There are a lot of advisors who are using their cell phones as a way of instant communication with their clients. Is this delivering massive value—or is it actually thwarting massive value? In this episode, Matthew and Micah chat about how to delineate between the different types of communication and how you can add massive value without being on speed dial.
Giving out cell numbers may seem like it gives your client white-glove service, but you will hear why you want to steer clear of that. The guys share from their own experiences with this, discussing exceptions to the rule and providing insight into what to do if some of your clients already have your number. Listen in to get great insight into how to manage your availability and better serve your clients.
Is giving your clients your cell phone number really the best way to serve them?
Regular listeners of The Perfect RIA podcast know that part of being a successful advisor means living the lifestyle you want, and for many financial advisors, that means spending a decent amount of the year traveling with family. But what if a client tries to call your cell phone and you’re out of the country?
In this post, you’ll learn why this is the wrong question to ask, why giving clients your personal cell phone number might actually be hindering your efforts to deliver massive value, and what you can do to shift the balance.
Newer financial advisors love to rationalize why it’s crucial that clients can reach them directly on a personal cell phone number “in case of emergency.” Sure, every advisor wants clients to feel like they’re receiving a white-glove service. But is being constantly available really the best way to deliver massive value?
Consider the Ritz-Carlton, the gold standard for white-glove service. The value this company provides is second to none—but only when they’re equipped to provide it. While you’re a guest, you’re royalty, but if you show up to book a room when none are available, you’re going to get turned away. And you’re never going to get the manager’s home cell phone number.
Far from being a red flag, this lack of constant availability is an important hallmark of a successful and important business. And the optics matter more than you might realize.
When you want a delicious sandwich, do you line up at the sub shop with the queue around the block, or do you visit the empty restaurant across the street? If you needed a knee replacement, would you book an appointment with the medical team that can fit you in for an afternoon appointment three weeks from now, or would you trust the establishment with wide-open availability?
Social proof is an important indicator of quality. Put yourself on the other side of the equation: whether it’s sandwiches or surgery, instinct will tell you that perceived scarcity isn’t the turnoff to your clients you’re worried it is. In fact, it’s the opposite.
It may sound like a personal cell phone number is the best way for clients to contact you in an emergency. But if you’re a busy advisor, telling clients they can contact you directly is doing them a disservice.
Micah Shilanski—host of The Perfect RIA podcast—doesn’t spend a lot of time in his office, but when he does, he’s in back-to-back meetings. This doesn’t leave him much time for unscheduled interruptions. “If you call my cell phone or my desk phone directly, you are not going to get me,” Micah explains. “You’re going to get voicemail.” Maybe he’ll have a chance to check his voicemail by the end of the day, but he’s just as likely to finish his seventh meeting of the day, lock his office door, and head straight home to his family.
If this sounds familiar, consider that while your cell phone is blowing up in your coat pocket, your receptionist and other rockstar support staff are ready and willing to help the clients who reach them first. What’s the better level of service: a lead advisor not returning important calls because they’re in meetings all day, or a dedicated system to make sure clients are taken care of?
You may not be a heart surgeon, but there are still times when clients may legitimately need to speak with you right away. Don’t turn your personal cell phone into an emergency client hotline; set up a three-tiered dedicated system for clients to reach you according to their need.
If the very worst happens and a client needs you ASAP, they need to know their call won’t go straight to voicemail because you’re in a meeting, on a plane, in another client meeting, or doing any of the myriad things that fill your days. They need a system they can trust. Give your rockstar support staff the ability to track you down anywhere in the world in a true emergency, and they’ll be your clients’ best chance of getting your immediate attention—not your cell phone.
For pressing issues that don’t quite rise to the level of “emergency” but do require a timely response, let clients know they’re always welcome to call your office. While a client-only email address may help your office funnel incoming communications effectively, your clients will appreciate having a timelier procedure to follow when the situation demands (and you’ll appreciate being contacted only in true emergencies).
For inquiries, updates, and other general messages from clients, a dedicated client email isn’t just convenient for you. According to Micah, it’s convenient for your clients as well. Let clients know that they’re always welcome to reach out with an email, day or night. “Clients really appreciate that because they know what to expect.” Now, Bob and Sue never have to worry that they’re bothering you directly with updates to their account or agenda items for the next meeting; they have advance permission to send their nonpriority issues your way, and they know they’ll be taken care of in their next meeting or the next opportune time for your office.
Once you have your communication plan in place, don’t just tell your clients about it during their next meeting. Clearly communicate that policy to your clients, and then remind them at every opportunity: meetings, newsletters, emails, and everywhere else you touch your clients’ lives. By properly conveying your expectations and offering clients a tiered system for contacting your office, you’ll never miss an important piece of communication or leave your clients out in the cold.
Sometimes, there’s this misnomer that being available—being reactive—is a value-add, but it’s not that at all. - Micah Shilanski Click To Tweet
It’s too easy to make mistakes when you have too much availability. - Matthew Jarvis Click To Tweet
It has to be a really hard line in the sand. You’re not responding to business calls on your cell phone, or you’re porting over the number to a business line and getting a new cell phone. - Micah Shilanski Click To Tweet
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Micah Shilanski: Welcome back, podcast listeners, to another amazing episode of The Perfect RIA podcast. We are so happy to be here today. Of course, myself, Micah Shilanski, with my amazing cohost, Matthew Jarvis. What’s going on, Jarvis?
