The ability of intermediaries to keep their audiences informed clearly and concisely so their servic...
The ability of intermediaries to keep their audiences informed clearly and concisely so their services are understood and appreciated will remain paramount, whether independent or multi-tied.
Many organisations within the financial services sector rightly pride themselves on their ability to communicate through both the written and spoken word. But, unfortunately, more organisations seriously underestimate the important role communication plays in business, both internally and with clients.
So, where does communication start and end? It starts the day a business is conceived and there is never an end point. It is a management tool that is always evolving, and internal and external communication are equally important, with consistency of message and approach being crucial.
Where the communication process often falls down is with the tone of the message ' companies failing to put themselves in the position of recipients and think through their messages' potential effects.
Service should always be underpinned with good communication. For example, if a product does not perform as a client expects ' for example, if their investment portfolio has fallen in value due to external influences such as falling world stock markets ' then a letter or newsletter should of course explain what is happening and why, as well as how the client interests are being looked after. But it is important to appreciate how and what the client would like to be told in their circumstances and in what tone of voice.
The written word is still the cornerstone of most communication processes. What never ceases to amaze me is the lack of ability of too many businesses when pen has to be put to paper. Words like 'unfortunately' or 'regrettably' are often ignored to show an understanding of the impact of bad news. They are not an admission of guilt ' being sorry is a human apology.
As consultants, having undertaken numerous communication audits over the years, we have seen a huge amount of effort and resources aimed at the press, getting a message across to journalists being the priority, while the all-important clients receive a less focused treatment.
Employees are another group often overlooked in the communication order of importance. Informed employees have a buy-in to a firm's culture and understanding of its products and services. This, in turn, leads to greater effectiveness when dealing with the customer and improved bottom-line performance.
Communication can be dictated by compliance regulations. But reliance should not be on the basic minimum. Building up a regular dialogue with clients, employees, journalists and so on will strengthen relationships and create a good understanding of what is being done. However, a word of warning: striking a balance is equally important, as communication overloads can be even worse than not providing enough information. Recognising that the time to communicate is when there is really something to say is crucial.
Simply put, communication is important, whether a firm is small or large, independent or multi-tied, and should be a priority in good every day-to-day business practice. The financial services industry will ignore it at its peril.
Martin Wood, Reywood Communication
£1bn business since inception
Considered doing so in 2015
Client communication considerations
Aviva: ‘We are sorry’
FOI from Professional Adviser