The thing our businesses do every day that ruins our reputations (and what to do about it)

Working with, and having contact with, many financial advisers and their practices each week, I started noticing an alarming trend. Then I started noticing the exact same trend with businesses in completely unrelated industries as well. I became very aware of this and the impact it has on my perception of these businesses and even the people working there. Then I thought, if this is my experience and my perceptions, how many other people, clients, prospective clients, vendors, suppliers and others experience the same when engaging with these and other businesses? And especially my own business.

No one is home

Just for a minute, be a client, prospective client, supplier or vendor that deals with your business.

You have a problem or you need feedback or you are following up on a specific issue. Or a promise was made to you, but it was not delivered on and no one informed you that he or she would not be able to fulfill the promise and what to expect now.

You call, they do not answer. You email, they do not respond. You send a Whatsapp message, they do not reply. And I am not just talking about one phone call, one email, one Whatsapp message. No. I am talking about numerous attempts. Always being polite. Always courteous. Always empathetic. Always understanding. Yet, no response.

After a while, you start getting images in your mind of you knocking on someone’s door, when you know they are home, but they do not open the door. The more you knock, the more they ignore you. By ignoring you, they hope that you will believe they are not home and that you will leave and come back another time.

The emotions that ensue

The first time, no particular emotion is felt. Maybe not the second time either. But by the third time, one cannot help to start feeling emotions such as frustration, distrust, disappointment, anger, sadness and other similar emotions.

One has to understand:

  • What drives these emotions; and
  • What is causing these emotions.

What are we thinking

Interestingly, it is not the acts of not answering, responding or replying. It is actually the thoughts we have, that drives or creates the emotions we feel. No pun intended, but think about… The emotions mentioned above can be a result of the following thoughts:

  • They are avoiding me
  • They are lying to me
  • They do not want to help me
  • What other thoughts can you think of?

What we believe

It is also important to understand what is driving our thoughts. Why do we think in a particular way? Is it possible to change what we think?

The number one thing that drives or influences our thoughts, is what we believe about a particular person, scenario, event or case. Referring back to our possible thoughts in the previous section, beliefs that can lead to those emotions:

  • No one cares
  • No one can be trusted
  • No one has the guts to face “the music”
  • Everyone just worries about themselves and what they want

Our beliefs are mostly formed through past experiences. If what happens to us forms our beliefs, is it at all possible to change these beliefs? Well, yes it is!

The result

Simply a person who does not trust us anymore and that will either:

  • Stop supporting us
  • Tell others not to do business with us
  • Never become a client of us
  • Does not want to offer services to us

All of this, because they believe something specific (and we reinforced those beliefs by not responding), they think that we are just like all the others (thanks to their reinforced beliefs), they feel let down, sad, angry and who knows what else (thanks to thinking that we are just like all the others) and then they act. And then we wonder why they “over-react” like that or why someone is rude or why they cannot see things from our point of view. Or why they leave our business altogether.

What we can do about it

Before I get into what we can do, let’s first answer the question of how we can change our beliefs. It is actually very easy.

If we want to change our own beliefs, then information is the key to doing so. The more we know, the more we can consider. Having new information we never had before, can easily change what we believe about something. Or someone.

Reality though is that very few people are actively looking for information with the purpose of changing their belief about something. They are rather looking for information that will reinforce what they already believe. Because who likes to be wrong? So if that is the case, what can we do to influence others’ beliefs? Again, easy.

Feedback. Provide feedback.

Feedback is information provided to (or pushed to) another person or business. This information has the power to change what they believe about us and our businesses. When we do that, they think differently about us and they have feelings of trust, happiness, belonging, etc. They then act very differently, even when things do go wrong. And they will.

But how?

Communication is the glue of every relationship we are a part of in this life.

If we want to win over new clients, keep new ones, create a client base that do marketing for us,work with the best suppliers and vendors and to stand out in the very busy marketplace, then we must:

  • Be responsive when someone contacts us – in other words listen, understand and respond as quickly as possible;
  • Consistently provide feedback throughout the process – even when you have no feedback;
  • When we cannot keep a promise, advise the client immediately and inform them what corrective action we are taking to sort the matter urgently and keep them in the loop;
  • Say “thank you” and “please”;
  • Confirm when you received an enquiry, complaint, instruction, etc;
  • Start off all communications with the person’s name, e.g. “Hi Chris” or “Dear Chris” or “Chris,” etc. – YES, even when replying for the n-th time to the same email conversation;
  • Write in plain language and take care of spelling and grammar;
  • Include your full signature / name / contact details at the end;


  • Francois du Toit, CFP®

    Francois du Toit, CFP® holds a B. Com degree in Risk Management as well as the Post-Graduate Diploma in Financial Planning. He is an avid miniature figure painter with a passion for helping others succeed and for professionalising the Financial Services Industry. He holds the certification of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® or CFP® in good standing with the Financial Planning Institute of Southern Africa as well as being a registered Tax Practitioner with them and SARS. Francois offers a unique and powerful proposition to businesses employing Financial Advisers and Broker Consultants that leads to significant improvement in production and reduced advice risk. His practical experience, success, technical knowledge and understanding the challenges and opportunities in this field, ensure immediate practical application in the target market. Francois has designed and created very successful online courses for the Financial Planning Institute and has trained hundreds of financial planners, advisers and other trainers for among others Old Mutual, PPS, Liberty, Iress and atWork. His ability to answer questions that relate to practical on-the-ground issues is what sets him apart from traditional trainers who may not have been in practice.

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