Matthew Jarvis: I’m doing good, Micah, just wrapping up the last day of a trip down to Mexico to do some mountain biking and scouting for potential, some living locations, so it’s been a lot of fun.
Micah Shilanski: Outstanding. Yeah. I’m down in Arizona. Of course, we record this a little bit in advance, so by the time this airs the weather will be nicer in our home state, but right now it’s really not the best place to be. So, we’ve been down in Arizona for a couple of weeks with the family, just hanging out and having a good time. It’s been nice.
Matthew Jarvis: Micah, this traveling, this spending time in other parts of the world, it segues nicely into our topic today. We have advisors all the time say, “Well, hey, you’re in Mexico, you’re in Arizona, you’re in Japan, wherever you are in the world. Don’t clients notice? Don’t clients have an issue then, and when they call your cellphone, how does that work internationally?” I say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hang on a second. Clients don’t ever call my cellphone,” and that’s what we want to look at today, Micah, is there’s a lot of advisors who are using their cellphone as a way of instant communication with clients, and they think in their mind this is delivering massive value, but in reality it’s really thwarting massive value.
Micah Shilanski: It definitely is. It’s definitely going the opposite direction, and we’re going to talk about that. Now, I will say when I first started in the industry, well, it’s been a lot of years now, but I used to give out my cellphone number, so I was totally guilty in that camp. So, this is not that I’ve never done this. I absolutely have. Now, I’ve had the same cellphone number since I was 16, so that does mean I do have some clients with my cellphone. So, what we’re going to chat about is, how do we delineate between these different types of communication? I also have clients that I hang out with on a personal level. Therefore, they have my cellphone number. So, how do I delineate these things to really make sure I’m saying, “Hey, my business focus, my value add is not my cellphone number”?
Now, the vast majority of my clients, the vast majority, probably 80-plus percent, do not have my cellphone number. It’s been clients either for a long time or clients that I hang out with personally that are going to have it. So, a couple things with this, Jarvis. Let’s go through why is it a bad idea, number one, to give out your cellphone number, and then we’re going to talk a little bit about the exceptions and how to handle it if you’ve already given out or cellphone number, or when we get this question in the future.
Matthew Jarvis: Yeah, yeah. There’s a lot of reasons not to. I’m always trying to think of the reasons advisors have, why they’re giving it out. I want to be available for my clients whenever they need me. I want them to feel like we’ve got white-glove service, and I think that’s when we need to step back and say, “Is that in fact delivering on what you think it’s delivering?” What other service or professional do you have their cellphone number? Even if you say, “I want white glove. It means being available,” well, it does, but within realms. Even if I want to go stay at the Ritz-Carlton, if they don’t have a room available they’re going to say, “Mr. Jarvis, I’m really sorry. There’s just no rooms available,” and they’re the epitome of white-glove service. Micah, sometimes there’s this misnomer that being available, being reactive is value add, and it’s not that at all.
Micah Shilanski: Well, let’s just take it from the appointment setting perspective. Right?
Matthew Jarvis: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Micah Shilanski: Because we could put this in a couple things. There’s one, my cellphone availability, and two, how far out on your calendar do you book, or how far out are you available? If I called a specialist medical-wise, if I called a specialist and I needed to go see them right away and the receptionist was like, “Yeah, calendar’s wide open. Why don’t you come in today? Nobody else is here,” is this really the specialist that I want to see, versus if I call a specialist who’s in a field that I really need and they say, “Hey, we’re really booked. We have one opening in six months at 2:00”? I’ll take it, and now I am really committed to being to that one opening.
We all know this because we all have clients that do this. We all have elderly clients that are like, “Hey, it took me six months to get this doctor’s appointment. I’m going to show up and make it.” This is the same aspect, just a little bit of that red velvet rope, so number one, it’s a marketing appeal that’s going to be there. Number two, it’s a client service level. Jarvis, I really preach on this one because I actually am going to get on not the camp of saying it’s a value add. I’m going to say you’re doing a disservice to your clients by giving out your cellphone number, and here’s the example that I give my clients. It’s saying, look, if they only want to talk to me, here’s the issue with that. Every day that I’m in the office, I’m in client meetings. I’m doing seven to eight meetings a day. That means I’m back-to-back. From 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., I am in meetings pretty much all day long, and if you called my cellphone, if you called my desk phone directly, you are not going to get me.
You’re going to get voicemail, and I may check that by the end of the day, but I probably won’t because I’m going from meeting to meeting. So, that is one option, or you can call our front desk, and our receptionist, excuse me, our relationship managers are empowered to help you and to solve your problem, and guess what? If it’s an emergency, because we’ve gone through our communication policy, which we’re going to talk about in a little bit, if it’s an emergency, they know to elevate that, and the relationship manager knows to get me so I get back to you the same day. So, what is a better level of service, I may or may not get back to you because I’m in meetings all day, or we have a dedicated system to make sure the clients are taken care of?
Matthew Jarvis: Totally. Well, Micah, in my mind this falls along the same lines as surge meetings, and we’ve talked and preached about the importance of time blocking, the importance of deep work. If clients have your cellphone number or your desktop number, whichever that is, every time that phone rings you’ve got to look at that and then decide, “Do I answer this call? Is this call important enough?” This, by the way, is the same as your receptionist answering or your relationship manager answering and saying, “Let me see if Micah is available to talk to you,” which is code for, “Let me see if you’re important enough to talk to Micah.” So, it’s too easy to make mistakes when people can get right through to you, same with scheduling. Micah, you and I have talked about this. If I say, “You know what? I’ll put this on the calendar. It’s not a big deal,” I am weak on that, and I’ll fudge the rules and so forth. So, part of this is just you’ve got to have a system for success, and again, acknowledging that having people able to call through to your cellphone is not massive value.
