Regularly collecting feedback from clients can save advisors both time and money, help resolve problems before they get out of hand, save time and improve client service. Yet, most advisors avoid the client feedback exercise for years on end. No one likes getting negative feedback, but taking the time to solicit opinions from clients can help a firm do more of what works and improve the services they offer.

We recommend that advisors collect client feedback once per year at the very least. Following tax time when the schedule has calmed down may be the perfect time. There are a few mechanisms for getting feedback. The gold standard for both qualitative and quantitative feedback is a Client Advisory Board. An easier and often more palatable option is a Client Survey. We’ll review both types below.

Client Advisory Boards

These focus groups meet at a regular cadence, ideally quarterly, to discuss what is going right and what could be improved in the firm. Each client advisory board should consist of clients who are most representative of the ideal client you’re trying to get more of. It’s best practice to not invite spouses to serve on the same board during the same year, since they likely share similar experiences. Typical meetings last anywhere from one hour to a full day.

Most advisors’ first objection to creating a client advisory board is that they feel uncomfortable asking so much of their clients. This is a valid concern, however we find that folks enjoy having their opinion asked and are happy to contribute to help the firm serve them better. And because many clients are retired from professions where their input was valued, many miss the opportunity to contribute their insight during retirement.

Advisors shouldn’t be shy asking clients to volunteer on their advisory board. At best, they’re providing feedback that will allow the advisor to tailor their service to the client’s needs in the future; at worst, they’ll likely get a free lunch.

We suggest hosting the first meeting of the client advisory board over lunch at a local country club or the private room of a restaurant. A 60- to 90-minute discussion over lunch provides plenty of actionable feedback. The advisor should be sure to record audio from the session or have an assistant take diligent notes.

Key discussion points to include are:

Would you recommend our firm to a friend? Why or why not?
Do we meet your expectations?
Do we return phone calls and emails on time?
What is the most valuable thing we bring to the table?
Which client events do you enjoy the most?

Advisors should be ready to address any concerns or problems that come up and take the time to follow up with a plan for how they will implement the feedback to improve their practice.

Client Surveys

If advisors aren’t ready to face a group of clients dissecting their firm’s service over lunch, there is a less overwhelming option. To get started incorporating client feedback into a practice, we recommend advisors begin with an annual client survey. Surveys have some advantages over advisory boards, such as being less expensive and confidential, so they are more likely to receive open and honest opinions. The format also allows questions to pertain to the financial needs and goals of clients, which could be less comfortable within a group setting.

At FMG Suite, we are big fans of the tool Survey Monkey, which allows advisors to create surveys up to 10 questions and get up to 100 responses for free. It’s easy to build a survey and share the link by email and social media.

Helpful questions to include in your client survey are:

How would you rate the overall service you receive from our firm?
Is the frequency of our portfolio review meetings adequate?
What are your most pressing financial concerns?
What can we do to better serve you and your family?

Advisors should be sure to include both multiple choice and free form answer choices so that clients can express their opinions and concerns. Once the survey is over, we recommend compiling the data and sharing the results and the changes they plan to make with clients. This type of transparency inspires clients to help a firm improve and often increases referrals over the long run since clients feel like they’re a part of the firm’s success.

How often do the advisors you know get client feedback? If it’s been more than a year, it’s time for them to take action to implement either a client survey or advisory board. They may uncover some changes that need to be made, but in the long run they’ll have happier clients, higher referability, and a more efficient practice. Don’t forget to send us your client feedback experiences at marketing@fmgsuite.com!

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