I was born in the mechanical age and have lived to see the full flowering of the digital age. When I was a little boy, my aunt worked as a comptometer operator. Many a time I saw her magically operate that 100-key monster, producing endless rolls of numbers representing the day’s transactions. Today, of course, all that computing is done electronically, with nary a shred of paper in sight.
At first, we marveled at the magic of the digital age. Freedom from drudgery! But we all know what happened: We merely replaced one form of processing with another. But one thing has not changed: the importance of good relationships.
For the financial services professional, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other interactive websites are the newest business development tools. Seminars offer to help us manage our social-networking sites and automate our marketing efforts. I do some of these things myself, but as I have watched the new paradigm emerge, I have come to the conclusion that we make a grave mistake if we think electronic tools will replace relationship-building.
Research has shown that the #1 reason we lose clients is because of an absurdly simple lapse: We fail to return calls within a two-hour timeframe. Think about how you feel when you enter a store and can’t find a clerk to help you. Think about the recorded message that insists that you are important while you wait endlessly for help. A recorded greeting or an automated phone menu will never replace a thoughtful, caring person.
I am constantly reminded that we are in a service (aka relationship) business. With that in mind, here are four ideas to build better relationships:
- Always return phone calls within two hours.
- Always thank friends, clients and referral sources for introductions to new people.
- Always ask your clients and prospects “What’s important?” — and then take their answers to heart.
- Conduct an annual survey of your clients to gage their feelings and opinions.
As you plan your marketing strategy — whether you’re using a cutting-edge digital approach or the old tried-and-true methods — remember that customer service never goes out of style.
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Nick Ray is a business coach who specializes in working with financial services professionals. He is the author of There’s More to Selling than Making the Sale as well as a workbook on target marketing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.