Micah Shilanski: Amen. Now, let’s go ahead and talk about this because if you… Well, I guess let’s step back. Let’s talk about our communication policy. So, if clients can’t call your cellphone, then what is the communication policy? This is what I explain to clients. I’m not going to go through the whole details. I’m just going to hit the highlights on this for the podcast, is saying, “Our communication policy is really based on three tiers. Number one, we have a 9-1-1 emergency event. Mr. or Mrs. Client, this is whatever you decide is an emergency, but this is 9-1-1.” Now, I say 9-1-1, not just emergency.
The reason I say this is people know the difference in something going wrong and dialing 9-1-1. People instinctively know that. So, I don’t just say, “This is your emergency number.” I say, “This is the 9-1-1 emergency number you can call, and you can call the office and say, ‘Hey, this is an emergency. I need to speak to Micah today,'” and guess what? The relationship managers do a fantastic job of chasing me down, no matter where I am in the world, and I’m going to get back to you because this is your emergency. We’re going to make sure you’re taken care of.
Matthew Jarvis: Now, Micah, let me just pause you there for a second, and stop me if I’m wrong, but that does not mean that the relationship manager puts the client on hold and starts ringing through all of your numbers, your cellphone, your satellite phone, whatever the case is.
Micah Shilanski: Thank you.
Matthew Jarvis: They’re not saying, “Please hold, and I’ll track Micah down.”
Micah Shilanski: Exactly, exactly. So, the way this would go, a client will call in and say, “Hey, this is an emergency. I need to speak to Micah.” “Okay, thank you so much. He is presently engaged in helping another client. Let me get a good number to reach you at,” because even though we have their information, we’re going to make sure, “What’s a good number to reach you at? What’s a couple of good times Micah can reach you at today?” If they have my calendar, especially if I’m traveling or something, “Hey, Micah’s on an airplane. He doesn’t land until X o’clock.” Sometimes it’s 7:00 at night, but if somebody died, “Micah doesn’t land until 7:00 at night. Can he call you then, or can he call you in the morning?” The RM is going to set these expectations with the client so the client’s not on pins and needles expecting me to call them back in 30 seconds.
Matthew Jarvis: Yeah, or you’re playing phone tag all day.
Micah Shilanski: Exactly.
Matthew Jarvis: It’s important to remember we don’t operate in a profession where someone has to be contacted back in the next two minutes. It’s not as thought they’ve had a heart attack, and if they don’t get medical attention immediately, they’re going to die. There’s really just nothing that goes on that’s so urgent that… Again, Micah, to your example, what if you’re on a plane? Should they call the airline and try to get the plan to emergency land? I mean, that’s obviously hyperbolas, but if you’re saying, “Hey, a client’s got to get ahold of me at any time,” what if they call at 2:00 in the morning? What if you’re in the shower and they call? Do you take the call in the shower? I’m being silly here, but we’re all intentional already about when we take calls and when we don’t. We’re just saying be more intentional about that.
Micah Shilanski: So, a super funny story, when my dad was traveling, this was really back really before cellphones were out there, and there was payphones, et cetera, he was sitting on the airplane and a stewardess came back and said, “Excuse me, Mr. Shilanski? We got a call from your office, and when you land, you need to call your office.” Now the entire flight he’s like, “Holy crap. What happened?” Really, it was my mother just wanted to chat with him about something, so she elevated it through the airlines. So, clearly, that is an option-
Matthew Jarvis: That’s an option.
Micah Shilanski: … but maybe not the best option. All right. So, side note.
Matthew Jarvis: No, that’s fine.
Micah Shilanski: So, number one, we go through our 9-1-1 policy that’s going to be there, and I always start with the 9-1-1 policy because I want to make sure the client knows they have virtually unlimited access to us in these events. Okay, then the second level of communication that comes up is saying, “You know what? Maybe it’s not an emergency event, but maybe you have a question that needs to be answered in the next couple of days. That’s perfect. This is where I appreciate phone calls and not emails. Everybody gets a ton of emails. Even though we have a dedicated client email, if this is a time-sensitive event, I would really appreciate you calling the office to make sure we get back to you, because Mr. and Mrs. Client, remember, email is just mail, and it all takes a little bit to get back to,” and they all laugh about that.
Then the third level of communication is just general information of saying, “Hey, something’s changed. Something updated maybe I need to talk about at my next meeting.” “Perfect. Oh, you’re always welcome to call. Those are great things for emails as well. You can just send them an email. We can make sure we get back to you in a timely manner. Won’t be the same day. Maybe it’s the next day or so just based on how many emails we’re getting in. Is that going to be okay with you?” Clients, and Jarvis, and give me any pushback here, but clients really appreciate that because they know what to expect.
Matthew Jarvis: Well, then you have to… I know your team does this. You have to deliver on those expectations, and also not overdeliver on them. Right?
Micah Shilanski: Yeah.
