There is a saying in business, “You can’t improve what you don’t measure.” Much like runners have to know how fast they are running to be able to get better – similarly, you need to know what your clients think of you to improve what you offer them.
However how to ask clients what they think of you without putting them on the spot, or without looking like you’re begging for a compliment is tricky. You need to know but you certainly don’t want to put your client in an awkward position.
Some advisors try to solve the problem by hiring an outside firm to conduct a confidential survey of their clients. But we believe this is the wrong approach.
If you can’t have an honest conversation with your clients about the service they are getting and how you’re delivering it and they don’t feel comfortable bringing up things they’d like to see improved, then you have a problem with the relationship – and that’s a whole other issue.
Assuming that you have a good relationship with your client, there are a number of ways you can approach it – but before you ask, remember to be really good at listening to what they are saying. It is absolutely not about taking offence, regardless of what they say, or about making excuses for any deficiencies they might bring up.
So how can you glean insights on what matters most to your clients and what you could do to improve your service?
- Ask them about services they have received from other advisors – what they liked and didn’t like – that gives you insights without putting yourself in the line of fire.
- Ask them for their input. Let them know you’re thinking of changing some of the services you offer and want to get their perspective on what would matters to them – ask about services related to on-boarding a new client, communications, financial planning process, annual/semi-annual meetings, engaging them in the discussion of their account, etc.
- Get their perspective as you make efforts to get more clients like them – physicians, accountants, lawyers, executives, women entrepreneurs, etc. – and what would matter most to them if you were approaching them for the first time?
- Let them tell you about their plans for retirement and how they plan to use the money they’ve accumulated – this conversation will tell you about “how” they plan to use the money and what you could offer now that would be helpful to them as they get ready for retirement – Is it travel? Is it worry? Is it health? Is it legacy? – what services could you offer related to how they plan on using the money or what they worry about?
Through all your conversations with clients, remember to listen and not to comment as you bring up the topic. Just take notes but look at them often during the conversation to show you value their input. And, of course, thank them and get back to them when you’ve decided which way to go with your “improved” services.