10 Tips for Distinctive Client Service

Distinctive client service separates you from everyone else who talks about professionalism but doesn’t deliver on it.

You can use these 10 tips from a recognized, distinctive financial professional. They are relevant for any service professional, from consulting to sales.

Every financial adviser talks about client service.  You may even state that client service is one of your “top priorities.” You may even have a poster on your wall or mission statement that emphasizes how much you value client service.

I say, “So what?”

Clients don’t care about posters or mission statements. Your clients and prospects want to know what makes you distinctive.

So be distinctive!  For example, one of my coaching clients, Mary, is very successful.  In fact, she was just recognized by her clients for the excellent service she provides.  Though it seems to come naturally to her, Mary was asked to prepare some comments on how she creates amazing client service for a panel presentation in Hilton Head, S.C.

Hundreds of financial professionals aspiring to her level of success listened for nuggets that they could apply to their businesses to gain an edge over their competitors.  Here’s the list Mary presented at the meeting.

Perhaps her tips—and my commentary on them—can help you develop a new level of distinction in your client service.

1.    Create a professional environment. Start by taking an objective look at your work environment. Over 90% of effective communication is nonverbal.

  • Listen to the unspoken message. What is your environment saying to others? There are experts in office design and feng shui. Most of those experts provide a free consultation.
  • Let surroundings reflect your values. You need to create the environment that reflects your values. If you want a yellow room with sofas and cold drinks that promotes small talk and building relationships, invest in that room. If you want leather wing-back chairs and a flat-screen television showing MSNBC that promotes quick decision making, invest in that room. Physical spaces make a tremendous impact on people.

2. Go the extra mile. Meeting distinctive standards of appearance may include investing in some cosmetic improvements, like having your teeth polished, getting laser eye surgery, or even having cosmetic surgery. Do whatever it takes to look your absolute best.

  • Get strong. If you convey robust strength through your physical presence, you will gain trust. Yes, it’s true: people buy more from those who are more physically attractive.
  • Be healthy and robust. Improve your physical appearance by eating well, sleeping well, and exercising regularly. If you’re lucky, your parents or grandparents taught you what to do. If not, invest in a personal trainer or wellness center. Read any bestseller by Dr. Andrew Weil. Our bodies are organisms in natural decay. What can you do to improve your physical health and appearance?

3.    Demonstrate professional behavior. All effective businesspeople have the basics of the professional demeanor down. They know how to:

  • Lean forward
  • Use good eye contact
  • Take selective notes

If you lack those skills, hire a business coach or accountability partner. You can learn from them. To become distinctive, you may need to practice additional behaviors.

The most important behavior is to become comfortable with silence. What do I mean by that? You need to shut up and listen! God gave us two ears and one mouth to use in at least that proportion. Practice being Quakerly. I worked in Quaker environments for nine years. It took me that long to become comfortable with silence. One of my coaching clients, who speaks too often, recently went to a Quaker meeting as a homework assignment. You might want to try the experience, too. There is something magical about shared silence. It can build relationships and lead to sales.

For instance, in your business, just after you state your fees for services, you need to become silent. Just after you state your recommendation for that fund, you need to become silent.

Why? Because the next person to speak becomes the buyer!

If you fill the silence with awkward comments, or a feature or benefit dump, you will lose the sale. As soon as you become comfortable with silence, the prospect will speak and invest. I call this a Quaker close.

Here are some more familiar client service tips:

2. Maintain a professional appearance.  All professionals need to perpetuate a professional image. That is a given. I want to push you beyond business suits and well-groomed hair. Those are minimal standards of appearance.

3.   Deliver more than what you promise.  Make sure that you return all calls within the day.  Be early for meetings.

4.    Gain knowledge: Read, read, read! Because you are reading this article, I know that you want to learn. There is plenty of great reading material online.  Find great websites.  (FYI I am a contributing author at Horsesmouth.) If you spend time staring at a television screen, you could be spending better time staring at a laptop screen. If you are working within a company like Mary, it can provide a list of great books on investing and product knowledge. Set a reading goal. Mary reads two books a month on average and keeps three open at a time. Be an active reader.  She takes notes and writes book reviews and sends them to her clients. Reading should be interactive, not passive!  Go public with your opinions. Add your review to Amazon or any online bookstore. Include your contact information so that people know how distinctive you are. Share your favorites. Buy dozens of your favorite inspirational books and give them to your clients

5.    Gain knowledge by interacting with others. One reason for seminars and conferences is to force people to interact. In fact, your most valuable seminar time may be those transition moments in lobbies, elevators, and meals. Engage others as if they were prospects, by asking about their business success. A great opener may be, “I am focused on making my client service distinctive. What do you do that is distinctive?” People buy chutzpah. We all have chutzpah. When you share chutzpah, people will be attracted to you. For instance, Mary is an introvert, and practicing chutzpah is difficult for her. She makes calls from a private place. She closes her office door, and her assistant does not interrupt her. Sometimes she sits under her table because, she says, “It feels safe there.” When she engages someone on the phone, she stands up and walks around her office. At other times she hangs from a pull-up bar in her office, using her headset, because it gives her energy over the phone. You can become that person with the light in their eyes who is actively listening to someone.

6.    Share your knowledge. Mary used to follow the old advice “Fake it till you make it.” Now when she encounters a question she’s not sure about, she says, “I don’t know the answer to that question, but I will get back to you ASAP.” Then she finds the expert who can answer the question, thus expanding her own expertise and encouraging her clients’ trust.

7.    Treat others as if they were family. If you have older clients or prospects, take care of them as if they were your parents. If you have clients or prospects who are younger than you, look out for them as if they were your children or cousins. Respect trumps all obstacles.

