The Adviser-Client Communication Disconnect

According to clients, more is not always better when it comes to meeting with their advisers.
A recent survey by State Street Global Advisers and Knowledge @ Wharton said that advisers must focus on the quality and not quantity of client communication, because clients are not interested in more communication than they have at present. The survey of 500 consumers and 366 financial advisers found that although some advisers would like to increase the frequency of client meetings, their clients didn’t feel the same. More than half (51%) of advisers say they would like to communicate with their clients on a monthly basis compared with the 36% of clients  which concurred. Nearly half (49%) of clients preferred quarterly communications.
In fact, advisers and clients don’t even seem to agree on how frequently communication is occurring currently, let alone in the future. While 39% of advisers say they currently communicate monthly, only 24% of clients agree. The two groups agreed that quarterly communication is taking place for about 45% of clients, but almost twice as many clients as advisers 17% and 9%, respectively, said communication only takes place annuall, while 7% of clients say their advisers “almost never’ communicate with them.
Telephone is the most frequent mode of communication (about 40% of the time), followed by face-to-face meetings and e-mail, each cited by about a third of respondents. Although advisers prefer face-to-face communication (57% cited it as their desired medium), 41% of clients want e-mail, and 39% want face-to-face, while another quarter (26%) prefer telephone contact.
Not only did the survey find a disconnect between advisers and clients about communication frequencies and methods, but clients are not as satisfied as advisers think they are. Fifty-six percent of advisers said they thought their clients were “very satisfied” with the service they are getting, but less than half (24%) of clients reported feeling that way. On other aspects:
  • 34% of clients were “satisfied” with the service from their adviser (compared to 29% of advisers predicting their clients felt the same);
  • 28% were only “somewhat satisfied” (while only 16% of advisers said so); and
  • 7% of clients said they were not at all satisfied with their advisers (no advisers believed this to be true).
However, about the same about of advisers and clients said the clients were extremely satisfied (9% and 7%, respectively) perhaps suggesting that the top advisers are truly delivering excellent service.
Still, nearly three-quarters (70%) of clients reported they had not been asked how their adviser might improve the relationship, the report said. This suggests that many clients feel disconnected from their advisers, and advisers can work to make their value proposition be that they will pay attention to their clients, the paper suggests.