“At our last branch meeting, our manager took us all to the woodshed,” complained Sal, a broker from Houston. It was over “the complaints we were getting from clients about feeling rushed, being put on hold and getting transferred to the wrong person when they call our office.”

“Our manager insisted that every one of us is responsible for establishing and applying a mindset of excellence. And according to him, we had all failed. I'm already answering the phone when my assistant is busy. What else can I do?”

I told Sal, and I'll tell you: The rich today expect everything to be delivered with Ritz-Carlton service and FedEx efficiency.

It starts for every financial-service professional serving the affluent by working with those who assist you in any way to establish and put that principle in place. Here are steps you can take in order to have a positive impact on how your clients view you, your firm and the quality of your service.

Know your branch's receptionist — They're your first line of contact with your clients and, yet, receptionists are often overlooked. Big mistake. Get to know your receptionist, bring her coffee, buy her lunch on occasion and make certain she knows how much you appreciate both the difficult nature of her job and the effort she puts forth. By winning your receptionist over the odds your clients will receive the kind of attention you want them to get when they call will improve dramatically.

Communicate your schedule to the receptionist — You never want a client call bouncing around your branch. If you are going to be out of the office for any extended period, inform the receptionist. This will also help your assistant, who might get tied-up on a call or be pulled away from her desk for some reason.

Establish performance standards with each assistant — Talk about how the standards apply to each contact you and they have with your clients and establish clear standards of performance that both of you agree will get the job done. Discuss those standards weekly until they have become habit. Keep checking to make certain standards are updated as situations and needs change.

Segment your clients — You should have platinum and gold clients. Your platinum clients are those who generate the lion's share of your business. Your gold clients are all the others who are profitable. Just imagine having a strong enough relationship with the branch receptionist and every assistant so that they all know your platinum clients by name, understand each one's unique needs and know the special treatment each is to receive. If you don't do this, someone else will.

Response time — How much time should elapse between when a client calls for you and you return the call? The answer is, it depends. A platinum client should get a return call within two hours; a gold client should be called back by the end of the working day.

Service performance standards among branch offices, wealth management teams and individual advisors will vary. Some do it extremely well, while others muddle through the basics, which is the crux of the problem in keeping affluent customers happy.

They are being lost because of shoddy service. In Sal's case, he split up his clients into platinum and gold categories a year ago. He wants to provide them all to have the best service possible, but he's still struggling to get the job done and he's paid a price for his shortcomings. He has fewer clients and those he has still don't get the service he wants them to have.

None of this is complicated, but Ritz-Carlton service delivered with FedEx efficiency is never an accident. It requires a personal commitment and attention to detail. The better you meet this challenge, the greater your chances of winning and keeping platinum accounts.

Writer's BIO: Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients.
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