8.    State your investment recommendation clearly. Mary used to provide multiple choices, background information on fund managers, and hypothetical spreadsheets. No more. People became confused. They hesitated. Now, Mary directs people to the fund that best suits their needs, and explains, “This is the best fund for you because…”

9.    Write articles for local readers. In Mary’s town, everyone reads the local paper, and she submits articles to it regularly. She uses articles straight from compliance and includes her headshot to be published alongside the piece. These informative articles always lead to warm prospects who say, “I’ve seen you somewhere before.”10.    Host birthday lunches. Among her many marketing tactics, Mary hosts bimonthly birthday lunches at a nice restaurant. Clients need to RSVP and are invited to bring guests who must also RSVP. Her clients love the attention. Not only do these events build the ties that bind, but they also generate both referrals and review meetings. For Mary, these pleasant get-togethers are fun—and productive.

The bottom line?  You can become distinctive by examining how you serve others, writing down your service values, and acting on them.

Mary has a list of her top five values on a dry-erase board in her office. She looks at it several times each day. It’s more than a reminder; it’s an affirmation. She tells all her clients and prospects, “Nobody provides better service than me,” and then she lives up to that claim daily. She cultivates relationships with accountants and attorneys. You can too.

Do it with chutzpah!

And when you need help, contact us at or call 704.895.6479.

5 proven High-Impact Zero Injury Safety Techniques

In some business sectors there is mystery about what works.  Consider medical research.  Consider financial projections.

There is little mystery in the safety profession.  You may work in insurance, preparing audits or claims.  You may work in construction, manufacturing, or production.  These 5 proven techniques can help your work team.

Consider this slide from a recent CII study:

The Relative Importance of 5 Safety Techniques.

Now ask at least the following:

1.  How well is your work team doing each of these 5 proven techniques?

2.  What technique do you need to increase?

3.  How can you do so?

Unlike medical research or financial projections, these are 5 proven steps that you can implement TODAY.  So, what is preventing you from implementing them?

If you need help from Action Learning Associates, Inc please call us at 704.895.6479 TODAY.  There is no reason to wait.

How Co-worker Relationships determine Safety

There are many approaches to safety, depending upon your training or job title or perspective.  Some are listed below.

But before looking at this data, answer this question:  How powerful are your co-workers?

We know that peers influence us.  Look at Fantasy Football.  Look at gambling behavior.  Look at rumors.  Look at your children…

Which leads to the question:  are co-workers more powerful than, say, management commitment or situational awareness?  The short answer is yes.

Consider this slide from a recent CII study:



What are your conclusions?

I notice the following:

1.  The higher the correlation coefficient (the more red), the more important the safety climate factor.  Co-worker relationships has a red highlight (more than 0.7 correlation coefficient.  As any statistics student knows, o.5 is considered statistically significant.)  Co-worker relationships are a higher factor than ANY of the other factors.

2.  Few project sites provide coaching and training that modifies co-worker behaviors.  Over time.  Those senior leaders are “missing the boat.”

3.  Some smart companies are investing in changing leader behavior.  For instance, Shaw Power Group has hired Action Learning Associates  to work at a construction site with 33+ safety professionals.  That team is defining co-worker relationships at the frontline with supervisors and foreman.  And the result is profound on their key performance metrics.

Your company can modify leader behavior by focusing on co-worker relationships.  We can help you do so.  Call us at 704.895.6479.

What are you waiting for?

Coaching without assessments is as smart as…

…is as smart as eating pasta without a fork.  You can get something done.  But it’s messy.

Assessments define coaching success for several reasons.  At an organizational level, we define patterns, norms, needs, oddities.  At an individual level, we determine job fit, strengths, career path, succession, potential value.

Recently I met a consultant (with an undergraduate degree from Harvard College) who stated, “I don’t need to use assessments in my work.”  I discarded his opinion.  Rubbish.

We always use assessments.  The data is invaluable for coaching and consulting.

How about you?

Reason #9. Why I care about safety.

Reason #9.  Rock climbing.

I love to lead climb.

In my 20s I spent several months rock climbing the best cliffs in the United States.  For 3 months I lived in a car with several friends, and we travelled to Boulder, CO and Devils Tower, WY.  We ate granola.  And macaroni and cheese.  While studying guidebooks.  Or talking with lanky climbers from all over the world.

Boulder Canyon and Eldorado Canyons were meccas for serious climbers.  As a lead climber, my partner and I started on the bottom and climbed all day, until we summited on a ledge.  Then we rappelled back down, or hiked down.  Every afternoon the thunderstorms terrified us.  Every climb had terrifying sections.  At Devils Tower we did overhanging aid climbs that required swinging traverses.  Just like James Bond on the Eiger in Switzerland.  We learned to mitigate risks.

When moving on vertical rock, you have 4 potential points of contact.  If two feet and one hand are enough, then you can move the other hand.  Climbers learn to distribute weight evenly.  To select resting places.  To control energy exertion.  To keep your hands below your heart to reduce fatigue.  To ignore fear.

After days or weeks, your hands develop callouses.  After many first ascents, your confidence increases.  So you try something harder.

And then you fall.

My most terrifying fall was about 40′ late one afternoon.  I had felt invincible.  Then the crack thinned out.  I could not find any placement.  My legs shook.  I could not climb back down.  And my last piece of protection (climbing hardware) was about 20′ below me.  Because I had felt so confident… I had climbed higher than I should have.

I recall pausing.  There was a choice.  And I chose to fall.  I still recall that instant, some 30+ years later.

So I tumbled 20′ to the climbing hardware, then another 20′ below that, until my partner saved my life.  We were hundreds of feet above the canyon floor.

That instant of choice reminds me that we can choose to be safe, or not.

Just like adults on a job site.  Or adults sorting through career choices.  Or adults considering a risky move.

What are some reasons why you care about safety?