Client Service Associates make a big difference to an advisor’s business. Have great ones, and everything you want to delegate in terms of administrative functions and client care is off your plate. That leaves you able to focus on building relationships with existing clients and Centers Of Influence, and gathering new assets.
But there are plenty of advisors who don’t have stellar CSAs. I’ve gotten an earful over the years about why they’re not superstars. The thing I hear most is that it’s the CSAs’ fault. But I wonder.
When a CSA is hired, the advisor throws them in the deep end and hopes they can swim, perhaps after some cursory training from “the firm.” When the CSA is gasping for air and making mistakes—ranging from misdemeanors (misplacing files) to felonies (misplacing decimal points on trades) – the blame gets pointed right at the hapless CSA. “They’re just stupid” is often the financial advisor's conclusion.
They’re not stupid. They’re under-trained. The reason they’re under-trained is that most FAs lack a simple process to onboard them. Training, if it can be called that, often consists of having the new CSA shadow another CSA (who’s already stretched to the max) and do “on the job” training with the advisor, handling things as they come when there’s a “teachable moment.”
This is not a good way to learn, because it’s unfocused and haphazard.
One team I work with has had this CSA problem for a long time. But today we hammered out a the beginnings of a process that is going to improve their CSAs’ performance and give the team the time to develop their business. The cornerstone of the process is to make the onboarding of a CSA a focused training regimen. Dedicate one hour a week to it as a single task, not part of a multitask. Components of the training could look like this:
Introduction to Our Business: origins, history, values, client base – all the things that make your team or practice unique.
Organization/Prioritization: The basics of opening accounts, understanding the different typical account types and using the appropriate forms and systems.
Movement of Money: wiring in/out, ACH, etc.
Client Service: After you’ve done a few weeks of nuts and bolts systems work, it’s time to explain your client service approach. More than just your client service model derived from your segmentation, this module is about how you can offer often-mentioned Ritz-Carlton service. In fact, if there’s a Ritz-Carlton near you, I suggest you get in touch with the GM and see if you can wrangle a back-of-the-house tour, and then have lunch there with your CSA.
Client Reporting/Meeting Prep: How to get a financial advisor properly prepared for client presentations and meetings.
Client Problem Resolution Using Firm Resources: How to solve the most common problems without involving the FA by using other available resources – in other words, how to be resourceful.
Quality Control: Have the CSA keep a running tab on all the mistakes they make in the first 60 days, large and small. Of course you’ll be dealing with issues as they happen, but an analysis and discussion of common errors will help you come up with failsafe solutions.
Your CSA Onboarding Process may vary from this approach. We encourage sharing of what you’ve found works and what does not. Please share this with others and express your thoughts on how to make CSAs superstars.