Advisor, Just Make the Call


Advisors and financial firms occasionally conduct client surveys to determine the best way to maintain and satisfy their current client base.

But current Spectrem research shows that sometimes all it takes to satisfy a client is to return a phone call.

Communication in today’s world is both easy and complicated. It should be simple to make contact with someone else because there are so many methods to achieve that task – telephones, cell phones, smartphones, emails, texting and video conferencing.

The complicated part for advisors comes in determining the best way to communicate with each individual investor. Just as investors have different attitudes toward investing, they also have different attitudes towards communication.

There are still investors for whom the telephone call (whether it be by cell phone or land line) is the best way to communicate. It is, by far, the easiest way to conduct an actual back-and-forth conversation in real time. It is easier in a phone call to clarify any misunderstood words or phrases, and it easier by far to hear sarcasm, understatement, hyperbole or, quite frankly, boredom.

When an investor places a phone call to an advisor, they do so because they have some relatively urgent matter to discuss. Those investors usually want the courtesy of a return phone call from their advisors in due time. Some, in fact, demand it.

According to Spectrem’s newest research, Effective Communication Techniques for Attracting and Retaining Current and Next-Generation Clients, one of the most prominent reasons investors switch advisors is because of phone call etiquette. It’s not just unreturned phone calls that upset investors; it’s phone calls that are not returned in what investors deem to be an acceptable time frame.

“Our research shows that for some investors, communication is more important than investment performance, and advisors need to be aware that a client relationship can be maintained through no more effort than a returned phone call,’’ said Spectrem president George H. Walper Jr. “For most investors, a phone call is an indication that they desire a quick response, or otherwise they would have emailed or texted. Even though it is 2016, phone calls still matter.”

According to the study, all investors with at least $1 million in net worth rated the importance of a return phone call from an advisor at ”8” on a 10-point scale.   

“Returning calls is very important to me,’’ said one investor interviewed for the study. “It depends on the type of inquiry. If it is trade specific, I want them to know that it is urgent and prioritize their clients accordingly. I expect a call back within a day no matter what, but the more urgent the topic the quicker the call should be returned.”

Investors have a different opinion as to the appropriate time frame for a return phone call, but approximately one-quarter of all investors with at least $1 million in net worth want a phone call returned within two hours. Unless an advisor is acutely aware of which investors are the ones that often demand a quick response, waiting past two hours to return a business call is taking a chance at irritating a client.

That being said, approximately one-third of investors are willing to wait until the next day to return the call.   

Knowing the client is one way the Spectrem study helps. There were marked differences between Millionaires and Ultra High Net Worth investors in terms of demands related to returned phone calls. While almost half of all Millionaires (those with a net worth between $1 million and $5 million) want a return call within five hours, almost 60 percent of UHNW investors (with a net worth between $5 million and $25 million) want the call back in that time. The differences are stark among those who are willing to wait at least 24 hours – 41 percent of Millionaires to just 31 percent of UHNW investors.

The study also looks at just what constitutes a returned phone call. Is it sufficient for someone from the advisor’s office to return the call, or does it need to be the advisor himself?

Investors are not that demanding in regards to who returns the call, with 56 percent of Millionaires and 57 percent of UHNW investors claiming they would accept a call from someone in the advisor’s office acting in the stead of the advisor.

Top Takeaways For Advisors

In initial meetings with new clients, advisors should make an effort to understand the investor’s attitudes towards risk, costs and long-term views. Advisors should also get to know what a client wants in terms of communication, including response times to inquiries. If an advisor has a lengthy client list, this can be difficult to recall, but request response request time should be noted for each investor so that when a client request for information comes in, the advisor can determine what is expected by that investor in terms of return communication.

The question about who makes a return phone call is important as well. While some investors are willing to hear from someone in an advisor’s office if the information requested can be passed along easily, some investors want only to hear from the advisor they work with on all investment matters. Again, noting which investors make that kind of demand is hugely important to retaining clients.


©2016 Spectrem Group