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Why it is time to drop client home visits

A solicitor or dentist wouldn’t meet clients at home on a Thursday evening, so why should advisers? We must change the perception of our profession

The advice profession has transformed considerably over the past few decades. Certainly internally, it is now regarded as being of a much higher level of quality than before. Through the RDR, the qualification benchmark has been raised, remuneration has moved to a fee-based structure and regulation is more geared towards what is in the best interests of the client.

Has this evolution become more positively recognised by the general public, though?

Older generations will remember the Man from the Pru visiting people in their homes and setting up savings schemes and insurance plans for families. Of course, we recognise this as a positive activity from the past. Many households will have benefited from policies which, without an adviser, they would not have arranged themselves.

But if the role of the adviser has moved on, perhaps we should address the external perception through a change in behaviour.

At our best practice meetings, we often discuss the subject of meeting clients in their homes and whether this is still considered good practice.

Clients pay a lot of money for advice, so they should get a good service. Many advisers who visit their clients believe this is an important differentiator and helps build the relationship over the long term. Not only will some visit their homes, they will also offer great flexibility around meeting times, often resulting in evening or weekend appointments.

But are these home visits really necessary? First, they incur more time and cost for the adviser. And surely such activity is not one we should be practising in this new era for our profession anyway?

Would your solicitor come round to see you at 7pm on a Thursday evening? Of course they would
not; nor would your accountant, dentist or doctor. If advisers
want to be regarded in the same category as these other professions, we need to get clients to come and see us instead.

Not only should this help the public perception of advice as a profession but there are many other benefits of sticking to an office premises too. Doing so could make huge differences to the efficiency, productivity and profitability of a business practice. Here are some of the key advantages:

1: Time savings: Think of the time that could be saved by clients coming to the adviser instead. There are also benefits to the advisers’ work/life balance: if the practice was only open from 9am to 5pm, clients would make the effort to meet their adviser during normal office hours.

2: Cost savings: Of course, office premises incur costs but imagine the cost that could be saved on petrol and the additional work the adviser will be able to do with the time saved. I have heard examples where firms have doubled, or even tripled, their profitability as a result.

3: Availability of resources: Most advisers now use technology to support the advice process, which is much easier to use in the office, rather than on the move. Technology is not the only advantage of being in the office; more staff can also be on hand to help with client meetings.

4: No distractions: I am sure many advisers have been distracted when in meetings with clients in their homes. By the dog barking, the kids coming home from school, the phone ringing or people at the door, for example. In an office, those distractions are gone, giving the adviser and client the opportunity to fully focus their attention on the meeting.

5: Professional perception: As long as the office is kept tidy and orderly, it is positive for clients to get a feel for where their adviser works with their clients, painting a more professional perception.

There will be reasons why some advisers may still prefer to see their clients in their homes but I would say this is no longer considered best practice. The positive benefits of an adviser meeting clients at an office premises, which include improving the public perception of the advice profession, should far outweigh the costs of this investment.

Tom Hegarty is managing director at New Model Business Academy

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Comments

There are 14 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Tosh! If we do not see people at their convenience and where all of their documents are, it will take longer to get an appt. and if they forget something then even longer to provide decent advice.
    Visiting people at home has nothing whatsoever to do with being ‘unprofessional’.
    I know solicitors and accountants who are successful, professional and caring who also visit Clients at home

  2. For some clients a meeting at the office is not possible, either they don’t have the transport or they have to work, so sometimes an evening is the only option. By offering an exceptional service which I believe incorporates a home visit is the least an adviser can do, plus it makes your client feel a lot more at ease. From an adviser point of view it makes my life a lot easier as well as they have access to all of the information I need, rather than them possibly forgetting to bring paperwork into the office.

    A home visit also allows you to get to know your client on a more personal basis rather than a clinical two dimensional process. We involve ourselves a lot more with our clients than a solicitor or an accountant where they are potentially facilitating a one-off/annual transaction. The adviser relationship is lifelong and meeting clients at their home forges relationships which can also lead to customer referrals. This is a proven process for successful financial advisers who are already highly regarded by their clients.

    If you feel you might get the same results by not doing home visits I personally believe you are wrong.

  3. My doctor and dentist do run surgeries out of hours, both run at least one evening a week and the dentist also offers Saturday morning meetings. For either the tools of their trade make home visits less practical although Doctors still do often make home visits as do opticians.

    My accountant comes to my office now but used to come to my home.

    That said I now don’t work weekends and only rarely evenings.

    Seeing a client at home has a number of advantages. They will have their existing financial records to hand on pensions, investments and life policies etc. rather than asking them to bring them all to my office and invariably miss at least one.

    It also puts them more at their ease to discuss financial matters which many don’t find that easy.

    The technology we use is just as easy to use on the move as in the office. I can use the data from my phone or ask the client to sign into their Wifi and away I go. Its all online so really doesn’t matter where I am as long as I have Wifi.

    As we move on I think we actually need to be more flexible, not less, to meet our clients needs.

  4. The parallel with dentist or solicitors is at odds with the requirement. Dentists need specialist equipment beside them, whilst solicitors merely do monetary extractions.

