Advisor Communication and Empathy in TImes of Crises

By Curtis C. Brown, Jr. Consultant Supernova Consulting

How are you communicating with your clients and prospects during the Covid-19 crisis and the recent market volatility? First, let’s frame the environment that people are experiencing. They are receiving many conflicting messages and don’t quite know who to believe.

This creates an atmosphere of fear and anxiety. The media is certainly reporting on the numbers and statistics of people who are being impacted by this pandemic. No one has all the answers as to how long and when this virus will end. Many people are being driven by fear and anxiety as well as hopelessness.

Walk in the Clients Shoes for a Moment

Let’s peel back the onion and walk in the client’s shoes for a moment.  Many are working or living in isolation right now at home. Gone are dropping the kids off at the neighbors for a mid-week date night with a spouse or significant other. The bridge club has been canceled. Grandma is not going to see the grandkids this weekend. The volunteer work at the non-profit has been put on hold. Dinner and a movie out has been canceled, in favor of staying in to watch Netflix and ordering take - out via DoorDash® or similar service.

Clients get frustrated at the long lines at Costco only to find many empty shelves once they enter. They might have to drive to several stores to find the necessary food items and staples. They see people wearing masks and gloves at the supermarkets. Your outside social life has been put on hold and you use Face time or Duo just to see another face on the other end of the smartphone.  The nearby gym has closed, upsetting the client's regimented workout routine.

A few days in isolation is tolerable, however, days, turn into weeks leaving people very concerned and anxious. They are concerned about love ones who might be living in some of the hot spots around the country. I'm sure you can add to the list of what clients might be experiencing in what has now been termed as the “new normal”.

 Minimize the Pain

So, what are people doing to break the monotony? They are reading books that they have been meaning to get to for quite some time. They are going for walks keeping a distance of at least six feet, looking up on-line recipes and cooking more at home, streaming exercise programs on-demand, getting out and dusting off gym equipment stored in the basement or garage.

Like many of us, I contacted people I haven't spoken to in a while to let them know I care about them and to see how they are doing. People appreciate contact caring and concern. This showing of empathy might seem like common sense. Don't take this form of communication for granted when speaking with your clients and prospects.

Active Listening

During challenging times, when the markets are very volatile and your routines are upended,   communicating with your clients and staff is very critical. Part of this communication involves active listening and showing empathy. Understand where the anxiety is coming from.

Clients are thinking that retirements may have to be delayed, trips may have to be canceled, and major purchases may need to be put on hold. This is when your leadership and understanding rises to the occasion. Your role is to be an active listener, provide a sense of calm and stability, especially in an environment that clients may seemingly feel their dreams, hopes, and aspirations are being taken away. And perhaps you can help them with the daunting task of adapting to the new reality.

We have been through turmoil and crisis before and we have always come through it. It is inspiring to experience the resilience and tenacity of humanity, especially Americans. Most of us will  rise to the occasion and join together in times of turmoil.  We will come through this crisis as well. My faith confirms that there will be a blue sky after the storm!



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