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First impressions count: How new clients prefer to initiate contact

We asked almost 900 people to share their preferences when first contacting an adviser, uncovering valuable insight to help you build their trust

As advisers, you truly appreciate the importance of getting to know your customers. It’s a regulatory requirement for starters, outlined under the Financial Conduct Authority’s COB rules section 5.2. 

But aside from keeping the watchdog happy, understanding a customer’s specific wants and needs enables you to provide the most suitable advice - putting you in the best position to secure and retain their business. 

Unquestionably the most crucial part of this process is the first contact. The success of the initial interaction determines whether the customer becomes a valuable addition to your client bank. 

We acknowledge this is far from a one-way street; not every client who reaches out is right for your firm, regardless of how financially lucrative the opportunity may be. Indeed, both parties are weighing up whether the other presents a good fit for them.  

Before committing to a financial review, which involves the sharing of personal and often intimate information, prospective clients want to feel confident that you have their best interests at heart. They need to trust both you as an individual, and the advice that you deliver. 

What’s more, the rise and devasting impact of investment scams means people are more nervous than ever about discussing their personal finances with people they’ve never met. 


The research 

As the market-leading platform for connecting consumers with financial professionals, we wanted to find out more about customer expectations during the early exchanges. 

To that end, we put some questions to more than 900 people, uncovering crucial insight on how customers prefer to make contact with you – and perhaps most importantly, why. 

This should give you the best possible chance of ensuring prospective clients feel at ease when first interacting with your services. 

Let’s share what we found. 


Question: ‘How would you prefer to be contacted by an adviser for the first time?’ 

The results here showed that more than half (61%) prospective clients prefer to the ones instigating contact, while 37% want you to get in touch with them. 

The reasons here can be broadly categorised in three ways. 

  • The first is control. Being afforded the carte blanche to kick off the conversation puts the customer in the driving seat, enabling them to make sure they are fully prepared and not caught off guard. 

  • The second reason is to ease concerns about spamming and cold-calling, something we’re sure you will empathise with. Some customers shared reluctance to answer calls from unknown numbers. 

  • The final motivation is trust, intrinsically-linked to the one above. One respondent said that contacting the adviser first makes sure “that I'm talking to the person I wish to talk to and not a scammer.” 


Question: ‘Unbiased is now looking for a suitable adviser. Once you've been matched, how would you like to proceed?’ 

  • The most popular choice here was to email you with just under half (44%) favouring this option. Users indicated a desire to control their communication with you. Many stated that they are busy during working hours, and wanted to get in touch at a time that’s convenient for them. Others, meanwhile, wanted to do their due diligence on your firm before engaging. 


  • Around a quarter (24%) want your phone number so they can call you at a time convenient to them. Clearly, speaking on the phone isn’t feasible for everyone. Accessibility and discomfort were flagged as two sticking points for phone meetings. Those with hearing impairments experience obvious problems, while others experience anxiety and subsequently to communicate in writing. 


  • Some 15%, however, prefer you to make the first move. The main reasons given were that it was deemed “quicker” and “easier.” Just over one in 10 (11%) stated a preference to select a specific time for you to call. 

Some responses did indeed uncover some overlap. But as stated higher up, the importance of being in control was evident throughout the research. For instance, the those who prefer to choose a time for you to call them sits neatly between those who wish to initiate contact and others who want you to contact them. It puts the consumer in control over when they will be called, but still lets you initiate the actual phone call.  


What can you take from this? 

We understand that it’s natural to contact a lead shortly after accepting to strike while the iron is still hot. However, as our consumer research shows, the call may come at an inconvenient time for the prospective client. This could be because they’re in work meetings, busy looking after their children, or away on holiday. 

To give the best chance of progressing the initial contact to a first meeting, we recommend following up your first contact with an email, accompanied by a link to select an appropriate time slot in your calendar. 

It’s also worth remembering that every client is different; what works for one may not work for another. For a smooth initial interaction, communication should be tailored to their specific needs and expectations. 

In conclusion, ensuring that the individual customer is interacting with you in the way they feel most comfortable will put you in pole position to secure their business. 


About the author
Craig Rickman
Craig Rickman is senior content writer at unbiased.co.uk. He has been writing about personal finance and wealth management since 2016, including four years as a journalist at the Financial Times Group. Prior to this, Craig spent eight years working as a regulated financial adviser. He holds the CII level 4 Diploma in Financial Planning.

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