Automating services makes your job easier.

It boosts output, and lets you focus on building your business and incorporating value-added services.

But be careful. New tools and technologies shouldn’t reduce how much you see and talk to clients, says Jason Pereira, senior financial consultant with IPC Investment Corporation in Toronto.

Though he automates as much as possible, he makes sure any tools he adds don’t create more work for him or his staff, or reduce his availability to clients.

Kevin Cork, president of The Absolute Group in Edmonton, Alta., adds, “It’s easy to get caught up in finding more ways to make your practice efficient, but clients should be your first priority.”

If you do automate, start with your back-end processes; and don’t change anything that might impact regular interactions with clients. Implementing services they don’t want or appreciate will make you seem robotic.

Take, for instance, the quarterly reporting process: though report generation times have shrunk from three months to a few weeks over the past 20 years, automation will never replace the meetings you book to discuss results with clients. However, some advisors use video chats, such as the iPad’s FaceTime application, to hold those meetings virtually if their clients are bedridden or live far away.

Customize with care

Cork says his clients don’t appreciate generic quarterly newsletters or preprinted Christmas cards. Fine by him; they’re relatively expensive.

He’s redirected the money he spent producing them to charity donations made in clients’ names. They’ve expressed appreciation that he listens to their feedback, he says, and also love the gift.

Still, if you’re set on providing services like monthly insights mailings, find out which clients truly appreciate this gesture. And make sure the mailing system you’re using lets you cater to those who want to be left off lists, while upping communication for those who want more contact.

“People who previously worked with a stockbroker might expect a call every month, while those who’ve never had an advisor aren’t sure what to expect,” Cork says.

“Let them know how often you’ll communicate and meet with them, and figure out what types of updates and messages they’re looking for.”

Pereira, meanwhile, asks his administrative staffers which tasks are straightforward but time-consuming, and either outsources or automates them (see “Dos and don’ts,” below).

Dos and don’ts of automation

Do: Forward your office phone messages to your email, so you don’t have to check them while away.

Don’t: Automate your phone answering service. People prefer a human voice.

Do: Let clients opt out of automated emails and newsletters.

Don’t: Offer to customize their services completely. You’ll end up with too many varied requests, and that makes extra work.

Do: Pre-schedule tweets or posts on social media platforms, and write and pre-schedule blog posts ahead of time.

Don’t: Schedule anything that offers tips or ideas that are supposed to be timely. They can become irrelevant between the time you schedule and send them.

Do: Take the time to upgrade your data management systems and processes.

Don’t: Remove yourself from the process and training. It’s key to know how they work, and how they specifically improve your services.

Do: Let clients know some of your services are automated, like tax return data entry. They’ll appreciate your efficiency and organization.

Don’t: Let them in on all of your time-saving processes. You’ll appear lazy and neglectful.

Do: Write email, letter and report templates for clients.

Don’t: Use greetings like “Dear valued client,” or include details not relevant to all recipients.

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