“We have some preliminary designs for our updated website” a client said to me recently. “Would you take a look?” The services and attributes they featured most prominently on the homepage sounded good (they also sounded like most other advisors). They felt strongly about what their company stood for and what they did for clients and worked with marketing experts from the company designing their website to make sure they were presented well. However, several things clients had indicated were most valuable to them in a client advisory board meeting the prior year were missing. And several attributes they featured prominently had not been mentioned by clients when we asked what was important to them. “It looks nice” I said. “Last year, your clients had mentioned these other three things as being important. Would it be worth working them in someplace?”
“Oh, that’s right. We didn’t look at that list before we talked with the web company.”
This kind of thing happens more frequently than I would like to admit. A trap that advisors can fall into is asking for and receiving feedback, addressing the issue at hand, then setting aside and may be forgetting the feedback when they move on to future projects.
Asking your clients what they value most about what you do and finding out from them what they believe makes you different from other advisors can be the key to differentiating your firm from other advisory firms. Customizing your service mix and your marketing in response to that feedback is what makes you client driven and can be a powerful tool in helping you attract referrals and new clients. And more important than soliciting that feedback is what you do with it. If you respond to it and make a few changes but don’t look for opportunities to apply it other ways in your practice you are missing a big opportunity. Worse, if you ask for the feedback and then fail to act on it, it is worse than never having asked at all.
Whether it be through surveys, personal interviews, or your client advisory board, clients are taking some level of risk in providing you honest, candid feedback. Any time they offer a suggestion for change, they are vulnerable. They are willing to share with you something that potentially may not be what you want to hear because they care about you and want you to succeed. Honoring the feedback drives loyalty. Failure to acknowledge it or act on it diminishes the relationship and will help guarantee you get less of it in the future. That’s one reason why I insist that whenever one of my clients convenes their client advisory board they report back to the board on each of the issues that were covered in the prior meeting. Even if there is no progress yet, I feel it important to let people know it is still on the radar. A board member and one meeting I facilitated made the comment “we talk about a lot of things in these meetings, but I’m not sure what you ever did with a lot of those suggestions.” It was the kind of comment you never want to hear from one of your best clients.
Here are a few things you can do to help keep your clients advice handy and on top of your mind.
1. Announce the feedback to your clients. When you get feedback, whether it be through surveys, interviews, or your board, write about what you heard in your client newsletter or posted on your website. Acknowledge that the feedback was received. Confirm to clients who provided you feedback that some of their peers had similar opinions. And let any clients who were not involved in providing it hear about it. Let everyone know you are receptive to the guidance.
2. Make specific plans to change or improve something based on the feedback. Go beyond the thought “well, that’s interesting” and figure out how you will make some of those ideas operational. How can you incorporate the guidance into your messaging or client experience? How can you take the feedback and make something real out of it?
3. Connect the feedback to the change when you implement an improvement. Instead of announcing how excited you are about putting up the fancy new website or an improved layout to your investment reports, communicate “you spoke and we listened.” Reiterate that clients let you know that something was important to them and that in response you moved a message to your new homepage or made that graph of cumulative deposits and balance bigger and more prominent.
4. Keep a central file of the feedback you receive. Review it whenever you make changes to your marketing or your service mix. Consulted for inspiration when you are drafting client communications.
5. Consult a record of your client feedback when redrafting or updating your strategic plan. Bring the voice of the client into your business planning process. That’s the basis of being client driven. Incorporate your clients opinions about where they would like the business to go. It is a great way to make sure that your services are consistently more valuable and more relevant to your clients. And it will help drive client loyalty and referrals.