A common question we are asked by advisors is, “How can I improve the client experience?” The answer to this question is quite simple, ask your clients.
The deeper an understanding you have of your client’s needs, fears, concerns, and so on, can be transformational to your business. By actively seeking and responding to client insights, you can improve the overall client experience, build stronger relationships, and more successfully attract new clients.
Feedback provides valuable insights that can help you innovate and offer a more robust client service experience. Ultimately, incorporating client feedback into the advisory process demonstrates your commitment to your client’s needs, increases client satisfaction rates, and can result in greater success for your practice.
However, advisors often find asking for client feedback can be a challenge. This article looks at how you can easily and effectively solicit perspectives from your clients and create raving fans.
Client feedback simply means going direct to your client in order to gain insights on how they perceive the service and experience your firm delivers. To do this, you will need an effective and efficient way of revealing opportunities you may not realize exist. What’s more, you need to ask for feedback in a way that doesn’t influence the response so you can get an honest understanding of your practice.
Delivering a positive experience is the most important client retention tool financial advisors have, and requesting feedback regularly keeps you aware of trends within your client base.
Soliciting client feedback is a win-win for financial advisors. Responses provide advisors with an assessment of how they are doing and allow them to nip potential problems in the bud. In addition, the very act of asking for feedback reassures clients that their satisfaction is important to the financial advisor.
Here are four ways feedback helps financial advisors improve their client services:
You should always be ready to listen to feedback, and your clients should know that your door is always open. However, it’s also important to schedule regular touchpoints where you reach out and ask for feedback from your clients.
In terms of a formal process for gathering information, advisors should send a survey or questionnaire to all clients every twelve to eighteen months. Client feedback should also be encouraged during client review meetings. Even consider adding a section to your review agenda to ensure you bring it up within the meeting.
In the financial services industry, listening to your clients is important all the time. However, collecting client feedback is particularly important during a market downturn. The current volatile economy might create the most vulnerable time you face as a financial professional. Opening the door to conversations surrounding financial planning, wealth management, and investment management during these reviews provides you with an opportunity to show your value in three ways:
Additionally, learning what’s particularly troublesome for clients in a challenging environment helps you better address their needs. Some of the conversations will be uncomfortable, but it’s important to hear what your clients are thinking and to reassure them they are top of mind for you.
A client service model outlines the specific services and support advisors offer the various segments of clients they serve. Essentially, this takes your value proposition and dials down into the details, like the level of engagement, communication, and frequency of meetings, as well as the type of advice and guidance provided based on the client's needs and financial goals. It could even identify the kinds of tools, services, or technology you will use to communicate with clients.
Having a well-defined client service model helps you create a consistent experience for clients, manage expectations, and build strong, long-term relationships. The right service model can be a major differentiator, helping you stand out from the competition.
However, it’s difficult to offer a truly effective client service model if you don’t understand what your ideal clients want from your firm. For example, business owners in the midst of retirement planning or succession planning will have different expectations and goals than those who are already retired. The feedback process can help you fine-tune your service model over time by gaining a more thorough understanding of the needs of each client segment.
It’s important to formalize the process for soliciting client feedback to ensure that it is actually done and not overlooked in your busy day-to-day operations. To get valuable responses, you need to create an environment where clients feel comfortable letting you know their thoughts. It is a good idea to consistently reinforce that you are always open to feedback—positive or negative.
You can gather feedback in a number of ways:
In theory, the idea of obtaining client feedback is a great one. But all too often, advisors become nervous at the thought of hearing or reading constructive comments. There are other concerns as well:
Many clients may not respond because they are short on time, are over surveyed or simply deleted the email. You’ve probably done it yourself when other companies or professionals ask for feedback. And it isn’t a slight—most people give little thought to the organization, assuming others will respond.
Follow up with clients to ensure they received the survey and reinforce your interest in receiving their response. It may be more time-consuming but definitely increases client engagement and response rates.
Sometimes questions are asked in a way that influences the response and leads to inaccurate data. You also might find that some questions are interpreted differently than you expect. To minimize these issues, have a few people in your office read through your questions to make sure they are unbiased and clear.
Keeping the questionnaire short is key to accuracy. There’s actually a term for when the volume of questions results in respondents spending less time, on average, answering each one: satisficing. Online survey company, Survey Monkey, has found that survey abandon rates increase for surveys that take more than seven to eight minutes to complete.
“Yes or no” questions make surveys fast and easy, but one-word answers don’t necessarily tell you what you need to know and may be a missed opportunity to probe into what your clients really think. You don’t want to put your clients on the spot, but you do want to obtain useful information. Most questions should prompt a response beyond a yes-or-no answer.
What should you ask your clients? Here are a few examples of open-ended questions to help you get thoughtful and meaningful responses.
Referrals are the most powerful form of advertising or endorsement for getting new clients. It’s important for you to know why your clients value (or question) your relationship. If one element of your practice is never mentioned as a positive, that’s an indication you need to work on developing that skill or product.
This can be a tricky one, especially during times of volatility. However, most clients understand that financial advisors can’t control the markets. This is an opportunity to delve into any possible changes in risk tolerance or family situation that might impact how you support your client.
Proactively asking this question allows your clients to be more honest. Many people are uncomfortable providing negative feedback. By positioning the question this way, you open the door to a candid discussion on how you could improve or offer more value.
Too much? Too little? Not the right channel? Not the right information? Since everyone has different preferences, this question won’t necessarily say much about your practice as a whole, but you may notice demographic patterns (e.g., your older clients may prefer phone and email, while your younger clients may want to get information from a text or social media post).
The open-ended question is a great way to close out a survey. By the end of the engagement, clients have been contemplating your services for a while and are in “sharing” mode. This question also puts the ball in their court to bring up items not yet mentioned.
This question suggests that you are not just going through the motions with a questionnaire. Leaving the door open for clients to talk through any positives or negatives reinforces you value their opinion and are ready to act on it. If they do request a follow-up conversation, don’t leave them hanging—you need to be ready to reach out quickly or offer a scheduling tool so they can get on your calendar.
Okay, you have your responses. What now? You won’t get anything from the feedback if you don’t take the time to assess it.
You can read through the responses and categorize them, but that can be frustrating and time-consuming. Use an online survey company with the tools to speed up the process by categorizing and analyzing responses.
Soliciting client feedback is crucial for financial advisors to understand the needs and preferences of their clients. Seek out responses you can use to improve your services and strengthen relationships with your clients. Utilizing client feedback as a tool for continuous improvement can ultimately lead to greater client satisfaction, loyalty, and success for financial advisors.
But you don’t have to do this alone! You can reduce your workload and accomplish more when you work with a reliable provider like AssetMark.
AssetMark helps advisors connect with clients and act on feedback with robust tools, outsourcing solutions, and advisor resources. With AssetMark's help, advisors can streamline workflows and improve the client experience, using responses to enhance their service, differentiate themselves from the competition, and grow their practice. Reach out today to learn more.
AssetMark is a leading provider of extensive wealth management and technology solutions that help financial advisors meet the ever-changing needs of their clients and businesses.
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