Matthew Jarvis: So, if they’re calling, if they have that non-urgent issue and your team says, “Wait, wait, wait. Let me run down the hall and grab Micah right now,” it’s going to confuse the client because you have to set and reset expectations, and people are always looking for, “Are you doing what you said you’ll do?” I know that’s a thing that we really harp on on this podcast, but do what you said you’re going to do. So, you might think, “Oh, I’m going to give this client an extra level of reactiveness. Therefore, I’m going above and beyond,” but it’s not. You’ve gone back on what you said you were going to do, and it confuses the client, and it starts to plant these seeds of integrity issues in there, as small as that may seem.
Micah Shilanski: This may be… Now, let’s not be too dramatic about this because it only happens maybe once a year, that a real emergency happens while I’m traveling. I’ve called clients from the airport before because there’s a death in the family-
Matthew Jarvis: Yeah, sure.
Micah Shilanski: … and always in between flights, and the client knew I was traveling, and there was… Jarvis, to your point, there’s really nothing that needed to be solved right then.
Matthew Jarvis: Yes.
Micah Shilanski: We are just such a trusted advisor, the client needed to talk to us. Those are times, and again, these are the once or twice year that’s going to happen, do what you said you’re going to do.
Matthew Jarvis: Totally, totally. So, Micah, if an advisor has been giving out their cellphone number to clients or if, and I talked about this quite a bit in my book, in Delivering Massive Value, if people are calling in and they can get straight through to the advisor, and we won’t belabor all the reasons that’s a problem, how do you reset those expectations? Because, again, if I’m with a client and before they thought, “Any time I have a question for Jarvis, I can just call him on his cellphone. It’s no big deal,” and I change that, that can occur like I’m taking something away, like they are losing out, like they’re getting the short end. So, how do we reset expectations in a way that makes the client feel like they’re coming out ahead?
Micah Shilanski: Absolutely. So, there’s a couple of ways that we could do this. Number one, how many clients are calling? Is it a random few, or is it every single person has your cellphone number? Let’s go with every person has your cellphone number just for fun. Let’s be dramatic with this.
All right. So, if everyone has your cellphone number, here’s a simple thing that you could do. It’s say, “You know what? Due to the number of volume of spam calls and other calls that I’m getting, I’m not able to perform the client service that I would like to. So, the great news is we’ve created a dedicated client number that now you get to call to make sure your calls are priority in our office.” So, I would lead with that. Now, this could be a virtual number through RingCentral, through Google Voice, through whatever. You could have a dedicated number that clients get a call into. Just like a dedicated client email, you could have a dedicated client number that clients can call into. So, “Now, great news. When you call that…” I’m going to use my office as an example.
“Sierra is more than likely going to pick up because she is dedicated relationship manager to make sure she’s taking care of you. What we don’t want to happen, Mr. and Mrs. Client, is we don’t want you to go my voicemail and then me not get back to you because I’m in meetings all day. We really want to make sure you’re taken of. So, Sierra’s going to try to help. If it’s something that she’s empowered to do like set an appointment, help with the money distribution, those types of things, she’s going to take care of it on the spot. If it’s something that you need my help for, again, this is our communication policy. I am delighted, she’s going to be delighted to set a time that we can get back together.”
Matthew Jarvis: Now, it’s important to remember, and I love that verbiage, that you’re going to have to… Anytime you’re resetting expectations or just reconfirming expectations, you’re going to have to make that message several times. You can’t think that that’s just going to be a one-time passage, same with surge meetings, same with value add, same with bringing on a new advisor, whatever that is. This message has to be repeated several times, and always from the angle of, “Mr. and Mrs. Client, here’s why I’m doing this for your benefit.” Now, it needs to be in your heart of hearts for their benefit. This cannot be some sly marketing terminology, “For your benefit, we’re going to rip you off,” but it really is.
Them calling you while you’re sitting out back having a margarita, and you’re trying to decide if you should answer that call or not and trying to run your mind on what it is that they need, that’s not you delivering massive value. However, Micah, like you said, them calling Sierra at your office, she then knowing what they need to talk about and getting everything in line, getting the case prep, knowing when your calendar is, knowing when your plane is going to land, whatever the case may be, that is delivering massive value because the client wants an answer to their question, not necessarily that second, but they want the right answer.
Micah Shilanski: Yeah, and with the relationship manager, the internal communication policy, Jarvis, back to your point, doing what we said we’re going to do, really has to be outlined. When do you have to wrap that communication up, and when does it have to be complete? You’re coming back with an answer. This is really, really important to do. Another fascinating… Sorry. I’m going to take a little sidetrack here.
Matthew Jarvis: Please.
Micah Shilanski: Another fascinating thing, which I didn’t really realize before, but my clients will tell the RMs things they won’t tell me. Now, it’s not things like financial stuff. They’re going to tell me all the financial stuff, but the personal stuff in their life, the RM, because they’re really my eyes, they’re really intuitive, they like that conversation, they’re going to blend with these clients, and they’re going to hear more about their personal life than I hear about, and it really helps them bond more to the team and to the firm, so it’s a huge benefit.
Matthew Jarvis: Totally. Micah, something else I learned in this process is when resetting expectations with client, I’m really almost tempted to say, “Listen. You just need to talk to Colleen because she takes care of those things,” but what occurred for clients was me dumping things off to what in their mind was the B team, which is no disrespect to Colleen or anyone else on my team, but by doing the process where I… Because Colleen’s thing, “Oh, I have a financial question. Micah’s my guy. I need to talk to Micah,” and instead of your team saying, “Hey, listen. What you really need to do is talk to me,” they can go through this whole process, “Oh, cool. Yeah, Micah’s always excited to talk to you. I know that he loves talking to you,” setting these expectations.
