Every advisor I know has at least one good story about firing a client. We all know the client in these stories... He has millions of questions, is always complaining and isn't expected to generate any commissions in your (or your children's) lifetime. In fact, one broker-dealer I know actually teaches its advisors how to properly fire "problematic" clients and surprisingly, it doesn't involve firearms.
What happens when the shoe is on the other foot? Think about it. Have you ever heard an advisor telling a great story about being fired by a client? Of course you haven't. Any client wanting to fire us must be mentally deranged and is certainly not worth talking about. These types of clients don't factor in our thinking.
Back in the good old days one could afford to lose an occasional client because a hundred more were lined up just outside the door. Today, things are different. In order to keep the Mercedes in premium gas, you have to care about all of your clients... even the crazy ones you hate.
During these challenging financial times, I believe it is prudent to nurture every good client. Smother them with kindness, shower them with gifts (up to compliance-approved limits, of course) and make them love you. Make them love you so much that no matter how bad you screw up... they would never leave you. If you don't believe in this theory, consider former President Clinton or Dennis Rodman.
The key to being fireproof is to make your clients think of you as part of their extended family... even if it means you're the crazy uncle that married his cousin. Blood is thicker than water. Use it to your advantage. It's pretty tough to fire someone that no matter what is showing up on Christmas Eve with a damned fruitcake!
If you'd like to get started making your practice more fireproof, here are a few tips to get you started.
The first thing you need to do is to identify all your top clients. This is the group of clients that if they suddenly left you, would force you to work at that bait shop you've always dreamed of.
Step two is to hire a team of investigators. The point of the investigators, in addition to finding possible blackmail information, is to also find out where your client's sweet spot is. Fortunately, Dr. Oz and other great physicians have discovered that there are primarily three sweet spots. These spots are the way to the soul. Rather than suck up directly to your client, pick one of the following spots and work your magic. Soon you will be La Familia!
Spot 1 - Kids/Pets. You can't go wrong slipping little junior a Red Bull and the latest Wii game. You'll know you've done well when you're asked to baby-sit. If there are no kids, go ahead and slip Fido the Red Bull. Afterwards, comment often about how excited Fido is to see you.
Spot 2 - Food. Never underestimate the power of a well-timed food basket. Nothing says "I care" more than dropping by unexpectedly with a couple dozen Krispy Kremes. If you know your client is a drinker, substitute a 30-pack of White Castle sliders for the donuts. You'll have him at "Hello."
Spot 3 - Surprises. Some people just like to be surprised. They're sick and tired of the same old boring predictable people in their lives. Stand out from the crowd and help them in a way they don't expect. You might have your investigators find out when your client's family is returning from vacation. Make sure that as they are pulling in the driveway, they find you mowing their lawn. Tell them you just wanted them to come home to a nice lawn.
Master the art of fireproofing and watch your client retention rates soar. If done properly, you'll never have to worry about sub-par performance or customer complaints again.