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Managing Relationships – Client Surveys

Published: August 19, 2013 by Fundhouse

Through our interactions with financial advisers we often come across similar challenges which lie at the heart of an advice based practice.   Being a client facing business in which management of client relationships is key, one would think that the focus on understanding and developing this part of a business would be the highest priority.  This is not what we see in practice.  More commonly, we see practices struggling with the benefits of success.  In the advice world, success comes at the expense of time, and time detracts from the ability to deepen client relationships.

This poses longer term questions which are critical in understanding where future growth comes from in your practice.  How do advisers ensure that existing and potential clients can be efficiently serviced as the practice grows?  We explore this below through the use of Client Surveys.

An overview of Client Surveys

Client surveys are a great way for advisers to keep in touch with their clients, to get a feel for their views on issues and to gauge their satisfaction levels. Gathering current information through once off surveys as well as looking at trends over time by repeating them periodically enables a practice to take the information back into the practice to increase service levels.  This can also be accomplished in a simple, non-intrusive manner which ideally leaves a lasting positive interaction with the client.

If you have ever wondered how your clients view your practice, would like to have greater insight into your team’s interactions with clients, or would like to know which products and services clients would like to see you offering, then a client survey may be the best way for you to achieve this. In a competitive marketplace with clients inundated with many attractive offers and perspectives, keeping in touch with their views is vital.

Involving clients in two way communication like a survey indicates a strong level of commitment to them and shows that you care about their views – which will improve overall client satisfaction as a result. The information you receive can be used to empower your team by developing a better understanding of staff interaction with clients, identifying team strengths and areas for improvement and enabling targeted training to improve customer experience.

Surveys may also be used to gauge customer satisfaction – this can be done for either the entire customer base or a focused tier of the client base, which can enhance the value of the information gathered.

Gathering feedback on services offered is also an effective way to develop what and how you offer services to your clients.  This gives you highly reliable information to make important business decisions.

Surveys can give practices an enhanced ability to reward high performing staff based on the results of direct customer feedback. Review and reaction to the information received on the surveys can be used to improve the quality of service and therefore customer retention.  In addition there may be business opportunities that arise from following up on new ideas suggested by clients

Some of the basic steps to follow in implementing surveys include:

Planning and design

It’s very important to plan upfront what you would like to achieve from a survey. You should plan the sort of feedback you would like to get, whether you would be aiming your questions at your entire client base, or a sub-set, the sort of answers you are expecting, and what actions you plan to take on following up on the results of a survey. Once those issues have been decided it is much easier to agree a survey design to get the required results.

There are many ways to put a survey into action – traditional approaches include postal and telephone canvassing. While such survey delivery methods still have their place in some areas, a more modern alternative is using online based survey tools.

It’s important to ensure that the survey is designed and delivered in a way that results in as high a response rate as possible.  If a survey is mis-targetted, you run the risk of a negative interaction with your business.

Anonymity and privacy concerns may affect the response rate and quality of the responses. As such, timing is key to getting good responses, and the length of the survey is important – it should be long enough to get the necessary information, but short enough to retain the attention of the respondents. The right questions must be asked, and kept clear with a lack of jargon. Invitations to the survey need to be carefully designed to ensure they get to the client, avoiding spam filters and attracting the respondents’ attention. One example of a way to increase the response rate for a survey is to offer an incentive – say the chance to win a meal for two or weekend away.

Interpretation

Once the survey has been successfully performed and the responses collated it is important to properly analyse the information gathered. Statistical as well as qualitative scrutiny should be applied to ensure that the maximum information is extracted from the responses.

Taking action

Your reaction to the results of the survey is the most important part of the process – implementing the actions arising from the analysis and interpretation is key to getting value from the process. You could follow up the actions taken with a repeat survey to give you some insight into whether the process has been successful or not.

How to proceed

Last on this list, but possibly a decision made early on the process, is the question of how to go about it – either performing this yourself, or use of an external provider.

Following the steps of planning, executing, interpreting and taking action can be performed by an adviser practice, though it should be managed in a way that allows you to retain focus on your business while the survey is done. Keeping it in-house may have the advantage of an enhanced personal touch, though possibly at the expense of the impression of anonymity for the respondent.

Appointing an independent provider may be advantageous in implementing the survey, as a provider may be able to offer you skilled planning and interpretation of the data, identifying patterns and notable highlights and professional collation and reporting on the surveys, enabling you to focus on the relevant findings. Independent management of a survey most often results in clients being more open and honest with their responses.

Value Add

The objectives of a client survey are simple – engage with your clients in a positive way and you will be able to use this information to better service them, and improve the value of your practice.