No doubt many of you remember the FCA’s Treating Customers Fairly initiative which came into force in the late 2000s.
Off the back of it came a slew of client surveys that were merely there to tick boxes and keep the FCA happy.
Things have come a long way since then. Now there’s a whole host of options for obtaining client feedback.
Such feedback can serve different purposes, so it’s important for your business to understand why it wants to gather feedback in the first place.
Is it related to delivering a better service? Or perhaps it’s related to better understanding client needs, or a much deeper exploration into a client’s thoughts on the way the firm invests money on their behalf?
Once you've gained the client feedback, taking the right action on the back of that insight will ultimately help grow your business.
If you’re just looking for feedback for some self-congratulatory purpose then, frankly, you’re wasting your time and effort.
I can tell you now, bearing in mind that I (probably) don’t know you or your clients, that the majority of your clients think you’re great and what you do for them is fantastic.
High performing businesses know this; what they are after is the little nuggets of information that enable them to, in the words of Stephen Covey, "sharpen the saw".
Here are a few different ways to obtain client insight:
1) Online surveys
This is one of the most common ways for securing feedback.
It’s unlikely you’ll be able to extract some of the detail that will help you improve an already strong proposition.
But it will give you plenty of content for marketing and promotional purposes, for example, 99 per cent of our clients would recommend us to family and friends. Now who wouldn’t buy that?
You’ll want to include questions that will prompt the kind of feedback you can extract the most value from.
If you’re looking for quantitative data, say for a percentage of satisfied clients or percentage of clients who've been able to achieve their goals, make sure to include simple yes or no questions.
If you want some extra qualitative data on top of that, include an option to clarify their choice underneath - so you get both quantitative and qualitative data.
Then if you include a field clarifying whether your clients would be happy to be quoted on their feedback, you can use any excellent written feedback for marketing or advertising purposes on top of this data - it’s a win-win.
There’s plenty of ways to build additional content out of your survey results.
Include a write-up of the results in your client newsletter or create a visual infographic to be used in your marketing collateral; just make sure to not let the data go to waste - use it to your advantage.
Not only do online surveys provide you with opportunities to get both quantitative and qualitative feedback, they also serve as one of the main tools for calculating your Net Promoter Score (NPS).
Finding out your NPS can help you measure, evaluate and improve your overall client loyalty. It can also be used to develop your referral marketing strategy.
2) Telephone interviews
Telephone interviews are one of the best ways to acquire high-value qualitative feedback.
They give you the option to ask clarifying questions around the feedback being given, allowing for a better understanding overall.
The trick with acquiring feedback on the phone is to get a third party involved, so that the interviewee is comfortable being candid in their answers.
Where you do so, you need to make sure the interviewer is familiar with the delivery of financial advice and planning. This means they'll know what sort of information they’re looking for.
An interviewer can also be tasked with delving into particular areas, such as client communications or the way meetings are structured.
More often than not, you’ll find you get feedback that’s a lot more honest when your clients speak with a party that’s not from, or an extension of, your business.
It can be difficult giving feedback (especially negative feedback) directly, given the closeness of client relationships.
3) Client forums
Client forums are a unique opportunity for clients to engage with one another and respond to each other’s comments and thoughts, often allowing for deeper insight and discussion.
They’re also a good way to build your relationships with your clients by creating an environment where conversation thrives.
They work well when hosted in a location that lends itself to the sort of forum you’re hoping to host.
For a more formal forum, a meeting room may be the best option. For more of an informal atmosphere, where casual conversation is desired, you may want to opt for private dining.
What’s vital is making sure the location is off-site. It can act as a sort of mediatory ground between parties, with neither you nor the client feeling as though they’re entering into the other’s space, allowing for a more relaxed and open atmosphere.
4) One-to-one meetings
Review meetings are a good opportunity to obtain direct verbal feedback from your clients.
You can gauge how they’re feeling about your services and ask any clarifying questions yourself.
But be wary of putting the client on the spot as they may not give the most accurate or well thought out responses.
Ways to mitigate this are to send some of the questions ahead of time or to forewarn your client that you’d like to have a chat around how they feel about your services.
5) Timely experience feedback
Instead of asking questions at the review meeting, you might find it better to send an online or offline survey that specifically asks for feedback about their recent experience with you.
However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be after the review meeting. It could be after the very first meeting or after a transaction has been completed.
Overall the most important factor that applies to all of the above, is your plan.
Think about what sort of feedback you want to acquire and how you’d like to use it. These decisions will influence the types of questions you ask and how you actually gather the client feedback.
If you talk about and invite feedback regularly, being clear that it’s important to you in maintaining a high performing business, clients will feel far more comfortable providing it. Take every opportunity to encourage clients’ comments and input.
The feedback process has come a long way since those early days of compliance surveys. When done well, it’s now an essential contributor to business growth and improvement.