Posts Tagged 'Client Care'

Client Segmentation & The Service Matrix


You’ve heard it  – Segment your client base!  But do you know why?

First there is the 80-20 rule: 80% of your revenues come from 20% of your clients.

So the first step is to determine who those 20% are.  These are your top clients.

In our firm, we use an “old school” naming convention – A, B, C, D & F – just like in grade school.

Others may use Gold, Silver, Bronze, etc.

Consider using a bell curve methodology.

Client A – 3%

Client B – 13%

Client C – 68%

Client D – 13%

Client F – 3%

But what is the point?  Why is this useful business information?

First, you may want to know which clients are profitable and which clients are not.

Clearly your A-client will be very profitable; your F-client may not!  You could actually be losing money on the F-clients.

We used to say that an F-client is your most profitable client until you do ANYTHING for them, then they quickly become your biggest money trap.

Can you really afford not to know this information?

Now consider this.  You have an A-client that pays you a fee of $10,000 per year and an F-client who pays you $500 per year.

You know the F client is costing your firm money.

How do you think saying this out loud would sound? “Dear A-client, thank you very much for paying me so much money that because of your subsidy, I was able to retain some clients that are not profitable and your service suffered because of it.”

Does that hit you in the gut?

How do you deal with this problem other than firing all your small clients?

The answer comes in the form of a service matrix.  You cannot deliver the same level of service to all your clients.

A-clients deserve the highest level of service, then B-clients and so on down to F-clients who, perhaps, should get the legal minimums.

The service matrix needs to be communicated throughout your entire organization no matter how big or small.

This needs to be a written matrix so that everyone is clear as to what should and should not be provided and why.

Develop rules, policies and guidelines that reinforce your matrix.

Practice what you preach.

If certain clients expect a higher level of service, they need to pay accordingly.

It will allow you to focus your efforts where they need to be focused and your staff’s efforts where they need to be focused.

If it helps, find someone who will hold YOU accountable to keep to the system.

This is a fair system.  Fair to you and fair to your clients.

Thank you and Happy Holidays to all.

Guide – Client segmentation is a valuable business tool that can be used to develop your service matrix.

Action item – Segment your clients with clearly defined profitability measures. Work with your staff to develop a well thought out service matrix to match.

© 2009 The Advisors Center, LLC – All Rights Reserved


Holiday Gifting – Some ideas

So you want to do some giving but you are not sure what to give and who to give too.

Here are some ideas for consideration.

The theme is to let people know they are appreciated and you are thinking of them.

It is also very important not to offend.

First  we need some grouping-vendors, Clients and those who sent referrals during the year or really helped you out in some way.

Vendors – These are the easiest as these are the folks who usually send you something. Consider a gift that they can share with their family.  It makes it a little more personal for them.  We normally give chocolate. You can give any kind and plenty of it.  We give very large jars of Hershey’s and our vendors usually pick theirs up so we can save on shipping and we get to say “Hi.”

Clients – Now you may consider segmentation, but everyone gets a holiday card.  We sign every one!  Each year we have been sending classical music CD’s and helping build our clients collections.  Note that we do not send holiday music as not all our clients celebrate the same holidays.  We gift wrap every one along with a note card describing the composer or the piece.

Referrers – This gift is a fun gift and meant to make a statement.  Each person who sends a referral during the year (that becomes a client) receives a 6-gallon tin of gourmet popcorn.  I love to send this gift for several reasons: first, most people like popcorn (even those on diets), second, is that it is big and usually makes a mess (easy to clean up though), so they think of you for a while, and finally, the tin is a keeper.  It can be used for many things and we suggest they use it to store holiday decorations for next year as they put this year’s away.  We know of some who have 6-7 cans of ornaments alone!

Holiday giving is both fun and rewarding.  Do it because you want to, not because you feel you should.  Try to give within the spirit of your holiday.  Remember that it is as much fun to give as it is to receive.

Drop me an email or a comment if you would like the names of our gift providers or specific gifts.

Thanks and Happy Holidays to all.

Guide – Holiday giving is fun and rewarding.

Action item – Give within your means and remember that not all people celebrate they way you do so give thoughtfully. 

© 2009 The Advisors Center, LLC – All Rights Reserved

The E-mail Time Suck

Pavlov let us know about stimulus response. Ring the bell, get food.

