Building Relationships with Zoom

By now, you’re up to speed on using videoconferencing apps such as Zoom to hold your client meetings. The pandemic and resulting shelter-in-place orders ensured that both advisers and clients quickly learned the technology—not because they wanted to, but because they had to. Clients, who may have resisted adopting the new technology mere months before, have now embraced Zoom as a way to stay in touch with children and grandchildren. Advisers who thought face-to-face meetings were the only way to conduct a client review found that they could still be effective from a distance.

So, what does this mean for you and your practice? In my discussions with advisers about the practice of the future, one trend is clear: people like the convenience and ease of technology, and they want it to continue. While there are many implications for advisers in terms of tailoring their service offerings, there are other potential benefits to using Zoom in a practice to build relationships.

Build Connections

When you use Zoom for client meetings, you’re invited into the home, and that might let you learn things about your clients you didn’t know. Most advisers have never been inside their clients’ homes before, and besides the human interest of seeing what it’s like, you might pick up valuable cues and information. One adviser on a Zoom call noticed a guitar in the corner of his client’s room. The adviser asked about it and learned that the client had always wanted to play the guitar and was taking online lessons. The adviser hadn’t known of this interest but also hoped to learn to play a guitar one day, and their resulting conversation was meaningful not just in information shared, but in bonds formed.

If you don’t see any visual clues to help you get started, ask your clients:

  • Have you picked up any new hobbies or skills lately?
  • How are you filling your extra time?
  • What’s the one activity you miss the most?
  • What will you do first when it’s safe to do so?

The resulting answers might give you ideas for a book to send, an event to hold or an occasion to celebrate.

Meet the Children

If you’ve been hoping to build a more multigenerational practice, now’s the time. Many clients have all their children living at home, under the same roof, for the first time in years. School-age children are learning online without sports or activities to occupy them afterwards; college students are home for an undetermined amount of time; and even many grown children chose to shelter in place back home, rather than stay in their likely smaller apartments.

Ask to be introduced! Let the children see and hear you and make them part of the conversation when appropriate. Ensure that they understand how you’ve helped the family with financial goals and security. Reference what you know about the children in terms of sports and hobbies, so they know you pay attention. You can ask questions like, “I hear your fastball is something to be feared. How have you been training while out of school?” or “How are you conducting your research experiments when you can’t be in the lab?” Better yet, actively seek to engage the next generation. Have a few questions or conversations in mind that could help you, including the following:

  • With interest rates so low, have you thought about buying a house or condo, rather than renting?
  • How do you hope to use your education and training in terms of a career?
  • I understand you will be the executor of your parent’s will. Are there any questions I can answer for you? (You must gain clients’ permission to discuss this first.)

The Long Haul

Rather than looking at Zoom as an interim tool until things “get back to normal,” I suggest rethinking your entire strategy for the technology. By integrating Zoom on an ongoing basis, you might find ways to go deeper with clients than you ever dreamed possible.

Please consult your member firm’s policies regarding videoconferencing applications prior to using Zoom.

Kristine McManus, CRPC®, is chief business development officer, practice management, at Commonwealth Financial Network where she works with affiliated advisers to grow their top line through the introduction of various programs, tools and coaching.