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If we asked a random selection of your clients RIGHT NOW, what they thought of your business, what would they say? Do you know what your clients value about you and the services you provide?

Whether you are completely overhauling your business to change your charging method, or you routinely contemplate your business and make improvements for continual evolution of your services, it is important to truly understand what works and what doesn’t in your current model.

The best people to tell you about the value of your services are the people who are already paying for them – your clients! This can be a brave task to undertake – but by asking your clients, you can gain a better understanding of your current business, and also what is important to the clients you would like to replicate. Be warned… the answers you receive may be somewhat confronting – or pleasantly affirming… either way, there are few alternatives that will provide you with such an honest insight into how you are really performing in your client’s eyes.

There are a number of ways to obtain client feedback. We suggest using one or both of the following methods.

Feedback by remote questionnaire

The most popular method of obtaining feedback is by conducting an online or written survey with your clients. You have lots of options on how to do this, and here are our top tips to help smooth your way:

  1. Decide whether you prefer to use an external provider to facilitate and analyse the findings for you, or you may choose to dedicate the resources within your office to manage the process yourself. Either way there will be a cost – either in time or money (or both) – just be confident that you’ll earn a return on your outlay. If you choose to do an online survey yourself, there are free or cheap services such as surveymonkey.com or zoomerang.com.
  2. When selecting who you will seek feedback from, it is important that you select a random group of your clients that represents a broad range of views, not just those you know will give you a positive response! If you choose to survey all your clients, or select a group that spread right across the different client segments, using an online survey tool will enable you to either group the answers provided by each client group, or even provide a different set of questions depending on how the user answers a profiling question. For example, you may ask early in your survey, ‘how long have you been a client of x’, or ‘please select the services that you currently receive from us’… in this way you can categorise your clients, without them having to provide you their details. Alternatively, set up different surveys with unique links. You may seek different information from your C and D clients than you seek from your A’s. Either way, often people are more comfortable to provide anonymous feedback.
  3. What to ask – the best surveys provide a list of statements to which clients can “tick a box” for their response – as well as providing sections where clients can make further comments in their own words. If you’re using an external provider, be sure to use one who understands your profession, especially if they are going to provide all of the questions for you. If you are creating the question set yourself, take time to think about what you really want to understand from your clients, and make sure that your questions are not asked in a leading manner – give people the opportunity to provide both positive or negative feedback! It’s a great time to ask for testimonials or even to let people know that you’d like to receive referrals.
  4. In the true WIFM spirit, it’s hardly surprising that when people have the chance to obtain something for their time, you will get more responses to your survey. Offer people something in return for their time, such as access to an exclusive article, or going into the draw for a weekend escape, etc . Allow people to remain anonymous unless they wish to be included in the offer.
  5. When your survey has closed, take time out with your team to assess the responses – and really listen to what your clients are telling you. You might be surprised that their view of what you do well is quite different to yours! Use the info to help improve efficiencies if need be, and tweak your service offerings.
  6. Most people love to be heard, and if they have taken the time to respond, it’s important that they feel their time has been valued. The last step in your process is to close the feedback loop and let your clients know what you learned in the feedback, and how you will use the information. If you’re making changes to the business, let them know. Regardless of whether they participated, clients will be happy to know that you are improving your business in response to the answers you received from your clients.

We recommend that you undertake a survey with your clients on an annual basis.

Feedback by face-to face workshop

The second option is to hold a client feedback workshop whereby you personally invite a handful of your most valued clients into your offices for an open discussion session. These events work best when facilitated by a third party, such as your Practice Development Manager or business coach – clients will be much more forthcoming if you’re not in the room!

Your aim is to get approximately 10 clients around your Boardroom table, who will openly discuss their thoughts on your business, when led by a series of predetermined questions. You can ask general questions about your business, as well as approach specific issues that you have been contemplating, such as a change of premises or the like. As the discussion takes shape, a seasoned facilitator will allow it to follow its natural course, and hopefully uncover some additional unprovoked thoughts or suggestions that clients are willing to share. These sessions work best when a glass of wine is served, and a casual discussion can be encouraged.

Regardless of how you seek client feedback, we strongly recommend that you pluck up the courage and welcome it with open ears. What’s the worst that can happen? No-one provides feedback! The best that can happen? You learn some things you can do better, you save a client relationship, you learn what you do that you should keep doing, you get referrals…the list goes on. Seeking feedback is not that hard – and if you don’t do it, how do you know whether your clients value what you do?

We take our own medicine here at Elixir and regularly request feedback from our clients, as well as from people who follow us, but haven’t yet engaged our services. We have just closed our current survey and we’re in the process of analysing the results. Congratulations to Phil Burt  of Eastwoods Wealth Management in South Australia, who won a copy of our Adviser Pricing Models Research Report –$1,995 for 5 minutes work – nice one Phil.

When we’ve finished reviewing the feedback we’ll share it in a post. We love hearing about what we can do to keep improving the business of financial advice! (That’s our tag line… we love great advice – be it wealth, risk or otherwise – and we reckon more people should get it… our contribution to that is to help advisers to run better businesses – and by doing that we enable advisers to get more of what they want, by delivering more of what their clients want!)