Traditionally, financial planning meetings were held in person, which created intimacy, but limited an advisor’s clientele to those who could physically get to their office. Advancements in technology allowed some advisors to increase their virtual communication, but almost all advisors found themselves operating in a virtual environment at some point during the pandemic. For many advisors, this created a flux in meeting culture – while some advisors found that they preferred the availability, ease of use, and non-geographic constraints, there are still many advisors and clients that prefer to meet in person. Deciding which meeting format (in-person, virtual, or hybrid) to implement has recently become one of the more challenging aspects for advisors in developing the client experience.
In our 77th episode of Kitces & Carl, Michael Kitces and client communication expert Carl Richards discuss how the emergence of remote culture has changed the conversation about how advisors approach meetings, and the benefits and limitations of different meeting mediums.
As a starting point, it’s important to identify how each meeting format impacts communication between the advisor and client. Advisors will often work with clients that share similarities, such as age group, interests, socioeconomic status, and communication styles. Understanding these similarities can clarify which meeting style can be utilized best. For example, younger clients are more accustomed to working remotely and may be a better fit for advisors who meet virtually.
In-person meetings can provide clarity for advisors and clients in judging whether a relationship is a good fit, as it is much easier to interpret trust, emotions, or body language and can make having difficult discussions more comfortable. Virtual meetings can increase the distribution of information and allow for more flexibility and frequency in meeting times and locations, especially as the advisor-client relationship matures. The hybrid method blends meeting styles and offers benefits such as the ability to meet asynchronously, but can also add additional progress tracking and may limit advisor or client responsiveness.
Ultimately, the key point is the right decision for which meeting format to implement is up to the advisor. When designing a great client experience, instinctually, client preferences are put first. But in this case, advisors can benefit from prioritizing and internalizing their meeting preferences to develop more trust, confidence, and better expectations. After deciding the best meeting format for them (just as advisors define their niche or specialization), advisors can develop a client experience and attract clientele by being upfront, honest and clear with clients about the meeting methods utilized. Overall, the benefit of choosing a meeting format is to increase efficacy and efficiency in communication, creating a better, more meaningful experience for advisors and their clients!