Tips to boost your communication skills

by Kathleen Payne29 May 2013

A survey of 500 advice clients has shown that communication is rated as the most important quality of a trusted adviser.

In the Association of Financial Advisers (AFA’s) The Trusted Adviser white paper released earlier this week, 82% of advice clients picked ‘interpersonal skills’ as their adviser’s most important quality. This includes communication, building rapport, caring about clients, understanding needs, listening and empathy.

The Beddoes Institute’s Dr Rebecca Sheils said, “Academic qualifications and technical proficiency on their own will never be enough to build sustainable relationships with clients. The Trusted Adviser demonstrates that the way an adviser interacts with the client and the development of a relationship with them are more influential in developing trust.”

Within the scope of interpersonal skills, good communication skills were highlighted as the most important factor for clients, followed by building rapport. The AFA used client comments and experience from authors of the white paper to come up with a list of ways advisers can improve their communication:

  • Explain the process upfront so there are no surprises.
  • Keep clients informed of any changes every step of the way.
  • Use simple and clear language, especially when communicating technical matters. Drop the jargon!
  • Use diagrams and other visuals to illustrate what you are explaining.
  • Be thorough in providing answers to questions and information.
  • Give the reasoning and context, not just conclusions and recommendations.
  • Don’t avoid ‘tough’ conversations – tell the hard truth even if the client will not like it.
  • Be patient with clients and spend as much time as necessary explaining things until you are confident the client understands.
  • Ask the client to paraphrase what you have said to ensure they understand.

“When clients feel they have a trusted relationship with their advisers, their satisfaction levels are higher, they are more willing to pay fees and their financial outcomes are likely to be better,” says AFA CEO Brad Fox.

Interpersonal skills were rated about professional reputation (19%), quality information and advice (17%), service (15%), knowledge (11%) and technical skills (4%).