As the executor of my father's estate, I have been dealing with the two investment firms at which he had accounts. The companies' names are household words, but let's call them Firm A and Firm B. I will tell you about their written and spoken communication with me. I invite you to decide how well they are doing.
Firm A. When I called Firm A to let them know my father had died, the individual I spoke with expressed her condolences. She told me I would have to fill out a few forms and said she would email them to me. In just a couple of minutes, her email arrived in my inbox. Below are parts of her message. I have changed the identifying information, but all punctuation (or lack of it) is hers.
Sorry to hear of the passing of your dad… attached is the paperwork we will need to title the trust with you as successor trustee
U are the fiduciary we will need ur social and your date of birth sign at the bottom of the page
The CRA for individual is for your new account, brian will be in touch to set up an appointment with the next steps
Profile Information for your new account
Any questions please call.
Senior Customer Associate
A minute later I got a second email from "Martha." Her subject line, which was the entire message, read:
we will also need a copy of the death cert
When I wrote to thank Martha for the forms and her promptness, she responded:
Ur welcome. Any questions at all just give me a call
Four of the five forms that Firm A sent me were PDFs that needed to be printed and completed by hand.
With everything going on in my life, I did not fill out the forms promptly. Six weeks later Firm A called me to see if I needed help. I will call them back tomorrow. Their offices close at 5 p.m. Eastern Time. I am on Pacific Time.
Firm B. When I called Firm B to let them know my father had died, I was asked several questions to determine that I was who I said I was. Once the person I spoke with was satisfied with my answers, I was transferred to another individual, "Katie."
Katie expressed her condolences and said she would be my individual representative throughout the "transition." She put me on hold while she searched for my father's death certificate online; when she came back, she said it was available in public records, so I did not need to send it to her. Katie said she would email forms to me to complete. She stayed on the phone while she emailed me, and she asked me to open the email and see if I had any questions before we hung up.
Katie's email was completely automated. The subject line was "The Firm B Information You Requested." The body of the message said:
Dear Lynn Gaertner-Johnston,
Thank you for your recent inquiry. Select the link(s) below to access the information you requested.
The three links led me to three online forms that I could fill out at my computer and print. Katie briefly told me about each one. The forms seemed straightforward, so I ended the phone call. I did have a couple of questions later that day, so I phoned Katie. She called me back within 15 minutes and answered them.
A few days later, I received a handwritten note by U.S. mail from Katie:
Dear Lynn Gaertner-Johnston,
I would like to extend my condolences to you and your family at this time of sorrow.
Firm B Transition Team
I had some delays getting the information Firm B needed, so I did not send in the paperwork right away. Within a week, Katie phoned me to ask if she could do anything to help. She is available until 8 p.m. Eastern Time.
What's your impression? You are now up to date in "The Case of Two Investment Firms." How well do you think Firm A and Firm B are communicating? How would you feel if you were in my shoes?
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