“Can I tell him what it’s regarding so that he can be prepared?” “Oh, well, I need to update the bank account.” “Oh, you know what? Great news. I can take care of that for you right now,” da, da, da, da, da. “Do you still need to talk to Micah?” “No, that was actually all I had.” “Perfect. Great. Thank you so much.” So, we’ve again delivered massive value in a way that makes you a far more effective advisor.
Micah Shilanski: Yeah, and this is one when I’m talking to as well that I got to hold the line on. I do not book the client appointments, number one, because I’m going to screw it up. Seriously, I really am. I’m going to violate my appointment setting rules. I’m not going to book it the way it should be in the system, all those fun things, and I jokingly will tell clients this as well. When they ask when I’m on the phone with them or when I’m in person they’re like, “Hey, can we just set our next appointment?” I say, “You know what? Every time I touch the calendar I break it, and I create a lot of work for the ladies,” and I point out to the front desk, and they laugh about that. “So, if it’s okay, we’ll step out, and I’d love to have Sierra help book our next appointment. Is that going to be okay?” “Yeah, that’d be great.” Guess what? They’re used to that because that’s every other profession does that same thing.
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Micah Shilanski: Now, Jarvis, what about those one or two clients that when you’re making the transition are going to come back and they’re going to say, “You know what, Jarvis? I think it’s really cute you have your team and you have all these other things, but you’re my guy. I only want to talk to you”?
Matthew Jarvis: Yeah. One, I think that’s very rare. So, in our minds our head trash says that’s every client, and this is going to be a deal breaker for them, and they’re going to quit, but that’s been very rare for me. I use the same terminology that you do, but Micah, I force the issue by… If you’re going to stop using your cellphone, there’s a couple ways to do it, but one, if it’s only a couple clients, I’m just not going to answer client calls. If a client calls my cellphone, I will not answer the call. You can go as far as updated your voicemail on our cellphone, say, “Listen. If you’re a client, please call our dedicated client line. Everyone else, leave a message.” But that’s just one thing, I just have to have forcing mechanism. So, like you said, I have a couple clients that have my cellphone. Unless I know because we were coordinating some personal adventure, that that’s why they’re calling, it always goes to voicemail because I need a forcing mechanism for that.
Micah Shilanski: Yeah, and actually, universe will test this out. It was the end of last year. I had a buddy who was a client. He texted me a Bitcoin question, and I just completely ignored it. His wife was actually really funny because I guess they were talking about it when they went to text me, and she was like, “Look, he’s not going to respond to any business stuff in text. He’s just not going to do it. You need to call his office.” He was like, “No, no. I’m just going to text him,” and I completely ignored it, and he ended up calling me.
We were chatting about shooting and other things and he asked, “Hey, what about this question?” I said, “Hey, you know I cannot conduct business via text on my cellphone. You can’t be sending me these messages,” and he started laughing. He’s like, “All right, I’ll call the office.” So, you have to hold the line. Now, I blame the SEC because our cellphones are not set up for client communication. I don’t have text recording. I do not text clients about business, period, end of sentence. So, it’s very easy on this thing of saying, “Look, because of the communication rules of the SEC, I can’t do this. Here’s the channel of communication.” Jarvis, any pushback on that?
Matthew Jarvis: Well, I was just think I know that there are some advisors listening that are going say, “Wait, wait, wait. My CRM, my whatever does record my texts. Therefore, it’s no big deal-”
Micah Shilanski: Well, don’t.
Matthew Jarvis: “… and my clients prefer text,” and my thought is always, “Is your relationship so superficial, is your advice so superficial that it can be delivered in just a couple of texts, and really, is that the exchange that you want to have if you ever end up with an SEC audit or you end up in court like, ‘Well, I had this message. It said, “Smiley face, winky face. Let’s buy Bitcoin.” What does that mean?’ That’s not what I want to be talking about in court.”
Micah Shilanski: Yeah.
Matthew Jarvis: So, I would add another logistics thing. If your cellphone is really your only office number, an advisor we’ve worked with, that was her only office number, was her cellphone, in that case, that’s where you need to port over your number. You need to get a new personal cellphone. That is now your office number, you can let your friends know that you’ve changed that. So, it’s got to be a really hard line in the same. Either, Micah, to your point, you’re either not responding to any business messages or calls from your cellphone, or you’re porting over the number and you’re getting a new cellphone.
Micah Shilanski: For our solo advisors out there, and by the way, there are some rockstar solo advisors that are part of our program which are pretty amazing, and at no point in time should you have your cellphone number out there and your… Excuse me. Your entire phone system should be a VoIP in some nature, whether it’s RingCentral, Google Voice, or you can preprogram what all the communication rules are inside of that system so you are not making a choice to answer the phone or not. These are the hours it’s open, these are how it works, this is the system that’s going to be there. Just like we have a calendar system, you have to automate this. Otherwise, well, just myself as the advisor, I would violate that. If I look down and I see the phone’s flashing and I see it’s a client, I’m going to pick up that phone. I would totally violate my own rule, and I know that, so I have to set up a policy that’s going to help me deliver more value to the client.
