Using Communication to Diffuse Frustration

We’ve all lost
clients for one reason or another.

Clients move. The
market experiences poor performance. A friend enters the industry and your
client transfers business to them.

Often, the reason
doesn’t seem to have anything to do with you personally — it’s just the way it
is. Regardless of why, losing a client is painful and expensive. No one wants
to get fired. Acquiring a new client is the most expensive business process in terms
of capital, time and human effort.

But there is something you can do in most
situations. And that’s to manage client expectations. Regardless of what they
say, clients are really leaving
because their tie to you – their relationship with you –  isn’t deep enough to overcome missed

And there’s always
the one emotion that can derail your client relationships: frustration.

Frustration Before It Starts

Frustration is a powerful emotion. It generally turns things
from good to bad and, if left unaddressed, from bad to worse. But setting
realistic expectations can replace frustration with understanding and empathy.

Let’s look at a practical example. I was sitting at an
airport recently during a delay. Delays happen frequently when I travel, so I
try not to get upset at the prospect of waiting an extra 20 to 30 minutes
sitting in the airport. But, for non-business travelers, their immediate
frustration levels ramp up as they realize their flight isn’t on time. When the
gate agent explains that the inbound aircraft is running a few minutes late and
they will be able to make up the time in the air, everyone relaxes. They
continue reading or watching their favorite YouTube video once they know what
to expect.

But if the communication stops or becomes inaccurate, the
frustration level increases. Now it’s higher than it was before. About 30
minutes after the initial announcement, the airline updated everyone of the
decision to bring in a new plane which would delay us another two hours. You
can see people begin pacing. They call loved ones and spew hatred for the
airline over an uncontrollable situation. Now it’s not just a late aircraft. And,
an hour and a half later, there is still no word of when the new plane will arrive,
and we can take off. Frustration continues to build in the gate area, but it is
met with radio silence. There are no notifications on the travelers’ phones. Customers
seek out employees of the airline for answers.

Then the gate agent returns. He provides an update of
another 30-minute delay but verifies the new plane has landed, is at the gate,
and being serviced for food and beverages. Again, the relief is palpable. From there, the delay went as planned and everyone
got to their destination.

Circumstance Isn’t the Biggest Problem. Frustration Is.

On this travel day, I missed my connection by more than two hours. My new flight arrived eight hours later than planned. Because of the delay, I missed the largest networking opportunity at my conference. All in all, it was a lost day. I’m sure other people lost time with their business trips or their families. That’s a problem, no question. But the larger problem was frustration levels. During times of communication, frustration was low, and customers understood the dilemma. During times of high frustration, people were angry and talking negatively about the airline. When frustration left again, it became, “That’s alright, I’m still getting to my destination safely.”

How to Overcome Problems Without Losing Clients

Although frustration can be managed, it’s even better when
it can be avoided. Pretty basic, right? What we need to recognize, however, is
that our business is very complex, confusing and intimidating to most
customers. Just having to sign stacks of paperwork to transfer assets to our
firm creates a bad customer experience off the bat. Then, when markets fluctuate,
or specific goals don’t seem to be met, frustration can increase dramatically. We
must manage the frustration level.

Fortunately, there are some simple strategies to help do that. 

Ideas to Control Client Frustration Levels

  1. Communicate regularly. Many forms of communication can be automated. These don’t have to be fancy, they just need to be informative.
  2. Follow a process. Your clients will know when things are not going correctly in their eyes. The problem is that you might not see that until the frustration comes to the surface. Have a regular process of talking – yes talking – to clients about their concerns and their path to financial security. Make them a part of the process.
  3. Set expectations early. In the client relationship, it’s preferable to set expectations before the client engages with you. Your client needs to know how your practice operates, who to call with questions on their portfolio or paperwork, when they should expect to review their finances with you, and when you will reach out to coach them through difficult situations. It’s part of the process. Educating clients up front is critical to long-term success.
  4. Use technology appropriately. While you can automate a lot of communication and education, never lose the personal touch. Technology should be used for menial tasks. You have to manage the relationship.

If you can reduce frustration with any problem, you have a better chance of resolving conflict without damage to your practice.  

Transformational Tactic

Establish processes and communication strategies across your entire practice to mitigate frustration.