AOL gave us “You’ve got mail!” Check your email.

Microsoft gave us the envelope indicator, the ding and the translucent indicator sneak peek. Hurry and check that email.

Ok? Now some of the following is an idea I first got from reading The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss so I am giving credit where credit is due.

Email has become one of the greatest productivity reducers in the American workplace.

It dings and we look. It dings and we salivate. It dings and we immediately respond.

Is this really productive? Is this really responsible?

First of all, most of the mail is junk (spam or e-zines).

The second batch are notifications of information that may be important but certainly not urgent.

The next batch is the batch we care most about. Personal correspondence.

But does this personal correspondence need to be answered immediately?

More importantly, is it BEST answered immediately?

Perhaps it should sit and be thought about? More importantly, how many of you find yourselves having email conversation?

Is this good? I would suggest no. Conversation is BEST had face to face. Body language counts.

The next best way to have conversation is likely over the phone. Tone of voice?

Can you recall an email conversation where one of you misconstrued what the other had said or intended? Did that work well?

Did you ever wish there was a sarcasm font?!?!

So what do you do about all of this?

Step one on the road to recovery. Turn off your email notifications.

Yes! Turn off the little envelope. Turn off the ding. Turn off the translucent tease.

Step two. Only check your emails at consistent and regular intervals. Now I know this sounds hard, but I have been doing it for over a year now and boy do I feel better.

Don’t engage in email conversation anymore if it involves your customers or clients and you have a relationship with the person. I believe professional advisors do have, and desire to have, relationships with their clients.

PICK UP THE PHONE! Yes, talk to them. This is actually more productive as less time is wasted. How many times has it worked trying to schedule a meeting by email? Does settling a complaint work via email?

But you want people to know you are not ignoring them, right? You want them to know you received the email and you care?

Most email programs have given you a great little tool to deal with this. It’s called the OUT OF OFFICE notice.

And here is mine: (edited slightly)


I am in today AND normally checking e-mail around noon and 4pm on weekdays.

Because of the VERY high level of client contact we provide, I am responding to telephone calls first.

If you are emailing me about an investment or planning matter, please CALL me and leave a detailed message if I am not immediately available.

If this is an administrative matter, please contact staff as listed below.

It is VERY important to me to speak with each and every client who would like to talk. I will contact you.

If you need immediate assistance, please contact our office at 860-677-8808.

If I am unavailable, please speak to my assistant xxx or xyz or abc or email them at:

You may also contact xxxxx at our Client Services desk directly at 800-647-7378

Thank you for your understanding. This helps me accomplish more to serve you better.

Sincerely, Eliot


This out of office message is on pretty much all the time. It allows clients to know that the email has been received but if it is urgent, please call and why they should call.

Guide – Instant responses to email are killing your productivity and taking you away from the things that are really important.

Action item – Using an out of office message or a response rule alerts those to the new procedures and actually creates better client relationships. And of course – Use the phone!

© 2009 The Advisors Center, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Presentation Presentation


How do you present your presentation?

Back to basics.

Many have made presentations over the years but, putting content aside for now, how do yours look?

Here are some common methodologies:

  • Stapled
  • Paper Clipped
  • Laminated
  • Clear Folder
  • Manilla Folder
  • Colored folder
  • Colored Pocket Folder
  • Custom Folder
  • Three Ring Binder
  • Three Ring Binder with clear Jacket for inserts
  • Custom Three Ring Binder
  • Bound in house with:
    • Plastic Comb Binders – Black
    • Plastic Comb Binders – Color Matched
    • Wire Binding
    • Velobind
    • Thermo Binding

I realized there are significant cost differences between these methods.  Here are my minimum guidelines:

Colored Pocket Folders that coordinate with your letterhead – Customized by the local print shop with your logo. Solid color folders that are printed with a single color ink should cost under $1 each – You ARE worth it!

GBC Binding Machine with Comb bindings – Purchased from Staples or Office Depot, prices start at $200 with colored combs at $10 per box.  You can use clear transparencies as covers to get started with letterhead underneath.

These two additions to your supply closet will make your presentations look substantial and presentable.

Guide – Present every presentation as if it was being shown to your largest prospect ever.  It might be!

