Advisor Vacations: Planning for Your Absence

March 28, 2019

How do you take time off and still run your business? You plan ahead.

My wife and I made a conscious decision years ago that instead of lots of toys as gifts, we would try to create experiences for our kids. They will probably never remember a specific present from their youth, but I guarantee they will remember the places we’ve been and the things we’ve done as a family.

As you read this, we are off on another trip (spring break). As I was organizing the travel, I thought about how advisors can be an integral part of their clients’ experiences, but as importantly, that advisors should be having their own experiences, too. We all need/deserve time off – but how do you do it and still run your business? And what kind of client experience remains when you are out of the office?

When you are gone

If you think about the worst-case scenario when you are out of the office, it is scary. Phones ringing off the hook, critical functions botched or completely missed, and clients thinking you might not come back. Some advisors don’t have administrative support, which means they can’t possibly take time off, while others limit the amount their staff can do so they maintain “complete control.”

More common is that your business is so key-person-dependent that any vacation you do take is filled with non-stop operational tasks and client calls.

But what if you took as much time to plan your time out of the office as you did planning the actual trip?

Some processes and procedures have to be in place, so your mind can be at peace. In no particular order:

  • Workflows: I don’t mean a travelling checklist or an office operations manual.  I mean workflows built into the CRM, so everyone knows what tasks are to be completed, by whom and when. Workflows are the ultimate in client experience, as your office knows what to do and there are no dropped balls. Clients are comforted when everything goes right the first time. Integrated workflows also provide a summary and report of activity for when you get back.
  • Messaging: The messaging in your out-of-office response email, as well as a more official communication to your clients, is a great opportunity to connect and ensure confidence. If you have segmented your clients correctly by using a persona or other type of segmentation exercise, you know exactly who needs a call or note explaining your absence and what to do if they need anything while you’re gone. Start by being proactive with your larger clients and the ones who need the most handholding, but make sure your out-of-office note is as complete as possible.
  • Office communication: Decide early and communicate with your staff on if/when you will talk with them regarding any issues that may arise. Whether you call in every day, every other day or every three days (or longer) is up to you (and what you think your staff can handle), but the important thing is that you have a schedule and that your staff feels confident so they can relay that confidence to the clients.
  • Promote when you are back: No one begrudges a hard-working advisor a vacation, but what if your clients got an email, saying “I’m back, rested and ready” and maybe a follow-up line “I have read a few books and have new ideas on how we can service you better. I look forward to our next meeting.” The fact that you took a vacation is now seen as a positive and a fresh mind and spirit adds to your clients’ confidence in you.

Most times, when I think about advisory practices, I try to put myself in the shoes of your client. I want to understand their experience and share what they may be thinking. Trusting that the work will get done (workflows), knowing that the advisor is going to be out (messaging) but he/she is still in touch albeit briefly (office communication) are all confidence builders for me. A positive message on your return only adds to that confidence that I made the right choice in advisors.

We continuously need to build a better client service model, but we also have to be true to our own families and take some time off. Putting thought into planning for the vacation, rather than just planning the vacation itself, does both.

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