Asking a client for feedback

Should you ask a client for a favor?

The principal of a firm whose client advisory board we are organizing expressed his discomfort about asking some of his top clients to participate. He does not believe we should be asking clients to do them a favor like this. He indicated he actually had to call in a chit to get one top client to participate after doing a favor for them. His feeling is that the firm should be doing things for clients and not asking clients to do something for the firm.

Hang on a minute.

Who gets the benefit from client feedback? If you do it right, the client benefits.

The objective of a client advisory board is to gain perspective on what it’s like to work with your firm so that you can identify ways to improve. It is one part of a strategy for delivering more value. Done well, it’s not about anyone doing a favor.

Let’s visit another experience from this week. I conducted the fourth meeting of an advisory board for a different firm. The main topic was deconstructing one type of meeting they have with clients. As much as we dug into the topic, we could not identify specific things to improve from the client perspective. (We managed to find a couple things that clients did not feel were necessary, so that part of the meeting still yielded results for the firm.)

We asked for ideas, suggested possibilities, and examined the meeting from a couple angles and could not find a way to improve it. That was a new one for me. Up to now, we could always find something to improve. Apparently, when it came to this particular part of the client experience, this advisor has it nailed.

Still, all the clients participating on the board were grateful to be there. They were complimented to be asked. They appreciated the opportunity to offer their perspective and that the advisor was willing to make changes based on it.

This particular advisor has spoken on webinars (unprompted and without any of us being involved) about how every aspect of the service he provides has been touched, updated, customized, or upgraded because of the guidance from his advisory board. The clients have received real benefits. Even if this most recent meeting did not yield significant opportunities for improvement, the participants saw the exercise as being for their benefit.

One of the first questions we ask when we start working with an advisory firm on organizing their board is their objective. When the answer has something to do with improving the client experience and increasing the value they deliver we know we are on a good course. If the answer is to validate that the firm is doing a good job for clients, and that’s what some firms say, we stop to have a longer conversation. That objective is for the benefit of the firm not the benefit of the client. And we may pass on the engagement. It’s not likely to be good for clients and probably won’t yield much return on investment for the firm.

How big an effect gathering client feedback has on engagement and loyalty is directly related to your perception, your commitment, of who will receive the benefit of the exercise. If your goal is to provide a better outcome for the client, you will both win.

I agree with that first advisor I mentioned. We should not be asking our clients to do us favors.


Have you asked clients recently about their changing outlook and expectations? If not, you run the risk of losing relevance. Download our free guide “5 Reasons to Listen to Your Clients (or Someone Else Will)” by clicking on this link:


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