Action item – Purchase the materials you need, folders and a binding machine, to create a minimum level of professionalism.

© 2009 The Advisors Center, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Don’t be “Full of What the Birds Eat”.


My dear Irish mother-in-law has an expression, “You’re full of what the birds eat.”

Over the years, I’ve come to understand what she meant: Don’t try to convince her of something that she knows isn’t true.

So I’ll share a recent experience.

A valued client recently requested to pay his fee with a credit card. I said that we did not currently take credit cards as a form of payment, but I would investigate it right away and get back to him. I called my bank first (you might remember them from a previous guide). They gave me the name of a vendor the bank itself was considering since they had no existing relationship.

I called this vendor and spoke to “Sally,” who was eager to assist. She faxed over some paperwork that was a fax-of-a-fax-of-a-fax. (1st warning)

Though the cover sheet displayed the bank’s name, I knew she didn’t work for the bank. And of course, the forms were blank. When questioned, Sally said, “Oh just sign the forms, fax them back, and we’ll complete them.” (2nd warning)

“Oh, and you’ll need to lease a swipe machine for the next 48 months at a cost of $X,” they further explained. When Sally called to follow-up, she identified herself as calling from my bank even though our caller ID said otherwise. (3rd warning) I decided to look elsewhere.

So off to my favorite internet search engine where I turned up several prospects. Call to company number one resulted in limited information. Call to company number two resulted in some less than helpful forms showing up. Then, as fate would have it, we received a COLD CALL from a credit card “processor.” So what the heck, I called them back.

The sales woman assured me they could handle my needs and faxed over some forms. (Drat: a fax-of-a-fax-of-a-fax!) This time the form was partially completed. When she called back, caller ID betrayed her when an individual name displayed, not the name of the company I thought I was dealing with.

After several questions, she put her manager on the phone (who, it turned out, was the individual identified by caller ID). He said he would make it right. He faxed over a set of completed forms (only a fax-of-a-fax this time!). The paperwork requested a signature that, in part, attested that I had received a copy of the terms and conditions.  Since I had not received any such document, I called back to request it.

The manager responded, “What terms and conditions? You have ALL the paperwork!” When I continued to protest, he said he would get back to me. Sure enough, the missing terms and conditions did show up by email the next day. It also included information on purchasing a swipe machine at a steeply discounted price.

However, I noticed something else as well—all references to the processor were in the name of DIFFERENT company, not one I had heard of to this point in the process. I called the sales woman who informed me that it was the name of the company they used. Huh?

Ok. Enough! I searched the internet and located this new company. I called their customer service number and got a very responsive person who said Sales would call within 48 hours (not right back!). Sure enough, two days later I got a call from the regional sales person.

After I explained my tale of woe, he first confirmed that the previous company did out-source to his company. He apologized for any confusion and said he would take care of me. He explained how the system works (bank, processor, merchant fees, etc), and faxed over his paperwork (crystal clear!) with all supporting documentation. He then called back and reviewed each and every line item and fee (how refreshing!!!).

I asked about buying or leasing a swipe machine. No need for a swipe machine, he replied. All you need is our web portal. When I mentioned that the first two companies had wanted me to purchase or lease a machine, he explained that they were simply layering costs to increase sales commissions (I can neither confirm nor deny this, but makes sense!).

I did sign with this firm and returned the paperwork. An hour later, I received two emails confirming everything. The next morning I got a call from customer service to schedule training, which took place later that day.

I then placed my first “sale” with them over the web. Ahhhhh. This company had explained the process in detail and delivered!

I am now an advocate for this company. I will recommend them to others and will refer them to my bank that is still looking for a vendor.

Now I am sure all the other folks could have processed my orders, but because they were “full of what the birds eat,” they didn’t get my business.

Guide – Tell it like it is and win business. Truth and honesty win out over “just trust us; we’ll take care of you.”

Action item – Prepare your documents with as much plain English as possible and deliver a complete set every time.

© 2009 The Advisors Center, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Does Your Voice Mail Over Promise?


When I call you, your voice mail usually says, “You have reached the desk of XXX . I am on the phone or away from my desk, leave a message and I will call you back”.

So what is wrong with this?

