Dictaphones are for advisers what hammers are for builders…

In the 2011 world of advice there is, amazingly, still a major disconnect between what we initially say is the value we add we later articulate as the value we have added.

Thanks probably to Financial Services Reform legislation introduced over 10 years ago, we know everything about our client’s financial situation. Aware of ever-present file audits and compliance checks from dealer groups and institutions managing their own risk exposure, our client files are full of appropriate FSR detail.

But 99% of them lack the key needed in any client conversation concerning the ‘value’ of our work. Most ‘value’ conversations focus on the details in ‘what’ we have done, rather than details regarding ‘why’ we have done our work.

The keys at the core of every ‘value’ conversation are the outcomes sought by our clients in their own words (i.e. not in your paraphrasing of what you thought you heard!).

It’s amazing how much we analyse every word our politicians utter, or are moved by the words recited by our filmstars, or mull over the words used by our family or friends yet we don’t think twice about capturing exactly the words used by our clients particularly when they are sharing the reasons why they are engaging us.

Our industry had adopted as default “what we thought we heard”.

Because our note-taking skills are never good enough, our memories are already full and our attention spans can’t process all the data spinning around in our client meetings, the ‘what we thought we heard’ isn’t good enough when the client is telling us exactly why they are engaging us. (Thankfully our judicial system doesn’t operate on a similar default i.e. making judgements on what they thought they heard).

Enter the dictaphone.

I predict that the dictaphone in the future generation of advisers will be as commonplace as a hammer is to a builder.

Having worked with hundreds of advisory firms helping them implement the use of dictaphones as a core tool to their annual client meetings, the obvious barrier to entry is between the ears of the adviser.

Advisers, it seems, just aren’t comfortable introducing the fact that we are going to record our client conversations.


Because they haven’t done it before (i.e. it’s something different) and because advisers believe their clients won’t open up if conversations are being recorded.

Recordings help me a number of ways:

  • they allow advisers to focus more on the conversation and less on the note-taking – as Doug Carter would say – “being more present”;
  • they capture the detail words surrounding the clients hopes, ambitions, desires, outcomes, objectives that are crucial if your firm is to ‘add the value’ being sought using the words that mean something to the client;
  • stored electronically with other client information, they greatly help to remind us and our advisory team months, years later, what exactly the client has said;
  • they enable the firm to review, and audit what was said between client and adviser, how it was said in order to improve the firm’s engagement process;
  • they enable others who were not present (our client support people, other advisers) in the meeting to review, understand and be more aware of the issues, objectives in the client’s world;
  • they are a comprehensive compliance record of what occurred in client meetings;
  • when recordings are transcribed they become crucial training elements helping the firm better serve, better engage and more consistently deliver greater advice.

Obviously you inform your client you are recording, that you are doing it to enable you to focus on them rather than your notes (you still can take notes), and that it will only be used internally within the firm and kept confidential as all your client data will be.

Recording all advice conversations helps remove the “myth” that great advisers are born not built.

By being able to analyse, review, and better understand the words used by our clients (and the words used by us as advisers) in our meetings only enables us to better serve our clients and achieve the outcomes important to them as expressed in their own words.

What do you think?

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