As technological advances bring forth unprecedented heights of innovation, we are at risk of losing our ability to excel at a simple, yet profoundly important, task: interpersonal communication. It could cost us, personally and professionally.
There are countless examples in our day-to-day lives where technology designed to improve and enhance our experience is robbing us of its richness and purpose. At a family reunion last month I watched in amusement as my nieces and nephews fought over who got to sit next to my two-year-old son, Hayden, at lunch. I felt a twinge of sadness just moments later as all six of them buried their faces in their various smartphones and game systems, leaving my son bored with no one to speak to or play with. After a few minutes of being ignored, he crawled under the table and climbed into my father's lap.
There's an elementary analogy to draw here, but don't let its simplicity fool you. It's often the simplest things that are overlooked because people assume they are beyond such basic fundamentals. That said, the analogy is this: it's not enough to say you treasure your clients and prospects, clamor to secure their business and, once you have it, let technology do the talking. Sure, the technology is nice to have - Hayden was more than happy to take a turn on the iPad when he got a chance, but it's not enough.
The true adviser knows this. And I saw a real understanding of the need for balance between the ideals of technological advancement and meaningful communication in the impressive pool of applicants for the 2012 Adviser of the Year awards. From proprietary software programs to YouTube channels, firms that found success through innovative technology also had records of impeccable customer communication - 24-hour support lines, one-on-one union negotiations, and much more.
Greg Golub, our Employee Benefit Adviser of the Year, and the team members at his San Mateo, Calif. brokerage Sequoia are a shining example of the magic that happens when technology and communication come together (p. 28). Golub developed a groundbreaking smartphone app that incorporates all of a plan member's health information. But giving employees access to all the information they could need at their fingertips hasn't altered his dedicated approach to stellar customer service. His mantra is "coming through for people - no matter what," which means as many as eight team members are assigned to each client's account so they can always reach a human being when needed. The resulting growth Sequoia experienced in 2012 speaks for itself: 135 new corporate clients and 50 new retirement plans.
"We probably could have grown faster if we weren't as focused on the clients," says Golub. "But that's what makes me happy. People that come through for people in the end are happy."
Good quote. I think I'll Tweet it.
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