Colin Lawson (pictured), Lee Robertson and Sharon Sutton share their tips of getting client feedback on their firms' services.
Managing partner, Equilibrium Asset Management
We’ve done annual questionnaires for the past three years and asked the same questions every year so we can judge progress. We might add a few minor alterations following new regulation or business changes, but generally we keep the questions the same to get a sense of improvement.
We ask clients a host of different questions including:
whether they understand fees;
whether advisers understood their needs;
was their experience better or worse than they expected;
how they were greeted when they entered the office.
We use a free online questionnaire tool called SurveyMonkey, which includes about 50 questions.
It is great for the team to get positive feedback and to discover areas where clients see things differently from us. It’s a good way of benchmarking what we do. Clients answer by rating each question on a scale, and can also add comments.
Annual feedback gives online star rating
We also give customers a card at their annual review to fill out and those answers go to a company called The Disc Directory. It then posts that feedback online and gives you a star rating that is used for marketing and general feedback. It is a bit like Trip Advisor for professional firms.
In the spirit of transparency, we put the results of both surveys on our website. You can look at everyone’s comments, good and bad. This can be used as marketing for prospective clients so they can see the ratings you have had from all your satisfied customers.
In one case, 18 months ago, feedback on understanding our fee structure was a lot lower than we would have hoped, which prompted us to look at our customers. We realised it was not that they did not understand the percentage fees but that they wanted to understand how they affected their assets. So rather than just an annual statement, we have decided to provide them with quarterly statements.
Chief executive, Investment Quorum
We have been using an annual survey from third-party provider Investor in Customers since 2007. It is always good to have feedback from clients, but when you design your own questionnaire, you design it the way you want to be perceived, so we felt using an independent organisation was better.
It’s an academically verified questionnaire and it covers four different measures: understanding market needs, meeting customer needs, delighting customers and creating loyalties.
Outsourced survey adds integrity
We cannot influence it; we do not coerce any answers. So when a client puts the answer you want to hear, the fact that it is all done at an outsourced level adds integrity to the system.
Investors in Customers is also able to benchmark with other firms that have been through the process both within financial services and outside. It is nice to know how we are doing among our peer group, but it is also good to see how we measure across the wider business world. Sometimes we forget we are also business people, not just advisers.
The surveys have really helped because we found we needed to communicate with our clients more. We thought we were communicating at the right level.
We didn’t want to bombard them but we found they wanted us to communicate with them more, so we stepped up how often we spoke to them in terms of market updates and other things.
The next year our survey score went up. In effect, we’ve managed to increase our scores year on year with our clients through using the feedback, which is incredibly useful. It is fantastic to see how your clients react to what your business is doing and how your business is doing it.
Managing director, Thornton Associates
We use Best Business Guide to get feedback from our clients. It is an independent organisation that works on the Isle of Man to promote organisations that are delivering a good service.
Most people who look for financial advisers, if they have not asked through family and friends, look through the guide. It is a good endorsement of your business being legitimate and consumer-centric.
Clients must endorse guide listing
You have to be recommended to appear in the guide and it requires a minimum number of client responses to be endorsed. Clients are given a feedback form to fill out every time we write new business or have a client review. The responses are anonymous, and they rarely come back with negative feedback.
We would want constructive feedback because you need to have that to improve your company but it is nice to hear it independently. This is especially the case because it is anonymous and clients have the freedom to say whatever they want.
We have started to use email marketing website MailChimp for newsletters, which gives us the ability to do more of our own surveys. We recently sent one about our offices to 100-odd clients. Their responses prompted us to move somewhere with more parking facilities.
With the ability to do more surveys, we would like to get a better picture of what products clients from different segments have bought and how we have reached clients in different segments. The drawback is that we service a retirement community and it is worrying that they do not all have access to a computer, so we will send paper copies as we do with other communications.