Should I … Do a Client Sur­vey?

It’s a good source for an hon­est cri­tique, es­pe­cially when a client might be hes­i­tant to com­plete one in per­son, but it does take time and money.

Financial Planning - - CONTENT - By In­grid Case

It’s a good source for a hon­est cri­tique, es­pe­cially when a client might be hes­i­tant to give one in per­son, but it does take time and money.

AD­VISER JA­SON KIRSCH LEARNED SOME un­com­fort­able facts when he sur­veyed his clients last year. The founder of the holis­tic plan­ning firm Grow heard that he some­times talks too fast, and too much, with­out re­ally lis­ten­ing. Clients also said that the doc­u­ments he sends them can be hard to un­der­stand.

It wasn’t all neg­a­tive. Kirsch found out that he gen­er­ally com­mu­ni­cates well, but he was cha­grined to hear that his ini­tial con­tact with clients at times seems too au­to­matic.

In all, it was a good ex­pe­ri­ence and Kirsch says he was es­pe­cially grate­ful for com­ments that sug­gested im­prove­ments. “I know my strengths and weak­nesses, but I don’t know all my strengths and all my weak­nesses,” he says.

The knowl­edge led to change. Kirsch has re-eval­u­ated the doc­u­ments he gives clients and tries to talk less and lis­ten more. Im­per­sonal email tem­plates, how­ever, aren’t go­ing away. “If I did spend more time craft­ing per­sonal emails, I would have to trans­fer that cost to the clients,” he says.

CONFIDENTIALLY CRITIQUING

Sur­veys can be a great way to find out what clients re­ally think. Kirsch’s firm, based in Los An­ge­les, sends sur­veys every six months. Clients who leave the prac­tice get a sur­vey within a month af­ter the re­la­tion­ship ends.

It takes Kirsch about a day to cre­ate and re­view each sur­vey. He uses Sur­vey Mon­key soft­ware and says he gets a nearly 100% re­sponse rate from short-term clients. He hears back from about 40% of on­go­ing clients.

That re­sponse rate is sim­i­lar to what Eve­lyn Zohlen has had from two client sur­veys in the past two years. Zohlen, founder and pres­i­dent of In­spired Fi­nan­cial in Hunt­ing­ton Beach, Cal­i­for­nia, tried to make ask­ing for feed­back part of client meet­ings, she says, “but some peo­ple are un­com­fort­able giv­ing neg­a­tive feed­back face to face.”

Zohlen uses a ven­dor that han­dles every as­pect of the sur­veys: writ­ing the ques­tions (Zohlen chooses the topics), send­ing them out and an­a­lyz­ing re­sponses. The process costs about $500. “It was in­ter­est­ing to see how many peo­ple said that they would like par­tic­u­lar ser­vices, such as in­sur­ance re­views and col­lege sav­ings ad­vice, but didn’t re­al­ize that we pro­vide them,” Zohlen says.

Zohlen and her staff then cre­ated a sin­gle-page sum­mary of ser­vices they of­fer. “It’s like a menu.”

Diane Wood­ward, pres­i­dent of Oak Tree Wealth in San Ra­mon, Cal­i­for­nia, “wanted to know how I’m do­ing.”

“I’ve had a women’s health and money event that in­volved a nu­tri­tion­ist and a per­sonal coach … and I’m do­ing an event on cy­ber­se­cu­rity,” she says. “I want to know if clients like these events.” They do like the events, she notes.

Her clients would also like more fi­nan­cial ed­u­ca­tion. “I’ve added a quar­terly we­bi­nar on var­i­ous topics,” she says.

The ques­tions were ap­proved by Wood­ward’s com­pli­ance depart­ment and the sur­vey took 15 or 16 hours. Wood­word paid $500 to $800 to the ven­dor.

In­grid Case, a Fi­nan­cial Plan­ning con­tribut­ing writer in Min­ne­ap­o­lis, is a former se­nior edi­tor for Bloomberg Mar­kets mag­a­zine. Fol­low her on Twit­ter at @Ca­se­in­grid.

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