Are you getting the most from your client surveys?

Practices who formally ask for feedback from their clients are considerably more profitable than those who don’t. According to our latest findings (Future Ready VII report), practices who seek client feedback have a 27% higher level of profitability when 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 – 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.

We (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. For general satisfaction surveys, I’d suggest that you look to conduct them every 18 to 24 months. This will give you time to act on the feedback between surveys. Results can be tracked over time providing you use a consistent measure. There are also a number of other ‘event specific’ surveys you may want to factor into your annual communication program ie. when someone first becomes a client, after you’ve held a key event such as a review, seminar or function or when a client leaves. In each case I suggest you reach out within 4 weeks of the event itself.

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. Our data reveals, 75% of practices are using a written or online survey, while 10% conduct a telephone survey and 3% use focus groups.

6. Independent third party is best. Utilising external experts who are not connected to your practice any way, makes it easier for clients to provide objective comment. And while this may cost a few more dollars than conducting your own survey, the potential return is significantly higher.

7. Confidentiality must be assured. It’s our experience 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. If results are not benchmarked against other practices – how do you know if your results are good or industry average? Results can be tracked over time when using a consistent measure.

9. Share feedback with your staff and referral partners. All of whom have a vested interest in satisfied clients. Given the fact that only 3 in 10 Australian advisory practices actually seek feedback from their clients, the very fact that you do, will set you apart from the majority of your competitors.

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. And remember… regardless of the results you are already ahead, 66% of Australian practices don’t seek feedback from their clients and in our experience – clients always appreciate being asked.

For your consideration.

Terry Bell

Business Health

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