4 Tips for Managing Client Expectations

Being a successful financial planner requires in-depth knowledge of investing, retirement planning, and budgeting. You need to know how to help your clients manage their portfolios and develop savings plans that align with their retirement goals. But that’s not the only management task you have — you also need to manage your clients’ expectations.

Managing client expectations might sound simple, but it can be a challenge. Oftentimes, clients come to us with preconceived notions about financial planning or misunderstandings about what to expect when they work with you. And if you don’t take the time to sort through those misconceptions and establish realistic expectations, you may have a hard time working with your clients long-term.

So before you start working on a client’s investment portfolio or retirement plan, take some time to set expectations. Then, keep managing them as you move forward. Here are four ways to help set and maintain your clients’ expectations.

Expectation management tip #1: Understand your client’s knowledge base

Before you can let your client know what to expect from you, you need to understand where they’re coming from. The history and knowledge base that different clients have can vary significantly. 

Some people seek out a financial planner because they have very little knowledge of personal financial management. And others may come to you because they just want an expert to weigh in on the complex investment plan they’ve already researched and implemented. Once you know where your client is coming from, you can meet them there and get to work.

Don’t make any assumptions about what your clients know or don’t know. Ideally, ask them open-ended questions so you can use their answers to gauge their level of knowledge and confidence about their finances. Then, you help them understand how you can augment their knowledge and what they can expect from you.

Expectation management tip #2: Know their sources

Once you’ve determined what your clients know, the next step is to understand where that knowledge comes from. What influences their financial thinking and priorities? 

Are they dedicated to a debt-free mindset? Are they passionate about investing in up-and-coming technologies? Do they subscribe to a more “traditional” view of retirement planning and investing, or are they more about making the most of their resources right now?

There are countless sources of financial planning information, especially on the internet. Understanding what type of content your client consumes and values can help you figure out what approach to take to them. 

And it can also help you figure out if you’re a good fit to work with them. For example, if your approach is more about flexibility and using all available resources (including loans) to reach financial goals, you might not mesh well with a client looking for support to go debt-free.

Once you know where your client is getting their information, you can help them understand where you agree, where you differ, and how those details may affect your working relationship.

Expectation management tip #3: Proactively communicate

Once you’ve set those initial expectations, you need to manage them as you continue working with your clients. And ongoing communication is a crucial part of doing that.

For example, when big things happen in the market, don’t just wait for your clients to ask questions at your next meeting. Instead, communicate with them right away. Send out an email covering the latest market trend and how it may (or may not) impact their financial plans. 

It might feel like over communicating, but there’s really no such thing when it comes to financial planning. When you proactively connect with your clients, you get to drive their understanding of the market and how it affects them. You don’t have to just react in the moment, you can prepare them for what may occur and help them see how you’ve protected their finances to handle market instability.

Expectation management tip #4: Never stop educating

Finally, keep your clients informed on as many aspects of financial planning as possible. The more you educate them, the more you’ll know about their knowledge base, which helps you prepare for meetings and conversations. 

It’s easy to just provide information and educational resources about things that align with your client’s current plan. But consider educating them on all options — even the ones they aren’t currently utilizing. That way, you can help them understand all the ways you can approach their financial plans while keeping a realistic perspective on their knowledge base.

Set yourself and your clients up for success

Misunderstandings start with unrealistic expectations, but you can minimize potential issues right away by setting expectations with your clients. As you continue to work with them, reinforce those expectations via proactive communication and education. It’s all about setting the stage for honest, productive conversations.

What more information about interacting with clients and setting up your practice for success? That’s what happens inside Amplified Planning. This online educational space features hands-on projects, access to recordings of real-life client meetings, and the chance to earn CFP® Board experience hours or continuing education credits. Subscriptions start at just $30/month. Find out more and join today!