Why do clients really leave you? It may not be what you think

When a client is upset with you…when your spouse is angry at you…when your teenager is ranting about some way you’ve wronged her again… it very often is not what it appears to be. Yet, in our attempt to minimize conflict, we immediately react to the outburst and attempt to fix the problem they describe. But often, the outburst is just the surface wound, there is much more beneath the surface that needs to be tended to first if we ever expect to properly repair the problem.

People get upset. We are not perfect, and sometimes our emotions take hold. These are facts of life.

But what I have learned from analyzing specific negative interactions between financial advisors and their clients is that a lot of the time, if not most of the time, when a client gets irrationally upset, the problem isn’t really the problem they are reacting to. It’s the series of things that lead up to it (it is the same with your spouse, by the way).

In one ugly situation, a top client of a financial advisor called the office incredibly angry that he wasn’t invited to an event held the night before featuring a money manager. The client was yelling, wanting to know why everyone else he knew had been invited (it was apparently the morning conversation at the diner he frequents for breakfast). The client insisted that this firm was losing his trust and confidence. How could they not have invited him?!? Then he uttered the unthinkable, “I am taking my investments elsewhere!” And he did. Over an invitation snafu?

After an exit survey, it was discovered that the week before, he called about a question he had with his portfolio and no one called him back. And 2 weeks prior to that he called to say that he had a question about a statement he received and someone called him back, but did not know the answer. And the month before that he was in the office for a review of his accounts and the advisor did not even stop in to see him – a junior advisor handled his account review. He thought he was a valued client but every interaction was telling him otherwise.

So the real issue was NOT the event invitation. It was the series of confidence breakers that lead up to that incident. If someone is acting irrationally, there is often an underlying reason that really isn’t so irrational. And, understanding and committing to solving the real issue can actually be more powerful than doing things right all the time. So consider taking advantage of the fact that we’re not perfect, and look beyond the issue at hand.


Maribeth Kuzmeski, MBA President of Red Zone Marketing Maribeth is the President of the consulting firm, Red Zone Marketing. Maribeth and her firm consult with entrepreneurs on strategic business development, communication strategy and messaging. Maribeth is the author of 4 books including, "Red Zone Marketing: A Playbook for Winning All The Business You Want," has frequently appeared on TV and radio, and has written articles on marketing strategies for hundreds of publications. She regularly...

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