Matthew Jarvis: Micah, that’s especially true when you’re doing a task that you don’t really want to be doing, and it’s like, “Oh, good. I can play office. I don’t need to do this thing I really need to get to. I can play office, and I can talk to this client. What a fun distraction.” So, we have to understand, and I don’t know if it’s specific to advisor personality types, but we’re super guilty of, “Ooh, a shiny object. Let’s do that,” and phone calls in are very shiny objects.
Micah Shilanski: I love it. This is going to be the same thing… When we’re talking about phone calls coming in in this nature, this is almost the same thing as email, though, isn’t it?
Matthew Jarvis: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). It is. You’ve got to have a system, and at least once a year in our client newsletter we reemphasize what is our communication policy in a way that’s beneficial to clients. So, “When you have an email, send it to our dedicated client email account. Someone will get back to you that same day, or the next day if it’s later in the day, and then here’s the process that we’ll go through. By the way, if we need to meet together, then we’re just going to give you a link to our calendar so we can get that meeting set up.”
Email’s something I think a lot of advisors make mistakes about. Micah, we could do an entire episode on this. You never respond to a client via email who’s frustrated, like, “Oh, my whatever got messed up.” That is a phone call. That’s never an email back. There’s also never more than, Micah, two or three emails back and forth with a client if they can’t understand an issue. You need to get them on the phone and just say, “Hey, let’s just get on the phone real quick. Let’s get this straightened out. Let’s not keep sending emails back and forth about whatever issue you’re having.”
Micah Shilanski: This is really important with the team. Now, we have a great team, so I don’t want to pick on them too much, but just looking at our own failures, I’ll say a couple of things. Number one is on the same day email responses. We had in our office saying, “Hey, we want to respond to clients the same day when they’re going to email, and if they email in in the morning, with the 24 hours,” and the response was going back to a client saying, “Hey, we got your email. We’ll get back to you soon,” and I was like, “Holy…” Now, it took me forever because I didn’t inspect it. I didn’t look at it. Now, we chatted about it, but I didn’t look at these emails before they were going out. So, I went back and looked at it, my hands on my head. I’m like, “Oh, my gosh. You got to be kidding me.”
Matthew Jarvis: Oh, gee.
Micah Shilanski: But this was the email, so I was like, “Okay, great opportunity.” I failed as a leader to communicate what needs to happen, and we talked about how that was just a horrible thing. It’s like telling a client, “You’re unavailable. You’re not important enough for us to get back to you, and we’ll get back to you soon at some undefined time,” so clients were getting irritated that their email wasn’t responded to in 30 seconds. Yes, that’s hyperbole, but you get the concept that’s there. So, I’m going to say that’s one thing we had to be super clear in in that communication, what gets communicated and how do we set adequate time expectations. Then the other thing you have to watch for too is sometimes the team will get so busy in work that email’s an easy answer versus a phone call.
Matthew Jarvis: Yes.
Micah Shilanski: They don’t want to… Especially ops people, they have a tendency, they don’t like talking to people, and so you really got to be reiterating that with your team. You got to be inspecting these things. You got to be talking with them about the importance and the value of the phone calls delivering that higher level of service.
Matthew Jarvis: Yeah. Micah, I would add on… So, you touched on this briefly, but each email correspondence needs to deliver massive value.
Micah Shilanski: Yes.
Matthew Jarvis: So, that example of, “We’ll get back to you as soon as…” that delivers no value. You’re not setting the expectation. There’s no value there. A better email could be like, “Hey, really glad to see your email about whatever the subject is. I’m doing some research on that. I will email you tomorrow morning before noon if that’s okay with you,” and that’s just a little bit of a teaser, and it even goes to if a client has a question about, “How do I do a credit freeze?” So, you can give them a couple of things, but then take a second to include a link to a good article on that, a couple of copy-and-paste things. Don’t just say, “Hey, you should Google it. Google credit freeze, and you’ll be good.” That’s not massive value.
Micah Shilanski: Boy, I didn’t even think about that. I would go nuts if one of our team members told a client to Google something. This is not-
Matthew Jarvis: To Google something? Yeah.
Micah Shilanski: Yeah. This is not an acceptable answer. This is also where previous newsletters come in. So, we have a policy in place to our backstage pass members and invictus members. We’ll go ahead and throw this in there, that anytime someone has credit breach or any fraud that takes place, we have now a policy in place on how we’re going to help the clients respond to that. We’ve had previous newsletters we’ve put out. We have links to the FBI. We have links to the Police Department, et cetera, that says, “Okay, great. Here are the steps you need to go through,” because clients generally call us when something like that happens. I say, “Okay, great. Here’s the things to check. Here’s how to go through.” So, we’re going to talk with them on the phone, but Jarvis, to your point, we’re going to send them, “Hey, here’s our newsletter that we sent out about this. Here’s the link to the FBI to report this fraud. Here’s the link to the Police Department to file a police report,” all of these different things, and we’re not going to tell them, “Good luck.”
Matthew Jarvis: Yeah. Micah, something along the lines of these phones is having scripts available for your team, and I’ve learned a couple lessons. We can do podcasts on this too, but when I was doing my boat trip we had a whole… The team was very weird, so I printed and I had them on their desks, a list of scripts of things to say. If a client asks this, what can we say? Well, what I discovered, Micah, is the team wouldn’t tell me there were some scripts they were not comfortable saying, and I would notice I would leave my door open so I could overhear. Doesn’t work the same with virtual employees. Then I would work with a team like, “Okay, what would you be comfortable saying? What’s authentic to you, and what are you comfortable saying?” So, just because you told the team, “Here’s what happens when someone emails,” or, “Here’s what happens when someone calls,” if they don’t understand why that’s in the client’s best interest, it’s not going to work.
