ActiFi’s Martha Blenkush partnered with Raef Lee of SEI to publish a blog post that outlines a strategy for using surveys to improve the way you engage your clients.
When we ask advisors about their experience with client satisfaction surveys, some advisors say they do them periodically. Other advisors tell us that they ask a general question about “how things are going” in annual review meetings. But most advisors say their clients tell them they are happy and things are going well. We know that’s great to hear, but we don’t think that’s the whole story. And furthermore, there’s no concrete information that an advisor can use to take action.
At ActiFi, we believe an effective client survey can do more than simply gather feedback on the service you provide; it can help you improve client engagement and drive growth. We’ve conducted thousands of client feedback programs for financial advisors and we know how to help you unlock client value in the following ways:
- Identify specific clients at risk, so you can contact them and address their concerns
- Assess satisfaction on key aspects of the services you provide
- Understand what is most important to your clients
- Uncover client expectations about meetings and educational opportunities
- Identify additional revenue and service opportunities related to specific clients, including opportunities to increase share of wallet and cross-sell other services, based specifically on client interests and needs
- Target individual clients who are willing to provide referrals
- Demonstrate your commitment to your clients
The effectiveness of your survey depends on two things: the questions you ask and what you do with the results.
What (and how) to ask
Here are some tips and insights to help you use client input to affect real and positive change in your business.
- Set the stage. Help your clients understand the importance of the survey, not only to your business, but to your ability to meet their needs. Let your clients know ahead of time that the survey is coming. Build your case and encourage your clients to take an active role in the relationship.
- Ask questions on a range of topics. Ask questions in the following categories when structuring your survey: satisfaction, expectations, communication, opportunities and profile. These categories will allow you to structure, measure or refine a meaningful client experience and uncover additional opportunities among existing clients.
- Keep it short. An effective survey should take no more than 5-10 minutes for a client to complete, which is roughly equal to 20 questions. You can consider a shorter survey to increase response rate; however, you should balance that against the quality and depth of the information that you gather.
- Dig deep. It’s not only important to understand how clients rate you on specific aspects of service, but also the value they place on those things. By asking about both, you can prioritize your effort, focusing only on improving those things that are most important to your clients.
- Ask actionable questions. It’s important to generate feedback on aspects of the practice that are within your control. For every question that you include, ask yourself a simple question: How will I change my behavior, or my business, in response to the answers to this question?
- Include an open-ended question. Include a final question that asks clients how you can improve the business. It allows them to compliment or criticize, with fewer restrictions than the other questions.
- Make the client’s name optional. While it’s frustrating to get specific suggestions from a client whose name is not included, making the name optional will increase your response rate and encourage clients to respond more honestly. If you’re doing the survey yourself, rather than outsourcing to a third party like ActiFi, this won’t be an option.
What to do with the results
The most important component of an effective client feedback program is the follow-up. Asking for feedback and not following up is often worse than not asking for feedback at all.
- Once your survey is completed, create an action plan with detailed tasks, assigned responsibilities and deadlines.
- As soon as the survey is completed, send a follow-up communication right away to all your clients – thank them for participating, and letting them know you’re looking forward to talking with them about the results.
- Over the next six months, discuss the survey results with each client. Create a plan that helps guide the discussion about the survey results. Let your clients know what you learned from their feedback. Give survey-adverse clients a chance to provide feedback, and create space for additional feedback from clients who did participate. Discuss specific responses with those clients who gave their names. Speak to the overall results with everyone else. Remember that you don’t know if a client didn’t take the survey, or did take it but chose to remain anonymous.
Whether they took the survey or not, your clients are watching to see what you do with what you learned. A well-designed and effectively managed survey project has the power to deepen your relationships with your clients and transform your business. See what you can learn when you ask the right questions!
Martha Blenkush is vice president of client delivery at Actifi. Her professional experience includes marketing, career coaching, communications, public speaking, event planning and financial analysis. She works with individual advisors and institutional partners at ActiFi, helping to define strategic goals, formulate plans and tasks to accomplish those goals, then seeing them through to completion.