Build value and trust with a code of accountability
By Bill Cates
Stuart Horowitz is the senior partner with the Andrew Stuart Asset Management Group in Plantation, Fla. One tool he uses to build value and trust with his new prospects and clients is what he calls a “code of accountability.” Once a prospect becomes a client, both he and the client sign this code.
First, I’ll give you Stuart’s exact code, word for word. Then I’ll give you some ideas to help you develop your own code.
Code of Accountability
1. Andrew Stuart Asset Management (A.S.A.M.) clients are the most important people in this office, whether they are visiting in person, by mail, or by phone. They deserve a timely response to all inquiries or contacts.
2. A.S.A.M. clients are not dependent on us — we are dependent on them.
3. A.S.A.M. clients are not an interruption of our work … they are the purpose of it. We are not doing them a favor handling their inquiries … they are doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to earn their business.
4. A.S.A.M. clients are not to be argued with. No one ever wins an argument with an A.S.A.M. client.
5. A.S.A.M. will hold in the strictest confidence, and consider as privileged, all business and personal information pertaining to our clients’ affairs.
6. In order to provide our clients with an optimal level of service, A.S.A.M. expects them to be continuously forthcoming with all relevant financial information.
7. If you are displeased with any element of our service, A.S.A.M. expects the courtesy of timely notification so that we may address the issue.
8. If all of our clients’ expectations are met and they are satisfied with our service, A.S.A.M. anticipates our clients will refer others whom they feel can benefit from our services (i.e. friends, family, co-workers).
While everyone’s code will be worded differently, what I like about this technique is that it creates a conversation around expectations. Talking about expectations early in your new relationships is a very important conversation. Most relationships (business and personal) fail because of un-communicated and/or un-met expectations.
While all the items in Stuart’s code are relevant, I want to focus on the last three. Number six opens the door for the client to not withhold information that will help you do your best job for them. If you are managing some of their investments, you understand the importance of knowing where all their money is, even if it’s not under your care. When your clients understand why this is important to them, they are usually more forthcoming with this kind of information. Item number seven is great because it begins to create a climate of doing business in which clients are encouraged to complain — especially about the little things. The most important ingredient in client loyalty is that the client feels comfortable telling you about something with which they are dissatisfied. If they withhold this type of information, they become more likely to move their business somewhere else (and you’re certainly not referable). While this statement alone is not enough to guarantee your clients will tell you every time they are unhappy, it’s a good start.
You know I like item number eight, because it plants the seed for referrals. While I believe this item has its place in the code, you have to be careful with this one. It’s important that the client does not feel obligated to give you referrals. They have to know that you intend to earn introductions through the quality of your work, and that the relationship will still be a strong one even if they choose not to introduce anyone to you. A small point: I would replace the word “refer” with “introduce.” For some, the word “referral” has a negative connotation. Besides, wouldn’t you rather be introduced than just referred? Plant the seed you really want.
Here’s an idea. Why not present your code to a new client and see if there’s anything they want you to add? Now you’ll have a code of accountability tailored to each client. This will make sure that all expectations are clear. Of course, this is not a legally binding contract and you might want to include some words to that effect. The key point is that you’ve had a clear conversation around expectations.
Talking about expectations with new clients is a great trust builder. When you demonstrate in a genuine way that you care about how the relationship will grow, your clients naturally trust you more. The key word here is “genuine.” This code of accountability and conversation around expectations can’t just be a “technique” you’re working with your clients. It must be completely sincere on your part.
Copyright 2013 by Bill Cates