Don’t kick the can, Pt. 4: client servicing traps
By Steven McCarty
The National Ethics Association
Once they’ve closed a deal with a client, too many advisers will “kick the can” when it comes to providing service. They not only fail to stay in touch, but also ignore key privacy and data security guidelines.
As mentioned in our last three columns, “kicking the can” refers to ignoring prudent practices. This had tragic consequences during the Vietnam War when U.S. soldiers kicked booby-trapped soda cans on the ground and paid the ultimate price.
So how do you prevent kicking the can when it comes to client service?
First, commit yourself to ongoing client contact. This isn’t rocket science, guys and gals. It involves educating clients through periodic mailings and phone calls, responding quickly to their service requests and conducting periodic account review meetings. In this era of technology-enabled communications, there’s no excuse for client abandonment.
Second, become an excellent record keeper. For every client, make sure to save copies of solicitation materials, meeting notes, needs analyses and signed letters refusing coverage. Why become a paper-trail pack rat? Because you’ll want to supply a state regulator, your carriers and E&O insurer with these records if a client complains or sues.
Third, get serious about protecting client privacy. You must never disclose to third parties any client information unless allowed to by state or federal law. Getting serious also means learning about what privacy notices you must send and what information you must protect. Refer to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and HIPAA for complete details.
Secure office technology
Fourth, make sure your office technology doesn’t leak confidential information. Make sure to protect all client data on computers, paper records, wireless networks and phone/fax systems. Plus, in the unfortunate event data is lost or stolen, promptly report the incident to your clients and carriers.
Now, since both state and federal regulators define these rules, be sure to check with regulators in your state to see what applies locally.
So there you have it. If you want to survive in this business, don’t kick the can. When you adhere to best practices in solicitation, disclosure, suitability and client service, you’ll never have to worry about your business blowing up on you — and taking your future with it.