A staff member’s departure from your team can be sad, good, messy, and downright awkward. What exactly do you have the bakery write on the cake? “Goodbye”?” “Good Luck”? “Good Riddance”? Depending on the circumstance, there are a lot of emotions and ripple effects, especially if the employee who is moving on is someone who works directly with your clients. No matter what led up to the departure, giving your clients some extra TLC is crucial to limiting any fallout and potential loss of accounts. The good news? You can manage the transition period after someone leaves your team in a way that makes your clients happier than ever and more confident in your firm.
Put a Plan In Place
Don’t wait until an employee leaves your firm to create a plan. Staff changes inevitably shake things up, but having a process in place can minimize fallout and confusion for your clients and the rest of your team, along with keeping any bumps from jostling your client relationships. Are your junior colleagues being trained, encouraged, and given adequate opportunities so that they can step up when needed? Are they getting any face-time with the clients so that they can begin to establish relationships and cross-train? Are client details stored in an individual employee’s head, or are they logged with your firm’s CRM? Are there any pain points for the client that haven’t been resolved yet? Conducting regular client satisfaction surveys and reassessing goals, needs, and progress can be a great way to keep tabs on the big picture. Collect information about your clients beyond the numbers so that your client relationships can adapt just as smoothly as your team roster.
Give a Heads Up
The only surprise should be the farewell party you throw for your employee. Some circumstances prevent advanced notice, but you should communicate with your clients well ahead of time whenever possible. Manage expectations by communicating who will handle their accounts moving forward. Letting your clients know what they can expect moving forward helps provide them with the reassurance that there’s a plan in place, that they won’t be neglected in the process, and that you value the relationship you have with them. You don’t want them to feel hung out to dry, and you especially don’t want to provide any opportunity for client poaching.
Stick to the Script
Unless the employee is being promoted within your company to a position that requires they no longer work with this client or he or she is transitioning out of the financial planning industry for positive reasons, you should not provide details. If you do want to share information that doesn’t create a conflict of interest, make sure you check with your employee first to verify what they’re comfortable sharing (“So and so is leaving our firm because she’s starting a family/he’s pursuing a passion project!” etc.).
Don’t Leave Them Hanging
Give 110% of your efforts to mitigating your client’s uneasiness. Pair the news of your employee’s departure with an affirmation of your commitment to their needs, who will be taking over their account, why you believe the employee stepping into that role will be a perfect fit for them, what you’re doing to ease the transition, and who to contact if they have any questions. Show that you’ve anticipated their needs and gone above and beyond to take care of everything. Going the extra mile here can help remind them that they’re always going to be more than a number to you and that you’ve got their back; in fact, you understand their needs so well that you handpicked someone to meet their needs moving forward. If they were on the fence about staying with your firm, this is a great opportunity to get them back on board.
Meet and Greet
Don’t include the team member who will take over their account on the same call that you break the news; you don’t want them to feel like a transition is happening before they have time to process the news. Do make introductions as early as possible after informing them of your team member’s departure so they don’t feel left in the lurch (and do let them know when that meeting will be during your initial conversation about the change). Whenever possible, overlap services between the employee who is currently interacting with them and whoever will fill that role moving forward to help create a seamless transfer. Don’t get hung up on additional labor costs. Client retention is well worth it!
Check In Often
Nothing kills a relationship like the silent treatment! Give your clients an extra attentive ear. Send regular emails and make calls to ask how they feel about the services they’re receiving if their needs are being met, and if they have any new concerns. You may even consider meeting with them outside of the office. Choosing a neutral or less “formal” setting like lunch or a coffee shop can help them feel more comfortable sharing openly with you and shows just how much you care about their needs.
Turn Those Lemons into Lemonade
We get it; when an employee announces their plans to leave, it can feel like your clients are immediately a high flight risk. But staff transitions are a pretty normal part of business, and with the right strategy, they can be used to make your client relationships stronger than they were to begin with. Want more tips for strengthening client relationships and helping your communication land? Download our checklist on how to ease a staff transition, and get savvy with us!