In an ideal world, new technologies would cut financial advisors’ operating expenses and free up staff to spend more time servicing clients and prospecting for new business. At the same time, technology has the potential to improve the overall client experience. With that in mind, many advisors focus on big projects, such as customer relationship management technology or online account services. Yet, in some cases, little details can make a big difference in enhancing customer services and streamlining operations.
Technology that includes online calendars and web-based appointment services is just one example. Traditionally, customers have had to call their advisors to propose meeting times with hopes that the advisor will have the proposed times available.
Inevitably, advisors will have to propose other appointment times and the pattern is repeated until a mutually acceptable time is identified. In a worst-case scenario, harried office workers may not listen to clients and propose times that clients have already said are not acceptable.
Web-based services are now making that process obsolete and helping advisors enhance their image. For example, advisors can tap off-the-shelf products that allow clients to view available appointment times and then schedule meetings.
In some instances, advisors can specify certain days or times for conducting specific tasks, such as providing portfolio updates, meeting with clients, or conducting staff meetings.
The online calendars typically require individuals to specify if they are new clients seeking consultations or existing clients. Individuals may also be asked to provide their contact information and to specify what topics they may want to discuss.
The calendars then send the prospects or clients reminder emails or even text messages and send similar alerts to advisors. The emails may also include links so that prospects or clients can cancel meetings.
Some calendar services can be imbedded in Facebook pages and are capable of being synched with Microsoft Outlook or iPhones. Some of the calendars can also tie into email management programs such as MailChimp and Constant Contact and some offer live chat options.
By encouraging clients to take a self-serve approach to scheduling appointments, employees at financial planning firms no longer have to handle the function, which allows advisors and their assistants to work on more important projects.
The technology also simplifies appointment scheduling for clients. And, for some clients who have limited opportunities for making telephone calls during the day, the appointment systems can be highly popular.
Foothills Financial Planning, with offices in Scottsdale and Phoenix, has an online scheduling webpage. It has three broad options:
Get Acquainted Meetings, which includes a no-cost initial consultation
Quarterly Review Meetings, which are for existing investment management customers
Financial Checkup Meetings, which are for existing clients seeking a checkup
After clicking on one of the options, users can specify an office location and then view available times. The service then asks users to complete a form with contact information and topics of interest. Foothills offers the service with technology from bookeo.
Fees for the technology can vary depending on options and the number of employees at a firm that need to schedule appointments. Bookeo, for example, charges $39.95 a month for firms with 20 employees and charges no set-up fee.
It also offers other pricing options for larger firms. Another vendor, Acuity Scheduling, charges $34 a month for firms with up to 36 staff or locations. Other vendors include Schedule Once, Timetrade, and Timebird.