In Redtail’s September 2019 AdvisorComms Survey of over 3,200 wealth management professionals we found that “nearly 87% of respondents think their clients would like to communicate with them via text, but 29% have a ‘no client texting’ policy within their office. Further, nearly 41% of respondents have not been approved by their BD for texting with their clients.”
Of course much has changed in our world since September of last year. While correlation does not always imply causation, we’ve certainly seen an uptick in Redtail Speak adoption since many in the country began working from home in March. But, regardless of whether the primary reason more advisors are now adopting texting as a means for client communication is that they are working from home due to the pandemic or whether the pandemic simply hastened their adoption when they’d already planned to incorporate texting, it’s never a bad idea for advisors and their staff to brush up on things they should and should not be doing when communicating with clients via this channel. Note: much of the below from Dusty Russell, one of Redtail’s Relationship Managers, was published previously by InvestmentNews in July of 2019.
Compliance dos and don’ts
The recent Risk Alert from the SEC “to remind advisers of their obligations when their personnel use electronic messaging” also “encourages advisers to review their risks, practices, policies, and procedures . . . and to consider any improvements . . . that would help them comply with their regulatory requirements.” Texting with clients is always subject to compliance, so:
- Use an SEC and FINRA-compliant texting platform to communicate with your clients. Redtail Speak is an option here if your compliance department has approved it for you to use.
- Control the environment and lead by example. Keep it primarily business-related in this communications channel and refrain from sending or replying to messages inappropriate for the medium.
- Assume your staff isn’t texting clients so you have nothing to worry about. This won’t protect your firm if they are and FINRA comes calling. Similarly, don’t rely on a no-texting policy to protect you, as FINRA does not consider that a defense either.
- Make recommendations via text. Otherwise, you are potentially setting yourself up for suitability claims. Save those conversations for channels where your recommendations can be explained in depth, with context, and documented fully.
Use channel-appropriate etiquette and understand the medium
Texting has its own set of generally accepted norms. Be aware of these and make sure you practice them so you don’t create a bad impression.
- Reply as promptly as possible. Texting with clients works because it allows for an almost immediate response time. Give your clients the same level of attention by being available when they text. Texts can be forgotten if we don’t answer them quickly.
- Be careful when using internet or texting abbreviations and acronyms – not everyone stays up-to-date on all of these. “LOL” may be dictionary-worthy at this point, but once you move beyond those abbreviations with everyday widespread usage, you risk alienating your recipient by sending them a message they simply don’t understand.
- Know your audience. Emojis are fun and can be used to clarify tone of a potentially ambiguous word or phrase, but they aren’t for everyone. Use where appropriate but aim for clarity with your words rather than relying on emojis to convey your meaning.
- Think outside the box, be creative with texts (birthday and anniversary greetings, invitations to social events you are hosting and/or attending, etc.). Texting shouldn’t be limited to appointment confirmations and reminders.
- Proof your messages prior to sending (for content and recipient). It only takes a second and can prevent much embarrassment.
- Shout – turn the ALL CAPS off.
- Text anything that’s too complex for the medium. You can, however, alert your recipient via text that you have emailed or physically mailed something of this nature, so they can be on the lookout for it.
- Deliver bad news via text. You should never allow anyone in your office to use texting as a distancing tool for bad news. Set up a meeting or a phone call for those situations.
- Text at the wrong times. Avoid dinner hours, overnight, holidays, etc. In this regard, texting is like telephoning – so don’t text someone when you wouldn’t appreciate being disturbed yourself. Also, keep the client’s time zone in mind. A little common sense and courtesy should be your guide here.
Keep it simple for your clients
Compliance concerns are, of course, paramount when adding texting to your communications mix. And, having a good grasp of texting etiquette should be a requirement for all of your staff members prior to launching your texting platform.
But, with those considerations in hand, an overarching consideration on your texting “Do List” must be to make it easy on your clients. In fact, make it seamless. They shouldn’t have to use anything other than their default texting app for text conversations with you. Platform fatigue is a real thing for many people, and you should never expect your clients to adopt a new platform to perform a task they are already quite comfortable with on an existing platform.
Bearing all of the above in mind, you should be able to pick between the compliant texting platforms now available, meet your clients’ desire to text with you where appropriate, and ease your concerns (compliance and otherwise) in regard to texting as a viable means of client communication. And, if you are already a Redtail CRM user, Redtail Speak is a great option, as your text messages through Speak are archived to contact records within the CRM and viewable at any time.