It's very likely that advisors have been fairly spoiled up until now, both in terms of a dearth of real competition and client attrition rates, but both are due to increase in the coming years. While advisors are accustomed to losing just 1% to 2% of their client base each year, that could more than triple, Tibergien predicts. "When we asked clients who had left their advisors in the past five years why they terminated their relationship, they said it was because they didn't believe their advisors could help them with the next phase of their lives-distribution planning." In others words, clients who hired advisors to help them accumulate wealth for retirement didn't know those same advisors could manage their money in retirement. Whose fault is that?

What you communicate to clients, how you deliver the message and how often you "touch" the client is becoming more of an art and science than ever before. Do your clients know what you can do for them as they move through the various stages of their lives? Are they able to articulate the actual value you deliver? Can and will they tell referrals about your services? If not, your communication process has gaps, says David Nelson, president of Strategic Business Management Solutions Inc. in Long Beach, Calif.

Nelson, who was a senior vice president and director of retail training at Raymond James for more than a decade, today finds himself coaching advisors to ask their clients the kinds of questions that lead to the construction of a meaningful client service experience. "You have to be able to anticipate what clients will need down the road. How do you do that? Ask them, 'How do you see your future? Will you be spending your days knitting grandkids booties or traveling the world? Are you still intent on launching that boutique? How many grandkids do you want to put through college? What's new? What's shifted?'" Nelson says.

Clients' goals aren't static or stationary. Staying abreast of changing needs and wants is a fundamental of delivering pertinent client service, Nelson adds. Sometimes, finding out about a pending divorce or major shift in financial needs or plans may be as simple as saying: "These were your plans last time we met. Has anything changed since then that I should know about?"

Some firms, such as The Biondo Group in Milford, Pa., which manages some $435 million for approximately 400 private wealth clients and a growing number of institutional investors and fund shareholders, like to get creative when it comes to client communication. The firm has four relationship managers on staff whose job is to call clients and ask: "'Are we doing everything we need to be doing for you?'" says Joe Biondo Jr. "We also ask if there is any product or service we don't have. What we hear most is that they would like to be contacted more."

Basically, says Biondo, the number one service he believes clients want advisors to deliver-above and beyond performance-is trust. Research from Moss Adams bears that out. Investors reported that the most important facet of their advisor relationship is that their "advisor is trustworthy," the firm's 2006 Advisor Impact survey found.

The Biondo Group launched the "Ask Us" section in their monthly client newsletter in 2006 and the staff is delighted with the overwhelming response, as well as the feedback they're get from their 12-client advisory board, which meets for regular dinners with firm principles and staff. The firm also holds annual spa and golf outings for clients and a bi-annual seminar at a nearby resort where they discuss business over lunch and then set families loose to play golf, tennis or swim.

"When you go through rough market periods, which inevitably happens, people don't stick around because they're happy with performance. They stick around because they continue to feel important," Biondo says, once again channeling Moss Adams findings.

"When we ask clients, 'Why do you stay with advisors?' they tell us, 'Because their staff makes us feel important,'" Tibergien says.

Having great staff, especially staff that operates as a team, will become even more critical in the days ahead, says ClientWISE's Director of Coaching Services Liz Manibay. "I coach teams all the time and the problem is often that their roles are not defined, they don't have weekly team meetings, they don't have vision and strategy sessions and they don't have common goals," Manibay says. "When we turn that around, the increase in energy and client service grows exponentially."