Micah Shilanski: Also, this is where practice comes in. So, one of the things… We’re actually changing some things in our office, so I’m not going to talk about it now. I’m going to make sure they work, then I’ll let you guys know how it’s going through. But one of the things I told the team is saying, “Look, I am dedicated to practicing this 100 times out loud before I say it to a client one time,” and I wanted the team to know that because it’s something instinctively we kind of know. I was thinking, you know what? I don’t want to buffalo through something. I don’t want to bull through something that I don’t really understand when in front of a client. I want to practice this so much that when someone asks me my name, it’s Micah Shilanski. I know what my name is pretty good. It just rolls right off my tongue. I generally don’t mess it up.
So, I want my responses to be the same way, but I also need my team to do that. So, I’m going to lead by example in saying, “I’m going to practice these 100 times, and then I’m going to engage with the team, and I’m going to show them how I do this, and I expect them to do the same thing.” I’m not going to give them a script and say, “Good luck. Go to town on this.” Really, I need to say, “Great. I need you to practice this and come back to me,” Jarvis, to your point, because then you’re going to find out if they’re not comfortable saying it.
Matthew Jarvis: Yeah, yeah. A great example we’ve talked about before on the podcast is with prospects calling into the office. These prospects would end up on my schedule that weren’t qualified because I don’t charge. Micah charges for them, so it takes care of that. It’s a discussion we’ve had, and I kept telling Colleen, “Hey, you need to ask these people how much money you have. You need to ask them. You need to ask them,” and she never would. So, I finally said, “What’s going on here?” She said, “I’m just not comfortable asking someone how much money they have.” Okay, cool. So, now I had a choice. I could force it somehow, but it’s so far out of her comfort zone it wasn’t going to happen, and so we created another system. “All right. Would you be comfortable doing this? Would you be comfortable telling them to go back to the website and look to make sure that they’re qualified to work with our team?” “Oh, yeah. I have no problem saying it.” Perfect. So, you need to inspect what you expect with your team, be it the phones or anything else.
Micah Shilanski: If you’re going to force your team to do things that are uncomfortable, do not expect to do massive value. Now, there’s a line here. Right?
Matthew Jarvis: Yeah, there is.
Micah Shilanski: We’re definitely going to push our team, but before it goes client-facing, I want them to be comfortable with it. So, I’m okay if they uncomfortable in the back office sense. We’re pushing through things. We’re trying new things out, trying new scripts. That’s okay, but by the time it goes client-facing, they need to be as comfortable with it as they can be. Otherwise, it’s not going to add value, to the point with Colleen, who’s a rockstar, she’s great. I love hanging out with her. She does some phenomenal things, but again, we all have these things we’re not going to do, and if you make that team member do it, it’s not going to turn out the way you want.
Matthew Jarvis: Yeah. Micah, some of that’s really helpful there. We’re kind of getting onto this sidebar, but it’s a fun one, is to have your team member talk to rockstar team members on other teams. This is why we routinely have Colleen from my office, Victoria from yours, do Invictus calls and calls for our members and webinars, so that other team members can talk about it. What do you really say? What really happens when someone calls and asks for Micah and says, “It’s super important,” and they’re angry? They can say, “Oh, wow. That does happen, and here’s how it looks.” So, that’s one item. Micah, our team members have learned a lot from each other.
Micah Shilanski: Oh, yeah.
Matthew Jarvis: Advisors like, “Okay, how do you do this?” How do you give them a Calendly link instead of walking through your calendar? How do you deal with when they say, “Hey, I can only meet them on Friday,” and Matt never does meetings on Friday?
Micah Shilanski: You know what? It’s just so great when I hear from my office that Colleen needs to call our office to figure out how we do something. I got to say, dear diary… No, I’m just kidding.
Matthew Jarvis: Dear diary…
Micah Shilanski: It is so great to have our teams because, Jarvis, since we’ve met in 2017, we’ve really upped our game because we get to see great the inside of your practice, which is phenomenal, and now we get to say, “Great. How do we incorporate these things? How do we use these in our office, et cetera?”
Matthew Jarvis: I love it, Micah. I love it. Well, this podcast, like everything we do, is all about taking action. In fact, Micah, I was at a conference recently, and I sat through several sessions, and I was so disappointed they didn’t end with action. They’re, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,” and then there was this awkward silence. I guess we’re done. I was like, “Well, what am I supposed to do?” So, this podcast is about action, and Micah, let’s talk about action items specific to your communication policy and your cellphone, per our conversation.
Micah Shilanski: Well, perfect. With your cellphone, take it out right now, go to Apple Podcasts, and then give us five stars. Yeah. If you like the podcast, help share this. We have these huge growth goals for this year, which we’re crushing so far, which is amazing, but it’s growth and getting the message out. So, seriously, your help with that is appreciated. All right. So, in action item number one, create your communication policy. Now, if you do not have a written communication policy, and what I mean by that, can you open up on your computer right now and see your communication policy, and can you ask your RM to show you the communication policy?
Because often, what I’ll do with my team, Jarvis, is when I want to see a policy, I don’t go look for it. I go ask my team for the policy. Why? Okay, sure, I don’t want to look for it, but two, I want to see what they’re looking at because if I pull up an old document, if I pull up something else and they’re looking and going off something else, it doesn’t help. So, number one, create that communication policy or have your RM pull it up and go through it, and is it clear on the client side, and is it clear on the internal side what is going to happen?
