What Does “Help” Look Like to Your Clients

Sue BerginSue Bergin

When someone asks for help they usually have something specific in mind.  For example, when I hit a website “help” tab, I want a contact number.  I don’t want to engage in an online chat.  I don’t want to hunt through generic questions and answers to find one that resembles my issue.  And, I certainly don’t want to send an e-mail and wait for a response.   Others may find these alternatives helpful.  Not me.  I just want a number.

The same can be said for financial advice.  An advisor may provide clients with all kinds of helpful information, data and insights yet the client may still feel dissatisfied.

For example, you could have an in-depth discussion about the fiscal cliff.  You could wax poetic about the political winners and losers, and long and short-term economic impact.  Unless you discuss precisely what it means to her financial situation, the client may describe the conversation as interesting … but not helpful.

BlackRock recently surveyed plan sponsors and plan participates and asked whether sponsors had done enough to help participants achieve financial security.  In the plan sponsor camp, 76% said they believed they had done enough.  Only 40% of participants felt the same.


Three dangerous assumptions that can lead to client dissatisfaction:

  1. Presuming to know what the client wants
  2. Assuming the client will proactively disclose what they are seeking in the relationship
  3. Assuming (without confirmation) that the client’s needs have been fully met

Always remember to ask clients how they want to be helped.  Once you define what “help” looks like to that client, you can tailor your approach. At the end of a meeting or conversation, ask if you have met the client’s needs.   Find out if you have been helpful as they define the term. These simple questions will close the kind of gap in perception that exists between the survey participants in BlackRock’s study.

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