Rod Bertino says your messages must be tailored to suit the age group you’re targeting.

The latest snapshot of our CATScan client survey database (which now contains feed- back from more than 40,000 clients), reveals that in the average Australian advisory practice, 45 per cent of clients are aged 60-plus, and 39 per cent have already retired from active employment. This got us thinking. What does this mean to Australia’s advisers? Do they need to interact differently with clients from different generations? As the CATScan satisfaction results clearly illustrate, in our view the answer is an emphatic “yes”! Across all nine of the key service measures tracked by CATScan, older clients were far more satisfied with their adviser’s performance than their younger counterparts. In light of this, perhaps some advisers need to take an “ageist” view of how their service offer is delivered.

1. COMMUNICATION

As this is undoubtedly a key driver in the development of client relationships, doesn’t it make some sense that your communication is crafted to reflect the age of the audience to whom it’s directed? Is the language used client-friendly and easy to understand? Or does it perhaps favour (albeit unintentionally) the age group of the writer? How about its tone – conversational or technically focused?

Are your newsletters delivered in written format only or are email and web-based vehicles also used? In either event, how large is the print size? As the title of this article says, retirees wear glasses. How about the content: Recipes, or twitter tips? The frequency of communication is another important area, especially for older clients who may need more regular reassurance that their adviser is on top of their specific situation.

And finally, regardless of age, CATScan clients repeatedly tell us that they want more personalised communication. “Dear Valued Client” just doesn’t cut it any more.

2. CLIENT MEETINGS

How long do your “face-to-face” client meetings last? While older clients normally appreciate spending some time establishing and/or deepening the relationship before getting down to the “nuts and bolts” of financial planning, time can be of the essence for generation X and Y professionals with young families. Are your client events (such as seminars and Christmas functions) structured to recognise the preferences of your clients?

While employed and self-employed clients will prefer perhaps a breakfast or evening function, your retiree clients most likely won’t – the afternoon will appeal to them more. How well will the speakers interact with the audience, and is their message of relevance and interest?

3. THE OFFICE

How practical, accessible and welcoming is your office? Is public transport nearby? And if parking is not convenient, can valet parking be organised? Consider how well your office caters for your older clients, who might have difficulty in negotiating stairs.

Is your furniture and decor in keeping with what your target market would expect? And how do your staff interact with your client base? Does their language, dress and overall presentation help make your clients feel comfortable and assured?

4. TYPE AND RANGE OF PRODUCTS

Does your product list adequately address not only the client’s needs, but also their environmental and social beliefs and philosophies? Consider the rise of ethical and environmental funds and the raft of reverse mortgage products now on the market. Long-term health care products and funding into a retirement village also fall into a similar category.

5. FEE STRUCTURE

While I will leave it to others to debate the merits of fees versus commissions, attitudes to adviser remuneration do vary significantly across age groups – you should understand how your clients feel and offer a model they are most comfortable with. If clients are truly the most valuable assets of your business, surely it make sense to recognise their key attributes and distinguishing features and deliver a service aligned to their preferences?

Rod Bertino is a partner and director of Business Health, a consulting firm specialising in the financial services industry. Business Health develops and markets a suite of unique and exclusive business diagnostic tools, which are supported by a range of specialised consultancy services.

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