This article was originally published in Advisorpedia, September 27, 2022
Many businesses ask their clients to complete surveys. I am particularly annoyed by the fast food chain(s) that asks you to complete a review and will give you free food in exchange for awarding them the highest satisfaction score. When you are a financial advisor, you are often the closest you can get to owning your own business without the overhead and personnel costs associated with having your name on the door. The downside is unhappy clients do not put you on probation. They vote with your feet. Getting as much feedback from them as possible is a good idea.
We have all seen conflicting survey results referenced in the press. You see one study showing a high percentage of clients saying they would recommend their financial advisor. Later, you see another study contending a high percentage of clients are considering leaving their financial advisor. How can this be? It is often influenced by who is surveyed and how the questions are worded.
Years ago, I met an advisor who was great at wording audience surveys for the seminars she delivered. Instead of saying: “Do you have any questions I can answer?” she would include the question: “Is there a question you wanted to ask, but we ran out of time?” Another inspired wording she used was “Did you have a question you would prefer to ask privately?” The wording of questions influences the answers people will provide.
Nine Areas Where It Is Worthwhile to Seek Client Feedback
Let us suppose you are surveying your entire client base. You might use multiple channels because some will respond to e-mails while others want a written survey they can complete at their leisure. Multiple choice questions are better than essay questions because they take less time to complete. You can always include a “comment” or “tell me more” section where they can type in a text answer.
- How many of the following services have you discussed with your financial advisor? This is an ideal way to back into the menu of services you provide and to identify areas where your client might have a need. In addition to Yes and No, you might have a third choice “No Need” to take items off the list. This can identify areas where you have the potential to deepen the relationship.
- Which of the following services are supplied by another provider? This is a similar question to the first, but it indicates which services your client is actively using. They may be unaware you provide these services. They may (or may not) be happy with their other providers. Again, this provides opportunity to deepen the relationship.
- What percentage of your financial assets are managed at our firm? It’s a bold question to ask, but it describes the size of the iceberg. If you ask for a percentage, that might make answering a little more complicated. You might word it as: “Almost all, Most, Less than half, A small amount.” This gives you the opportunity to organize portfolio reviews that include assets held away and to talk about asset consolidation.
- How satisfied are you with: Level of communication, frequency of reviews, service level, performance? You could have as many or as few categories in this area. You might use a scale 1-5 or 1-10. It’s an early warning system if they are unhappy and a way to bring up referrals if they are happy?
- When was the last time we conducted a comprehensive annual review? You know the exact date. You might ask when was the last time you were in touch by phone. The reason you would ask is to determine if the client is aware of the level of service they are receiving.
- When would you like to retire? Has this date changed? You likely have this conversation with clients when you do annual reviews, but the pandemic has caused us to rethink our priorities. If you are surveying individual clients, you might find spouses give different answers when they are asked separately. This fits into the category of “Has anything changed since we last met?”
- How confident are you that you will be financially comfortable in retirement? This might be expressed in words (Very confident, not confident) but it could also be a referendum on how good a job they feel you are doing. This can be a satisfaction score. It can also determine if more attention is needed for this category.
- What keeps you awake at night? This echoes those political surveys about what you consider the most important voting issue. You would offer choices that might align with product areas: Heath care in retirement, passing assets to my heirs and running out of money in retirement are a few examples. If these are areas where clients worry, you might be able to lessen their anxiety.
- If a friend would benefit from financial advice, would you be comfortable recommending your advisor? It might be best to refer to yourself in the third person. Recommending me might sound vain. This can open up the “Who do you know…” series of questions.
Let us not forget about Compliance. Your Compliance officer may have an opinion about how questions should be worded or if using the firm’s satisfaction survey tools might be better. You want to stay within the firm’s rules.
Most of these questions could be multiple choice, making them easy to score. Ideally your client provides their name or other identifying details. In most cases you can make use of the information to address needs they have expressed and do more business. The questions can also serve as an early warning system to learn which clients need more attention.
Disclosure: Information contained in the materials included are believed to be from reliable sources, but no representations or guarantees are made as to the accuracy or completeness of information. This document is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individual investment advice.
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