The Itch I Needed to Scratch

Sometimes we have an itch we just need to scratch.

Professionally, it can happen when we look back at work we’ve done and, despite feeling proud of the outcome, realize that we’re not quite finished. That’s how it was between me and helping advisors to gather – and use – client feedback.

I had created and launched a program and, along with my team, grew it substantially over many years before taking a step back. But I knew that there was more that we’d learned and more that we could offer to help advisors connect the dots between client feedback, meaningful engagement and growth.

In fact, in 2015 I wrote a post in which I spelled out what I wish I had told more advisors about feedback. And as I read that post (included below) I realized that the itch was officially scratched.

We have just launched Client Insights, a client feedback program that not only incorporates everything that I’ve learned over more than two decades of gathering feedback from tens of thousands of investors, but which is more focused on helping you use that feedback to drive engagement and to drive growth. Cue the happy dance.

I have never stopped believing that client feedback is one of the most important things you can do to drive deeper engagement and uncover opportunities in your business. But there’s more.

  • We need to gather client feedback because it’s important to clients. More than two thirds of clients say that being asked for feedback is important to them.
  • We need to gather feedback because it provides us with the insights we need to co-create a meaningful client experience. Co-creation is one of the most important trends driving client experience.
  • And we need to gather feedback because it allows us to uncover opportunities to drive significant growth. Enough said.

If you’re considering incorporating the voice of the client in your business, consider the following from the post that created the drive to launch this program.  These are things that will ensure that client feedback is more than data but drives real transformation.

A Client Feedback Confession (originally published on April 21, 2015)

I have a confession to make. I feel pretty good about the 17-ish years I invested in building my company and about my self-appointed role as the champion of gathering and using client feedback. There is, however, one dark cloud hanging over that time which suggests I must have done something wrong and it is, well, bugging me. This post is designed to set the record straight so I can leave regret behind. (Thanks in advance for letting me use this space as a form of therapy.)

Here’s the problem. Based on some of the questions I get, I don’t feel I fully communicated the role that client feedback plays in an advisor’s business. So here it is, in a nutshell and in two parts.

The benefit of client feedback is not only the information you gather; the very process of asking for feedback drives deeper engagement, provided you do something with the results.

Because of the above, client feedback needs to be seen as a process and not an event; it is a critical part of an on-going conversation with your clients.

The only exception to the second point, of course, is if the needs, thoughts or expectations of your clients never change, in which case I stand corrected. However, I’ll be bold enough to say that if you gathered feedback once and it is not in your plans to repeat that exercise consistently, then you are not only treating it as an event, but are likely missing some (perhaps most) of the core benefits of gathering feedback in the first place.

Don’t try this at home

Let’s think about this in practical terms. Imagine for a moment that, because you are a caring partner, you sit your significant other down for a chat. You ask about how he or she is feeling, what really matters and what you could do better. You are a super-spouse and things go very well. A year later you are reminded about that conversation and how wonderful it was and you say, without a hint of irony, that you don’t feel the need to ask about what your partner is thinking again because you already know. After all, you asked a year ago. This time, things do not go so well.

In fairness, part of the reason that many advisors only gather feedback once is that there are different ways to use the information. At the risk of over-simplifying the process, I would say there are four primary ways to use feedback, three of which demand access to the most current input and the other which requires updates but on a less frequent basis.

Understand. You can use feedback to understand the needs and interests of your clients and structure your experience around those needs. You might look at preferences around frequency of contact or the format of meetings. These things are all subject to change however the baseline information you gather can be used effectively to shape or refine your service plan or client experience.

Measure. All of the research that I have conducted on great advisors suggests that they love to measure – client engagement, team engagement and personal performance. When it comes to measuring client experience, you can certainly benchmark yourself to industry data but the reality is that that is the fastest way to institutionalize mediocrity; your goal becomes to be as good as everyone else. The most important benchmarks are the expectations of your clients and your own performance. Great advisors focus on continuous improvement so unless you have a way to measure improvement over time, you are forced to make assumptions.

Engage. Quite honestly, I think the most important way to use feedback is as part of an engaging client conversation and this one use has driven my nagging regret. After nearly two decades focused on this issue, my personal view is that the one best way to use client feedback is as a prelude to a deeper conversation. It drives a new conversation that is focused on client needs, as expressed by the client. The conversation about the results creates a new form of value that begins with the client’s needs. If you buy into this notion then you need to keep the pump primed with new insights. You should literally get to the end of the year and need to gather more feedback in order to keep the conversation fresh. I promise you, this conversation will be engaging, different and put the client squarely in the driver’s seat when it comes to the agenda.

Grow. For more than a few years I’ve talked about using client feedback to increase referrals. I still consider this the single best way to capitalize on an extensive untapped referral opportunity. But this is like the gift that keeps on giving. By using feedback you identify clients who have referred in the last year whether you know it or not. In order to tap into that opportunity the data needs to be current so you can follow up while the client still remembers who they referred!
The other thing to remember is that it matters to clients. 70% of engaged clients said that providing feedback was important according to some research I conducted among investors multiple times over the last decade. This fact does not change.

Make it a Process

So I’ll leave you with this thought. An effective client feedback process should be built into the way in which you run your business, part of the process every year (or two, if you prefer). Just as you have defined a process to meet with clients, design one to invite them into the conversation.

If you aren’t convinced, then stand in front of a mirror and answer this question out loud. “Why don’t you think it’s important to gather client feedback on an on-going basis?” If, upon hearing your answer out loud, you would be uncomfortable sharing that response with your clients you may want to reconsider your approach.

OK, I’m done, I have purged and this was cheaper than therapy. Onwards!

Thanks for stopping by.

P.S. We’re running a webinar on May 22 at 1:00 ET that focuses on how you can use client feedback to increase referrals. You can register here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/662319814724798210

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