March 27, 2023

The Why and How Behind a Financial Planning Service Calendar

Written By Charesse Spiller

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A service calendar can help you to solve these issues and create a scalable model that allows you to serve your clients exceptionally well, while also creating clarity around your offering, and a united set of brand values for your team as you continue to grow.

Please note: This blog was originally written for the Journal of Financial Planning.

Many financial planning firms go years – decades, even – without a service calendar in place. This is true for a number of reasons. Advisors all serve their clientele in their own unique way, and firms don’t take the time to iron out their processes as they scale. Unfortunately, without a service calendar in place, problems inevitably arise:

  • An advisory team without a single service calendar may work inconsistently, and different clients will receive a different experience depending on who they work with. 

  • Advisors may start to over-service clients, causing capacity issues and reducing productivity and profitability. 

  • Operations staff won’t know how to support you or your advice team, putting everyone in a position where they’re reacting to client requests – not proactively serving them well.

A service calendar can help you to solve these issues and create a scalable model that allows you to serve your clients exceptionally well, while also creating clarity around your offering, and a united set of brand values for your team as you continue to grow.

Getting Started

To build a unique client service calendar for your firm, you need to define two things:

  1. What you do. Start by clearly outlining how you serve your clients. List out the services that are included in each tier level of service. 

  2. Who you serve. Write out who your ideal clients are – and, if they’re two different avatars, who your current clients are, as well. 

Your service calendar combines these two things by detailing how you give your ideal clients the services you promised them when they initially onboarded. From the time someone schedules a call with you on your website all the way through when new clients onboard and begin an ongoing relationship with your firm, your offering should be consistent. A solid service calendar helps you ensure you’re executing services in a way that benefits your ideal client type in a consistent way.

Adding In Your Service Style

Once you’ve outlined what you do (your service model) and who you serve (your ideal client type), you can dig into how you approach service delivery. For example, you might implement The Kinder Institute’s Life Planning model for retirees, or maybe you prefer modular planning for young couples who are growing their families and careers. 

Knowing who you serve can also help you to define the level of involvement you have with your clients. For example, if you do life planning for retirees, you may offer a more done-for-you investment management and financial planning approach because they’re ready to fully hand off their financial lives to a professional. 

At this point, you can also go through your tech stack to evaluate what technology tools you’re using to implement services, and select an annual calendar template to build out your service calendar. 

Creating Your Calendar

The easiest way to build your client service calendar is to start with your most intensive tier of service. For most advisors, this will be some combination of investment management and an ongoing financial planning relationship. Because this level of service is the most involved for your team, you can create a robust service calendar that represents every possible service option for your clients. 

Then, when building out a service calendar for less-intensive service offerings, you can simply remove the parts of your calendar that don’t fit that tier of service. This is a scalable way to build service calendars for every tier of service your firm offers!

If you’re a firm that doesn’t have standard service tiers (think: one time plans, wealth/investment management, or comprehensive clients who receive both financial planning and investment management services), you might take a client segmentation approach. These firms build service calendars based on client level (gold, silver, platinum, etc.). The planning approach is the same, but the calendar may have more involved check-in’s or meetings as the levels of service increase.

Meetings

Often the easiest place to start filling in your service calendar is by defining your meetings. Typically, advisors meet with clients in one of a few ways:

  1. Tri-annual meeting schedule. Example: January, May, September or February, June, October.

  2. Quarterly meeting cycles. These are relatively self explanatory! Advisors meet with clients at the top of each quarter.

  3. Semi-annual meetings. Often, advisors will meet in early spring, then again in fall for semi-annual meetings. This allows for time off around the holidays, and still offers a year-end check in. 

  4. Annual meetings. Advisors with annual meetings may schedule all of their clients in one “surge” season (over the course of a month or a quarter), or they might split their book of business across all 12 months of the year.

Keep in mind that client meetings should be scheduled 4-6 weeks in advance of the ideal meeting date to allow time for your team to create a meeting agenda, gather data, and complete planning tasks. Clients can either meet according to a surge meeting cycle, or they can be assigned a meeting schedule as they are onboard. 

Planning & Operation Tasks

Your next step is to fill in planning tasks based on your ideal client’s needs. You might start with the basics for your most robust service offering – portfolio rebalancing, reporting, reviewing year-end tax savings opportunities, or charitable giving. If you work with a specific niche, these planning tasks may shift. For example, working with families who have college-bound students may mean you spend time in the spring helping clients review financial aid awards to make college decisions by May 1st. 

It’s also important to map out when you want to help your clients by coordinating with other professionals. If you know you work with your clients’ CPAs every tax season, helping them to gather their data proactively before crunch time can ensure their financial life continues to run smoothly.

You may also have recurring operations tasks that need to be completed. Invoicing and reporting are two examples of recurring tasks that can be scheduled as part of your calendar.

Scalable Touch Points

As your business grows, having one-on-one meetings with every client consistently may not be feasible. Having one-to-many touch points in place as part of your service calendar can help combat this and allow you to grow while nurturing client relationships. Newsletters, technology reminders, client events, webinars, and automated reporting all fall into this category.

Adding in “Wow” Factors

Finally, once you’ve fully developed your service calendar from a planning and operation standpoint, you can start to pepper in “wow” factors that set you apart from your competitors. This might be something as simple as sending a personalized birthday gift, or a note celebrating a client’s retirement. Having systems in place to automate “wow” factors as much as possible can help you to make these “extras” part of your process, ensuring a consistent client experience across the board.

Where Does Your Team Fit In?

With all of your planning and operations tasks mapped out for your services, you can determine what team members fit in where. Assigning tasks to team members ahead of time creates role clarity and allows for your team to operate efficiently (while pulling the firm owner out of some day-to-day tasks that no longer make sense). You can also decide what tasks need to be kept in house (client meetings, onboarding), and what you want to delegate to external contractors (paraplanning, implementation partners, automated technology). 

Next Steps

Advisors often ask me:

I’ve made my service calendar – what do I do with it now?

Your service calendar is for internal purposes to guide both you and your team as you grow. Use it for training, and reference it often as you start to execute the calendar items. You can input important metrics into your CRM, and track tasks in a project management software. You can also make a plan to tackle items in your calendar on a monthly or quarterly basis, whichever feels right to you.  

If you feel like you’re stepping away from your tried and true processes, you can also use your service calendar as guard rails that keep you on the right road. A service calendar can remind you of what works – what doesn’t – and avoid over (or under) servicing new clients.

Want a calendar to show your clients or prospects? You can create a boiled-down version that allows them to only see the highlights of your service activities. 

Ready to start building a service calendar of your own? Sign up for FinOps Coop today and join the conversation! We’re having intensives specifically designed to help advisor and operations professionals build service calendars that work for their business.

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