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.
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.
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.