Credibility in crisis
By Bob Seawright
Asset Marketing Systems
"We have inherited an economic crisis as deep and as dire as any since the Great Depression."
-- President Barack Obama
"In my adult lifetime, I don't think I've ever seen people as fearful economically as they are now."
-- Warren Buffett
"The world is more complicated than anyone understands, and things are likely to get worse and not better. We've been through three years of economic pain with no thought, and my guess is that we have three to five years of more pain."
-- Newt Gingrich
Your clients are hearing and reading comments like these every day from experts and commentators from virtually all outlooks and persuasions. Markets are in turmoil; fear is rampant; investors are often paralyzed.
As producers within the financial services industry, this crisis hits particularly close to home. It impacts our livelihood both directly and indirectly. Our clients are concerned or perhaps even distraught about what to do or even about how they're going to make it going forward. How we manage this crisis will impact our clients, obviously, and will also determine how our practices will navigate and survive it.
First and foremost (and I trust that this point is obvious), every producer should offer client-first service and support, especially in times of crisis. Your clients and prospects need quality help all the time, and especially in times of difficulty. But the substance of your advice, no matter how good, isn't enough to get the job done completely. The way you do your job matters, too. The content of your message matters, surely, but you also need to be perceived as credible. Let's take a quick look at how to enhance your credibility anytime, and especially in a crisis. We'll begin by looking at what you should not do.
- Disregard. Do not ignore the crisis generally or an unhappy client in particular. In this context, no news is not good news. Refusing to face any problem in this area directly will only make it worse.
- Deny or diminish. The crisis is obviously real. Face up to your clients' difficulties honestly. Your clients' distress is genuine, too. Even if a client's situation isn't really as bad as he or she thinks or fears it is, it doesn't help to deny that the crisis is real or to try to diminish its importance. If you do, clients will feel patronized and will be resistant to your advice and to your ongoing plans.
- Delay. Dealing with difficult problems (or difficult clients) is never easy. It's easy to procrastinate and put off dealing with them. Don't. Being quickly responsive will make clients much more receptive to what you have to say and to the advice you will render.
- Communication. Communicate early. Communicate often. Communicate using different media. It's hard to communicate too often anytime -- in a crisis, it's virtually impossible.
- Compassion. Your clients need to know that you care about them and about their situation. Make sure that they feel cared for. Nobody ever wants to feel like an impersonal customer. In a crisis, the personal touch is even more important.
- Competence. It should go without saying, but your clients need quality service and advice, especially in difficult times.
- Confidence. Your clients want and need the professional competence you can offer. But even excellent advice offered tentatively isn't enough. Clients want and need your help as well as the reassurance that everything that can be done is being done for their wellbeing.
- Consistency. Clients want a steady hand from someone guiding their future. Make sure that you extend it to them.
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