As the year draws to a close, it is a good time for reflection. How well did we serve our clients this year and what should we improve upon for 2024?
Although there are a number of ways to assess your performance, one method should certainly center around client feedback. With that in mind, we discuss below four different ways to obtain client feedback, and what we learned from each of them.
1. Send out an annual or semi-annual survey
All advisors should consider sending out a survey to their clients. You can do this throughout the year, twice a year or once a year. The survey can be mailed to the client or it can be set up digitally through survey monkey or a similar program. Regardless of the method of transmittal, the idea here is to design a survey that will get the maximum number of responses. Not an easy task.
Sometimes a survey can be as simple as one or two questions, with the key question “Would you recommend us to a friend or family member?”
We prefer that surveys be shorter in length, so that clients are more apt to answer them and you are likely to get approval from compliance. If you are considering sending out a survey to your clients, perhaps contact your compliance department and they will provide an approved version for you to save you time. We enclose a sample survey courtesy of Goldman Sachs below.
2. Hold a Client Advisory Board meeting
After years of discussing the importance of holding a client advisory board meeting, I am still amazed at how few advisors leverage this incredibly valuable resource. Your client advisory board can be structured in many ways. It can meet three to four times a year and provide ongoing feedback like a shadow board of directors. Alternatively, your client advisory board can meet once a year (as ours does), and essentially act as a focus group.
We actually hold two client advisory boards during the year. A coed board in the fall and then around Valentine’s Day we hold a women’s advisory board. We refer to our women’s advisory board as a “Galentine Day Chat” and we pair the meeting with some type of cooking event or dinner. Interestingly, my “to-do” list is much longer from my women’s advisory board than my coed board from the fall.
We find our client advisory boards to be indispensable. Regardless of how long I have been in the industry (25 years), or how much energy I dedicate to creating a great client experience (a lot), the advisory boards provide insight to me that I never could have gleaned otherwise.
I suspect that some advisors do not hold this type of meeting because they worry about getting a number of clients in the room who are asked to examine the good, the bad and the ugly of an advisory firm.
This is not something you should worry about. Anybody who participates in your advisory board is a raving fan of yours and has decided to dedicate their time to making you better. Any feedback that you get will be constructive and delivered in a way to help you be the best advisor ever. And isn’t that ultimately what you want?
Because the size of our practice has grown, we have rethought how we handle the advisory boards. Originally, all of our client advisory boards were in person at our office. Then, during the Covid pandemic, we started holding virtual advisory boards. Last year, we decided to hold a hybrid advisory board with some people able to Zoom in, and others in person. That was a disaster and too confusing for everybody.
Therefore, this year, we actually split it into two, and offered a virtual advisory board on a Monday and the in-person version on Wednesday. That division worked beautifully and everybody was happy with their option.
By the way, for the virtual advisory board attendees, we offer a $15 DoorDash gift card since the meeting is held during lunchtime. You would be amazed at how many clients with $4 million on their balance sheet are willing to attend a virtual client advisory board for a $15 gift card. ? For those who attend in person, we give them a $10 Starbucks gift card wrapped in a nice bag with tissue paper.
The other thing to think about is to segment your client advisory board. In other words, perhaps think about holding an advisory board for your target niche market, such as women, or pediatricians, or engineers, or whatever your target market is. These folks can get together and let you know how you can better communicate with them and serve them better so that you can gather more clients in your niche. In that sense, the advisory board can also act as a prospecting or recruitment tool.
3. Request feedback as part of your client review meeting
One of our agenda items during our client review meetings is a question as to how we are doing. Some clients will take advantage of that opportunity to provide valuable feedback, but others may feel reticent. So, although this is a nice feature to have, it is certainly not enough.
4. Post-meeting surveys
One of our newer initiatives is to send out a survey immediately after a review meeting. We hold review meetings twice a year, during our “surge meeting season” which is in the winter and at the end of the year.
After every meeting, we send client “Meeting Notes,” and we include a link to the survey in our meeting notes. In addition, and in case the client misses it, we send a separate email at the end of the week, reminding them to complete the survey.
We are actually getting a nice response to these survey requests. And we are able to compile our client’s level of satisfaction with the meeting, the services we are offering, and also gather suggestions as to offerings they would like to see from us.
We track the responses on a spreadsheet, evaluate any changes that need to be made and share the responses with the team once a month.
Every advisory business needs to focus on providing an amazing client experience, you may be thinking and reading and trying your best. However, the advisory board can provide insights that can be invaluable to your practice.
Perhaps make 2024 the year that you “give it a go.”
-Dec 8, 2023
Written By Debra Taylor, CPA/PFS, JD, CDFA