Are you really on the phone or away?  Maybe you just don’t feel like talking.  Maybe you are sitting at your desk meeting with someone.  Maybe you are actually getting some work done?  So are you misleading the caller?  On purpose?  I am going with no!

Are you going to call them back?  Maybe.  But you just told them you would! And many of you say “right away.”

How could this be made better?

(Now I must admit that this took quite some time to refine and my wife was instrumental in helping me until it was just right for me)

Here is my voice mail message:

Hi. You have reached the phone of Eliot Weissberg.  I am unable to take your call right now.  Please leave a detailed message and I would be happy to call you back if needed.  If you need immediate assistance you may call xxxxx at xxx-xxx-xxxx and they will be happy to assist you.  Thank you very much and have a great day”.

Now let’s look at the difference.

Hi – Yes! a greeting!

You have reached the phone – These days calling one number does not necessarily mean a desk (do you EVER call forward?).

I am unable to take your call right now – Meaning I might be here, I might not, but it should not matter because I am not answering.

Please leave a detailed message – Do you enjoy the “It’s Joe, call me” – No!  You really want a detailed message right?

I will be happy to call you back if needed – Most people give an implied or implicit promise that they WILL call back even when MOST of the time they don’t need to.  So why over promise?

If you need immediate assistance then… – Yes, some people really do need help right away.  Please give them a Plan B.

Thank you – It is just nice to hear and nice to say.


Guide – Setting and managing expectations is really providing a valuable customer experience.  Don’t over promise and under deliver.

Action Item – Tune up that voice mail.  Make it work for the caller and make it work for you.  Show them that you care and make sure their expectations are managed and met.

© 2009 The Advisors Center, LLC – All Rights Reserved

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Are you clients having a great experience?


As I was searching for my topic this week, my wife, Kathy, reminded me of the awful experience we are going through with our own local community bank.

Let me share my client? (or just a customer?) experience.

We wrote a check from our home equity line of credit (HELOC) for a planned purchase.

The first letter arrived and asked us if we were having trouble paying our bills because our home equity payment was late.

We had just sent in many thousands of dollars.

Ok, fine….

The second letter arrived and said that our loan was due in full.

Ok, fine….

I called my “personal banker” who very nicely informed me that our line HELOC had expired.

She let me know that they had honored our draw-down even though “they were not supposed to” and informed me that the loan needed to be re-written.

My personal banker delivered the paperwork to be completed but it was all blank.

Ok, fine….

Two days later, my “business banker” from the same bank called to introduce himself as my new business banker.

He is called to TELL me that I needed to refile my annual paperwork for my business line of credit.

He faxed over the cover letter of requirements and a blank (fax of a fax of a fax) form for me to complete.

Ok, fine…

We submitted everything (I was just slightly peeved) and they called to schedule a closing.

I requested that we have the meeting at my office and they agreed to meet in two weeks. Two days before the appointment, there was a message on my HOME answering machine informing me that they would be late.

Ok, fine….

Both loans were underwritten and approved. We had a closing that lasted about 10 minutes and they were all smiles as they went on their way.

I requested a copy of the appraisal for review which they promptly faxed over. Turns out I live in a 2 story home with 2.5 baths. (Neither was accurate!)

Ok, fine….

The following week we made a very substantial payment towards our HELOC and back in the mail came a loan statement.

On the statement was a handwritten note: “this is the wrong acct#”

Ok, fine….

So my spouse said “If we ran our business like this we would be out of business.  I would like a new bank please.”

Here is my summary of what should have happened in my humble opinion (Of course I assumed we were a valuable client of this bank):

  • A call letting us know our HELOC was expiring and needed to be re-written.
  • A completed set of populated forms arrive for our signature.
  • A call updating us on the process as we went through it.
  • A call to our office to reschedule or at least ask if it was ok if they were going to be late.
  • A call letting us know our account number would be changing or has changed.

Don’t treat YOUR client like we were treated.

  • Communicate the process – Even it is negative (your mistake OR theirs).
  • Remember to say please and thank you.
  • Remember that they are the client and you want their business.
  • Provide an extraordinary experience and they will be loyal advocates for years to come.




Guide – Client service is about the experience and not just the result.

Action Item – Make sure your clients are getting an experience better than they expect. This will make them advocates, not just customers.

© 2009 The Advisors Center, LLC – All Rights Reserved


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