The problem with individual feedback

Clients appreciate participating in creating the experience you provide them. Feedback is the foundation of a client driven practice. But if you’re collecting it one on one with your clients, you’re not getting the insights you think you are.

There are three basic levels of feedback you can gather: surveys, interviews, and groups or boards. Surveys can be useful to establish a baseline of client sentiment and probe for specific issues to explore in more detail. You are unlikely to get actionable marketing information this way or get a nuanced understanding of how clients feel. No insult intended to surveys – just limitations of the instrument.

If you are a regular reader, you know I am a fan of client advisory boards. I believe they are the most powerful feedback tool available to you. Of course, advisory boards take some work. They require coordinating a bunch of people’s schedules. There is the expense of buying everyone dinner and a facilitator. It is way easier to just ask clients some questions when they come in for a meeting or, possibly, take them to dinner for the express purpose of this conversation.

Reasonable enough. I recommend all advisors have these kinds of conversations periodically. But there are some shortcomings you should consider.

You are biasing the feedback you receive.

I know you don’t mean to. You want honest feedback. You want to know what you can improve.

But you have a vested interest in what you think is the best idea. You have an affection for the things you have created.

Here’s what that sounds like. An advisor starts an advisory board meeting saying what they want above everything is honest, candid feedback. An then when a member of the board says they would prefer a different approach to something, the advisor helps them understand the reasoning behind the process, the due diligence they did in developing it, and why they came to the conclusion it is the best way.

You are likely a persuasive person. When the market drops and people get nervous, you can talk them off the ledge and get them to hang in there when they think they want to sell investments and go to cash.

You might even explain to people your thought process to help them understand how the process or service developed. And you know what? It’s a good explanation. Perfectly reasonable. And once you have provided it, you’re no longer getting feedback. You are getting agreement. I have seen it happen dozens of times in advisory board meetings.

If you find yourself in a conversation with a client and saying “Wouldn’t you say…?” that’s what you’re doing.

I don’t mean to diminish the value of personal interviews with clients to gain insight into the client experience and discover ways to improve it. I think it is a great idea and worth doing consistently.

A well-designed feedback effort includes an outsider who is trained in collecting unbiased feedback and usually includes some kind of group mechanism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top