Distinguish your Practice by asking your Clients for Feedback
Author: John Koloda, BComm, CLU, CFP, CHFC, RHU
Most professionals probably have untold reasons not to ask for feedback from their clients… Right?
Let’s just think for a moment: When has your lawyer asked you if you appreciated his services? Has your doctor or dentist enquired on how he could improve any of his services? Why is it that the calls we get asking for customer service feedback usually originate from car dealers, hotels or from furniture stores? All this in an era where we all know that quality of service, continued improvement and client connectedness can make such a huge difference? In this article, KolodaCore will explore the realms of client feedback and try to get a better grasp on its values and merits.
What holds us back from asking?
Time: As financial advisors, our time is precious. We try to spend it on what brings on business, and manage it to minimize wasted time. Is taking the time to ask for feedback from our clients worthwhile…or should time be invested in searching new prospects and meeting clients?
Shyness: Financial advisors are not shy by nature. They are relationship builders. Selling the right product to the right customer is the real joy of the profession. But when it comes to asking for feedback…this can be perceived as a humbling experience, somewhat of an un-natural experience for anyone who is in the sales profession.
Evidence: Why ask for feedback if clients have been loyal to one’s practice for years? A natural conclusion that most of us entertain is that client retention equals client satisfaction. That’s most probably right but does this deduction make it a certainty?
Method: So how does one go about seeking for feedback without sounding or appearing to be too soft? What is the best method or approach that yields quality information without being too costly?
Perception: Will clients be annoyed by receiving any type of feedback request? Aren’t we all somewhat turned off by the never ending stream of recurring feedback questionnaires, calls, and emails?
Validity: Our belief might be that only dissatisfied clients will answer back or that clients will provide responses that are socially acceptable and won’t express their true thoughts.
The value of feedback
We will probably all concur that obtaining client feedback is valuable and that it is the right way to conduct business in this day and age. This is especially true in the financial services industry as our customers’ trust has been seriously challenged these last years as a result of several scandals. The importance and impact of our services as financial advisors on our clients’ financial welfare is extremely high. In light of this key principle, why should we keep our clients completely outside of our business and deprive ourselves of their input? Asking for feedback should be viewed with a different perspective. Its purpose is not to receive laudatory compliments…but as the crowning effort to consolidate the bond with our clients by reaching out and including their valuable input into our business.
At KolodaCORE we understand that asking for feedback is an important decision that entails a significant amount of work, especially when running a small business, but we also see it as:
- A rare opportunity to differentiate from the competition in a very positive manner;
- A sound investment in building and improving business practices and client retention;
- A great method of recognizing the value of the intelligence and sagacity of clients towards us as professionals and towards our business.
How to go about seeking feedback
Keep it short, simple and straightforward: If we put ourselves in the shoes of clients just for a moment, most of us will probably conclude that we like to answer a few questions on service, not lengthy questionnaires. For example, you might want to try out these questions:
- What is most useful service my organization provides to you?
- What change would make the most positive difference for you?
Vary your methods: You might consider using different approaches so that your clients are not bored and provide you with automatic responses. You may want to consider:
- Asking for feedback when you meet a client face to face. A short preamble to your questions will help the client understand your request and set the tone for a frank conversation.
- Calling a client yourself a few days after providing a service and asking for feedback may be a welcome gesture on your part…and a way to extend more business. Who gets a call from their dentist to know if an aching tooth has been relieved? A follow-up call is certainly a way to show you care, especially with A clients.
- Sending your client a quick e-mail may be another way to obtain rapid feedback. Make sure your e-mail is short, to the point and very appreciative of the response provided.
- Providing your client with a short written questionnaire attached to a financial statement, documentation or policy may be another way to seek feedback. In order to ensure the return of the form, consider providing a pre-paid envelope.
- Organizing an annual focus group reuniting your most valued clients and going through the key questions in an open discussion format seeking their input that will help you improve your service levels.
- Hosting an event (ie: guest speaker on a subject of interest to your clients) and ending the meeting with a questionnaire on your services.
Make it a regular habit: Asking for feedback once in a blue moon might actually reduce the value or credibility of your action. Why not make a part of your regular communication with clients. Questions like: “On a scale of 1 to 10, did I meet your expectations today?” or “What’s your satisfaction rating today?” or “I’m always happy to do business with you and I really want to continue meeting your financial security needs. Any tips on how I can continue doing this?” This habit can also be adopted by your staff.
Act upon the feedback received: Feedback is only efficient inasmuch as it is acted upon promptly and to the client’s satisfaction. This brings us to a rather harsh conclusion: Ask for feedback only if your intention is to act upon it. Otherwise, don’t ask. To ensure transparency and appropriate closure, consider informing your client of the actions you have chosen to take (or not to take) upon receiving their feedback. That way you are sure to make them aware of your sensitivity and recognition for their input in your business.
A better understanding of what is truly important and valuable to your clients will yield a stronger value proposition, which will in turn enhance the customer experience and bring you more clients.