Ten months after the coronavirus provoked global stay-at-home orders, most financial advisers haven’t returned to the office yet. Various media reports and statistics indicate that we are likely to see the percentage of people who permanently work from home, to double. This is also according to Enterprise Technology Research (ETR) which surveyed 1200 chief information officers from around the world, 48% of whom reported improved productivity since introducing remote work. The takeout? Work from home (WFH) is here to stay and it could be good for business. Now’s the time for intermediaries to embrace the new normal and find clever ways to interact with clients.
For the intermediary, seeing clients face-to-face used to be standard practice. The pandemic has catalysed new ways of working, calling for a creative restructuring to prompt productivity and efficient client service, according to Gert Bezuidenhout, Regional Executive at Sanlam.
Bezuidenhout further explains that it is important to realise the reality and the impact that the remote working situation has on intermediaries and their clients. He highlights seven important considerations for an intermediary setting up a productive work from home strategy.
1. Create a conducive environment
It is important to create a professional environment that offers the correct infrastructure and privacy needed for concentration and communication with clients. Consider using a neutral digital background or generic office wallpaper scene when calling clients. As an intermediary, you also need to always look professional regardless of whether you are only communicating on a digital platform.
2. Manage your time
To ensure a balanced work-life regime, time management is of the essence. One cannot afford to have an out of sync work-life balance as this could lead to burn-out. Intermediaries need to set clear service level agreements (SLAs) with clients regarding specific deliverable, and unique rules of engagement so that expectations are met, and boundaries are set.
3. Focus on the output
Get into a habit of creating specific goals for the day. Prioritise tasks according to urgency and importance, with a focus on fuelling the economic engine. This will ensure that you focus on getting done what you have set out to achieve for the day, whilst simultaneously securing sustainable cashflow. Many people can work effectively from home, but they are not necessarily more efficient. Management reporting can drive efficiency. To be efficient you need to focus on output, whilst measuring contracted performance indicators.
4. Enhance your professional approach
The competitiveness in the market demands that intermediaries consistently work on their client relationships, especially in the current isolated environment. Keep building a strong personal brand that outlines a clear value proposition.
5. Stay connected
Right now, it is crucial to stay top of mind. That means having a presence in people’s lives through regular communication that adds value and reassurance. This also applies to intermediaries and their product providers. Ensure the correct infrastructure and technologies are in place to uphold and enhance existing systems and processes to secure efficient communication.
6. Ensure non-verbal communication stays intact when possible
Emotional connections are easier to make through face-to-face consultations, so ensure that you enable the camera in online engagements with clients to connect on an emotional level.
7. Upskill yourself
Bezuidenhout acknowledges that a long-term work from home situation requires a different set of skills from intermediaries as well. Intermediaries are encouraged to upskill themselves in terms of project management, improving their communication skills and learning the various digital tools to make communication with clients an easy process. Although digital tools can make us do more in a shorter time, it can also create chaos if we cannot manage multiple tasks simultaneously. Project management skills linked to a proper workflow process will be crucial in the new environment.
He concludes, “As intermediaries, it’s important to remember that most of your clients are in the same work from home situation. Creating a productive work from home strategy will not only benefit you and your employer, it will also benefit your client, who will be receiving consistent, improved service. This will strengthen relationships during a time when clients are seeking reassurance.”