  5. Managing expectations is essential, whilst I agree with all 6 of Tom’s points and my actions take advantage of those, I agree with Darren Cooke and work in a very similar manner.
    My clients know my normal office hours are 9-5 and like visiting us in our office. A home visit within an initial know your client excercise (KYC) is however pretty much essential. It’s the difference between a rigid paper fact find (hard facts) and the things that actually change the advice actually delivered MASSIVELY from what ba computer might otherwise do, which are the soft facts. Soft facts are identified much better by seeing a clients home environment.
    View it in a simialr manner as Maslow’s hierachy of needs, meeting in the office can ensure you meet the base issues, but you need other ways to gain a greater understanding of “self actualisation” and these is better achieved when the client is at their ease in their home than in an alien environment (the office)
    What I make sure is that clients KNOW I am doing them a personal favour if I visit them at home and our client agreement tells them the extra potential cost of a home visit or out of hours. Whilst it is in my client agreement and tariff, I don’t think I have ever charged for travel costs/time or out of hours, but it is a cost to me that coudl be passed on.
    It’s very similar with busienss clients as if we are to help them with their overall planning, there is a significant advantage in actually seeing their working environment as youy then identify key staff, premises expansion issues and the employer customer’s own work like balance.
    It’s also similar to why advisers should meet both partners in a couple to advise properly and seperatly on occassions too in order to identify slightly different goals.
    Now as to solicitors and accountants, I woudl argue the vast majority of them do not KNOW THEIR CUSTOMERS and have customers, not clients and fail to provide advice and instead provide information and their service is more equivalent to Financial Guidance than Financial ADVICE and planning.

  6. This not a new concept and one a lot, including myself has flit in and out of.

    Personally I never really liked it, and impossible for me now as I work from home, so client interaction is phone, e-mail, skype and visit. I also found having an office was really expensive, and restrictive and it has to be maned 9-5, and not really practical for a one man band like myself.

    The danger, I believe is this, if you do only conduct office meeting you may fast become and “order taker” clients only wanting to make the journey if they want to do something.

    But in reality if it works for you fine, like most things there is no wrong or right way just what suits you and your clients best !

  7. I am truly amazed. Do advisers still make home visits like some kind of double glazing salesman? In the thirty years I was advising I only made home visits for the first 18 months while I was training with a direct sales firm. For the remaining 28 years all clients came to my office or on occasion I went to their office, but never to their homes.

    Personally I think home visits are highly unprofessional. My accountant and solicitor don’t visit me at home. Anyway there are too many distractions when making home visits and it sets things on a completely different level having clients come to you. Apart from which it is infinitely more efficient. What a waste of time travelling around.

    There were exceptions for those clients who lived a very long way away. In those cases I made appointments at the IOD where I am a member and invariable arranged it so that at least I saw two clients when I was up in town at 90 minute interval. Likewise the same can be done in most large conurbations. The IOD has facilities in Manchester, Edinburgh and Birmingham.

    No wonder advisers are held in low regard when they themselves have no self esteem.

    • Low self esteem? Is that how you really see this? Pompous is how I see it Harry!!

    • Whatever works or worked for you Harry…..

      I have to be honest and say……. I can find out more about a client in 5 minutes visiting a client at home, than I would during a 2 hour meeting in an office

      That works for me and my clients

      Its got very little or nothing to do with regard, self esteem, or professionalism

      Just because I visit my clients, I am therefor a double glazing salesman according to chapter 7 in the bible of right and wrongs, written by Mr Harry Katz ……

      I get called worse, not a lot worse mind you but hey ho, sticks and stones…..

      • But the point about any business that relies on personal relationships is that it’s not scalable; there’s only a fixed number of hours in a day, and it’s a question of how you extract the most value out of every bit of time.

        Fact is, it’s not a five-minute visit to a client at home. You’ve got to get there, get to your next appointment, take stuff back to the ranch – I doubt that “five minute” appointment is realistically less than an hour.

  8. Many of my clients are 20+ miles away and some plenty more distant than that. A few, though, are within walking distance of my home which is 5 miles from my office. There’s not the remotest chance that they’d be prepared to travel to my office, especially in the evening after a day at work.

    Apart from anything else, accountants, solicitors and dentists don’t have to produce illustrations showing possible though, in practice, highly unlikely future outcomes or write monster SR’s to validate their recommendations.

    Financial Advisers are not the same as solicitors or accountants and trying to pretend that they ought to be or that we’re in some way inferior because we have a slightly different modus operandi is plain silly.

    So get off your high and mighty horse, Harry, and just accept that different businesses offer their services in different ways.

    • But doesn’t this just validate Harry’s point? Your clients will MAKE time during their day to visit their accountant/doctor/dentist but they won’t do the same for you… What does that tell you about how much they value what you do for them?

      • Thank you Adam

        My point precisely.

        What I find strange is the number of large firms where advisers have access to perfectly good office facilities yet still do these home visits.

      • How many people live 20+ miles away from their dentist, solicitor or accountant?

        And how many people, were they to relocate to somewhere more than 20 miles from where their dentist, solicitor or accountant is based wouldn’t seek out a replacement closer to their new abode?

        Were I to notify all my clients that I’m no longer prepared to visit them at home and that, if they want to see me they must now come to my place of work during business hours only, a large proportion of them would appoint somebody else. I would.

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