who have to wait through the video to access the information they need. Make your home page accessible and make sure it has lots of hotlinks and navigation tools so clients can get to the area of your site they need quickly.

How can you make your Web site work for you when prospecting? Here's one easy tip: Use your Web site to prescreen prospects. Not every prospect is going to be a good fit for your firm. If you are trying to attract a certain kind of client, or if you have a specialty, let prospects know. It might encourage them to call you first. Information supporting your competency as a specialist, such as credentials, published articles, interviews in the media, etc., can support your stature as an expert, so they should he prominently displayed.

Using your Web site as a prequalifying tool offers an additional benefit: it can discourage those who are not suited to your practice. Why would you want to discourage some prospects? If they are not a good fit, odds are they will never become profitable clients anyway, so why expend more time and energy than necessary on unprofitable pursuits? You could be spending that time on more rewarding endeavors.

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