I have been judging lots of awards lately and I have found many of the reports quite cumbersome to read. So, it got me thinking about the recent courses I’ve attended on report writing which might help improve the way you communicate with clients.
Do you email clients their reports? Many clients may not register in their minds that you’ve sent them an important document. So, to combat that, research indicates that clients are 70 per cent more likely to read emails if there are only three words in the subject matter line.
Consider what medium your clients will use to read your reports. If they will be reading via your intranet or online, research shows we read significantly fewer words on a page. Did you know we also tend to read in the shape of a letter F, so top line first then we scan down the left side for headings. This research indicates that your clients will read far less than if you send a hard copy of the same report. Interesting stuff isn’t it.
Then on to the content of the report itself. To engage clients I suggest you think about six aspects of communication:
- Make your clients care about what you are writing – use phrases that the clients have used during their client meeting.
- Be intentional – don’t beat about the bush. Whilethere is often plenty of information that you need to put into a report, try and be a bit more succinct. Consider what standard paragraphs you include in your reports and, as I have observed, do they appear in the middle of client specific test, thereby disrupting the flow of the report?
- Delight your clients – if they can afford to fly business or first class to visit relatives abroad, then make sure you tell them just that. It’s the little things like this, that clients really appreciate.
- Join your clients on their journey – show them how you can, and do, improve their lives in helping them achieve their objectives as they arise. You are a team, help your clients feel that.
- Rewards – help your clients understand what an asset you are to them. This might be in the little things, as I’ve already mentioned, but also there will be more major things, like saving tax or the inter-generational planning you can do for them. In my experience, clients often come to you with one or two specific issues, but often miss some of the basics, like protecting their income streams when they have early retirement aspirations.
If you present financial plans to your clients then let your clients fill in the gaps – if they query things and perhaps start to elaborate, they might be thinking out loud or trying to reason what you’ve said, so don’t jump in and cut them off. Let them have their say then add to/amend their thinking as necessary when they’re finished.
Layouts affect the amount of time it takes for your clients to read your reports. For example, did you know that if you centralise the print to the centre of the pages, rather than left justifying it, it takes up to 30% longer for a client to read!
So here are some interesting ways for you to consider when putting together reports for your clients. It will help you develop and hone your personal skills.
Jacqueline Lockie is deputy head of financial planning at the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment