Rules of engagement - client surveys

By Terry Bell, Business Health

Reproduced with permission, first appeared in Business Health, 22 February 2018

Are you getting the most from your client surveys?

According to Business Health’s Future Ready VII report, practices who formally ask for client feedback are considerably more profitable (27%) compared to those who don’t.

Surveys are a very positive, proactive piece of communication in their own right and client feedback properly received will allow you to get a good insight into how your clients are feeling about your practice. For example, are they satisfied with the service they are receiving, for the fees they are paying? It’s always a good thing to be able to answer this question with confidence, but perhaps particularly prudent in the current business environment.

Business Health have been conducting independent client surveys for Financial Advisers for over 15 years. We have learnt through experience and various analyses that there are certain components of the survey process that can help you get the most from your client feedback program:

The rules of engagement…

1. Be prepared to listen to what your clients say and accept it (the hard part!). At the end of the day, their perception is your reality.

2. Respond in a positive way to the feedback. Take action if necessary, based on what your clients tell you. Tell your clients what action you are taking.

3. You should ask only those clients whose feedback you value/will listen to/take action upon. I would encourage you to differentiate the feedback received from your top level clients – ideally, your ‘A class’ clients will be rating you higher.

4. Conduct surveys on a regular basis. Business Health suggests conducting general satisfaction surveys every 18-24 months to allow for time to act on feedback between surveys. You can track results over time if you use a consistent measure. You may also want to factor other ‘event-specific’ surveys into your annual communication program, such as when someone first becomes a client, after a review or seminars, or when a client leaves. In each case, approaching the client within four weeks of the event is ideal.

5. Choose an appropriate format(s). Consider cost (time and money) for your return. An online format is likely to be the most cost effective. Business Health data indicates that 75% of practices are using a written or online survey, 10% conduct a telephone survey, while 3% use focus groups.

6. Independent third party is best. Clients can find it easier to provide objective comment to external experts who are not connected to your practice in any way. Despite this being more costly than conducting a survey yourself, it may generate better quality information.

7. Confidentiality must be assured. Business Health have found that clients are more willing to provide ‘warts and all’ feedback if their confidentiality is assured.

8. Benchmarkable results. An independent third party should be able to provide industry benchmarks – your results can then be compared to peers and competitors in the marketplace. Without benchmarking, it’s difficult to know whether your results are good or industry average.

9. Share feedback with your staff and referral partners. All of whom have a vested interest in satisfied clients. As Business Health has found that only 3 in 10 Australian advisory practices seek feedback from their clients, making the effort to do so can set you apart from many of your competitors1.

10. Share feedback with your clients. You will be demonstrating in a very tangible way that you care about your clients and are committed to providing the services they need.

So, to maximise the rewards for your efforts, give some consideration to leveraging your results and be prepared to listen to the feedback – a little forward planning can go a long a way. Regardless of the results, you are already ahead given many Australian practices don’t seek client feedback. In Business Health’s experience, clients always appreciate being asked.

1. Business Health Future Ready VII report

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