AFTER you sign a new plan sponsor
client, much of the service you provide
will occur “out of sight.” To keep your
clients onboard—not to mention well-served—you need to communicate
that they aren’t “out of mind,” too.
But while sending quarterly reports
and the yearly 408(B)( 2) disclosure
may seem good enough to many busy
advisers, this is barely baseline to
some. For this smaller group, communication informs how they do business and helps them get to know each
client. They can then proactively use
what they have learned to address the
needs and goals of each one’s plan.
“We stay in constant communication with our clients,” notes Alex
Assaley III, managing principal of AFS
401(k) Retirement Plan Services in
Bethesda, Maryland. Almost monthly,
AFS advisers review their clients’
retirement plans. They then send
notifications as to “any outstanding
action items or upcoming initiatives
the client and/or we need to deliver or
implement with respect to the plan,”
But they also reach out regularly by phone—a nicety fading from
many customer-service businesses’
routines, Assaley says. “The traditional
For some advisers, it’s their tool of choice for building client relationships
Art by Jackie Ferrentino
method of just calling and checking
in on a client every four to six weeks,
is something we remind ourselves of
Similarly, according to Sean Patton,
a partner and senior consultant at
Westminster Consulting in Roch-
ester, New York, keeping an open line
to clients is part of his firm’s service
model. “Clients know to reach out to
us on almost anything,” he says. He
points to a relatively new client, who
has called several times with ques-
tions. Such back and forth results in
clients that increasingly depend on the
adviser, whose responses add further
value, he says.
Firms seeking new ways to connect
with clients might look to their own
services. Westminster supplements
each committee report it writes with
a QDIA [qualified default investment
alternative]—or safe harbor—
check-list. If the client needs help achieving
an item on the list, Westminster will
reach out to assist via WebEx.
AFS, after helping a plan to restructure, will “measure the results and
provide ongoing feedback and reporting
to show the level of engagement, interaction and communication we’ve had
with its employees,” Assaley says.
Further, sending proprietary publications is important, both firms feel.
Westminster distributes three: its
Weekly Flash report, a monthly newsletter and a glossy quarterly magazine.
“People love the Flash report,” and,
while the magazine gets “rave reviews,
it’s not winning us business,” Patton
acknowledges. Still, he believes this is
the price to stay competitive.
Communicating just for visibility
is not to be advised, though, Assaley
says, citing a core tenet of personal
branding phenom Sally Hogshead:
“‘Every time you communicate, you’re
either adding value or taking up space.’
We think about that every time. Let’s
make sure we’re adding value,” he says.