Matthew Jarvis: Yeah, and I’m glad you highlighted that because there’s almost two versions of it. There’s the internal one like, “Here’s when it’s okay to call Micah’s cellphone. Here’s how we schedule things. Here’s these different levels,” and then externally, that external policy is really one that’s in your client newsletter on a regular basis.
Micah Shilanski: Yes.
Matthew Jarvis: So, in your client, here’s just a quick reminder. We really love hearing from you, da, da, da, da, da. Action item number two, hopefully there’s somebody listening that’s saying, “You’re right. I’m going to give up my cellphone number.” Whatever the case may be, Micah, as you mentioned earlier, the universe or whatever higher power will test this out, same with clients. As soon as you say, “You know what? I will not take any more calls from my cellphone,” 10 clients are going to call your cellphone. How they got your number, I don’t even know, but they’re going to call your cellphone, so you’ve got to really be committed like, “From this day forward, I will,” and it has to be really ultimatums. It can’t be like, “Well, I’ll use better discretion.” It just has to be like, “I will never take a client call from my cellphone ever, end of story, no matter what,” and you’ve got to be ready for that to be tested.
Micah Shilanski: You got to practice that because when that client calls that cellphone, you need a better answer than just answering their question. You need to figure it out. “You know what? I’m not in front of my office right now. I apologize. You caught me out on my personal cellphone. Let’s schedule a time to get back. Let me have Victoria give you a call. We can set a time to go through this.” You need to have something you’re going to say when they call. Sorry, Jarvis. Didn’t mean to jump on that.
Matthew Jarvis: No, you’re spot on. You’re spot on, and this just become your policy. For example, my cellphone number, I will only ever answer calls for people that I want to talk to. I will not answer any number that doesn’t come up on my caller ID. I won’t answer Micah’s calls. No, I won’t answer my-
Micah Shilanski: Actually, he just calls me back. I’m just like, “That’s so rude.”
Matthew Jarvis: Yeah. So, the universe is going to test you, whatever it is.
Micah Shilanski: Yeah, absolutely. You need to tell your clients, and I just want to reiterate this one again, Jarvis. I know you already said this, but you need to tell your clients multiple times about your new communication policy. You need to have it on your agenda during your next surge meeting, what your communication policy is. You need to put it in your emails. You need to remind clients when this comes up. “This is great news. This is how our communication policy works to deliver massive value for you.” Again, I’m always positioning this because in my heart of hearts I believe this is more value to my clients, especially as I grow, because I see it. I’m blessed to be on the other side of this. I get to see that my team is empowered to help clients, and clients are happy when they get helps.
Matthew Jarvis: The other place to bring this up, Micah, not to beat up on it too much, but you really just don’t want to ever miss opportunities to reset and reaffirm expectations. I do this at the end of clients meetings as we’re getting ready to leave. I say, “Hey, listen. I look forward to seeing you again in October or whatever the next surge cycle is. If something comes up between now and then,” and by the way, I tell them, “Murphy’s law is that when you get home you’ll think of that one thing you meant to ask me. Feel free to emails clients@jarvisfinancial. The team will make sure that gets taken care of. If it’s urgent, feel free to call the office. We’re always glad to hear from you. If it’s not urgent, just let the team know and we’ll put it on our agenda for the next meeting.” So, really, I’m going to position them… I’m not saying, “Hey, don’t talk to me. Don’t bother me. Leave me alone.” I’m saying, “This is what’s going to happen inevitably. Here’s how we’re going to handle it together.”
Micah Shilanski: But Jarvis, it’s so brilliant because here’s what happens. Clients know you’re busy. They don’t want to bother you, so they don’t ask questions. We give them an outlet for it, just like you said. “Hey, if it’s something you want in the next agenda, just shoot us an email at the clients-only account and just say, ‘Hey, can you add this to our agenda?'” and guess what? We have it in our CRM, a special place for client questions. It gets printed out, and we have sometimes clients that’ll randomly just email questions for next thing. Great news. They really don’t need an answer then. They want it on the next agenda. We have a placeholder for it, and clients love it. They love it.
Matthew Jarvis: Yeah. Yeah. So, this isn’t a takeaway. So, you think, “Oh, if I take away my cellphone, that’s a takeaway. That’s a disservice. I’m not discounting. Maybe I should lower my fees,” this whole, “I’m going to become homeless if I do this,” this whole cascading thought, but the reality is every time we’ve seen this happen, Micah, the advisor’s able to deliver more value. Their clients are happier. Yes, you’ll have one or maybe two clients who push back on this, and they may not just be a good fit, and we’ll talk about that a different day. They might be a candidate for graduation, but this is a way to deliver more value in a way that’s not reactive.
Micah Shilanski: Yeah. Maybe that’s our next pod because I did have a couple clients of pushback, and I had to have some real heart-to-hearts with them in going through it.
Matthew Jarvis: Okay. Well, we better make a note in our podcast file. We always say, “Hey, next time we’ll talk about this,” and that never happens. Well, everyone, thank you so much for listening. If you have questions or concerns yourself, feel free to email them to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we would love to add them to a future podcast topic.
Micah Shilanski: Until next time, happy planning.
Matthew Jarvis: Happy planning.
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