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Sometimes the pace at which technology changes the way we live outstrips our ability to step back and process those changes. How we work, how we play, how we consume media, how we entertain ourselves—going back only ten years is enough to set the mind reeling at the pace of technological change! When we stack up how we do these things today versus how we did them in 2007, it’s easy to understand why we spend most of our time in regard to technology reacting to it rather than reflecting upon it. As fundamental as some of the changes that technology has inspired are, we must take time to ensure that we are incorporating tech—an essential part of our clients’ lives—into our businesses, if we wish to remain relevant. And, there’s probably no area where this is more important (and where we’ve fallen more behind) than the ways in which we communicate with our clients.
For too long we have been an industry built around meetings, phone calls and emails. As we talk about the ways for the industry to prepare for the inevitable wealth transfer, we have focused our energy on developing solutions to make it easier to open and maintain accounts. And, while those types of solutions are necessary, as an industry we’ve perhaps forgotten to focus on tools that make it easier to create meaningful and lasting relationships with our clients and prospects.
For the last decade, the ways in which people communicate with one another have evolved. With the introduction of smartphones, it has become increasingly easier for us to spend less time talking, while at the same time communicating more. We now have a world full of apps that enable us to get what we want when we want it—instantaneously, in some cases. We are now a why wait? society.
Upon reflection, most of us would agree that the speed at which the world moves has increased exponentially. Communicating with our clients and prospects has become more of a challenge, both because we have been largely unable to avail ourselves of some of the more modern modes of communication (for fear of running afoul of compliance and regulatory standards) and because it has become increasingly difficult with all of the distractions introduced by information overload for people to stop and focus on what’s important. This is perhaps why the face-to-face meeting is still the most desired form of interaction between clients and advisors.
But, there are times when all that’s called for between you and a client is a quick confirmation of something, a yes or a no, an acknowledgement of receipt. Email has been the most common method for obtaining such information for several decades now, but, as is often the case with other technological advances (remember, email was new at one time as well), it’s no longer nearly as effective a form of communication as it once was. Perhaps responding to emails no longer seems as urgent as it once did. That would make some sense when studies show that we are spending 28% of our workweek reading and responding to email and that less than half of the emails we receive even deserve our attention. When we’re fighting against those kinds of statistics, email may rightly be viewed as a relic in terms of client communication, at least if you need a quick response and you want to ensure your message isn’t missed entirely.
A telephone call is an option, of course, but it’s often viewed as more intrusive than another form of communication that’s been around for a long time now and that your clients are already comfortable with.
The obvious answer in situations such as these is texting. Your clients want to text you. They already leverage this form of communication each and every day in other facets of their lives. It allows real time conversations, it’s faster and less disruptive than a phone call and, unlike a phone call, it allows you and your clients to include files, photos, links or video along with the rest of the message. Enabling this as an option for your clients who want to communicate with you is, simply put, good business. Statistics bear this out, with studies finding that 78% of all Americans wish they could text their favorite businesses and over 70% of those admitting that they would have a more positive perception of a company that is text-enabled. Additionally, 99% of texts are read and offer an average response time of three minutes. Stack that up against email, which gets opened 65% of the time (if it makes it past a spam folder.)
Still, only about 10% of all financial services firms are text-enabled at this time. Others may be texting, but they don’t have the systems and procedures in place to offer this type of client engagement in a compliant manner. If you haven’t incorporated text into your business, you may think that it isn’t important, that it’s only applicable for your millennial clients and prospects. But usage statistics indicate that even the 55+ age bracket averages 500 text messages a month. In other words, they aren’t strangers to texting.
So, why aren’t you texting your clients? Or, if you are, have you taken the necessary steps to ensure you’re in compliance? It goes without saying that the antiquated rules and regulations of our industry have hindered our ability to adapt. In fact, until April of this year, FINRA didn’t even provide specific guidance in regard to text messaging, so we had to use the old rules for other forms of communication, like emails, to guide us. FINRA’s new regulatory notice tells us that if we “intend” to communicate with clients via text messaging that we must ensure that we can retain records of those conversations. At the very least, this indicates the needle is moving in the right direction.
At Redtail we knew there had to be a way to make it easier and more efficient for you to communicate with your clients. At the same time, we understood that security and compliance had to be baked in to take that worry off of your plate. With that in mind, we recently introduced Redtail SPEAK, the first-of-its-kind integrated messaging platform, purpose-built for advisors and their clients. It is built into Redtail CRM (subject to BD approval), eliminating the need for any new software on your end if you are a Redtail CRM subscriber and subscribe to SPEAK as well. Even better, there is zero install, setup or hassle for your clients, as they generally already have and use the technology everyday on their smartphones. Conversations with you via SPEAK will function, for your clients, in exactly the same manner as any other text conversation they might have.
In short, putting yourself ahead of the curve by including texting as an option with your clients now is likely to pay dividends in terms of both client retention and new client acquisition. Even if you are a forward-thinking advisor, you’ve likely been hampered by regulatory concerns in regard to this issue in the past. We’re confident the solution we now have in place will allow you to overcome those concerns and to begin engaging with your clients meaningfully via a method that has for too long been off limits.