Even before the introduction of the FCA’s Consumer Duty initiative, there were three reasons why advisers/planners should run client surveys:
- To improve their business, by understanding what they’re doing that clients like, what they’re doing that clients don’t like, and what they should be doing, but aren’t
- To build social proof that can be used in their marketing
- As one of two key assets needed to maximise the recommendation (formerly known as referrals) opportunity.
Unfortunately, we see many advisers and planners make basic mistakes, choosing the wrong time to run their survey, including too many questions, and then doing nothing meaningful with the results.
So, in our first blog of 2023 (and based on our experience of running more than 150 surveys for advisers/planners), we’re going to share our 10 top tips to help you run the perfect client survey project.
1. Get your mentality right
When we recommend a client survey (usually as part of a wider project to develop a portfolio of social proof) many advisers/planners are open to the idea. Others put barriers up:
- “Now isn’t the right time”
- “Our advisers won’t like it”
- “I don’t want to encourage complaints”
- “We did it before, but no one completed it”
- “We’ll do it when we’ve made some changes”
I understand those fears. I really do.
But the benefits of a client survey are so significant that we need to get past these limiting beliefs.
That means recognising that one of the key reasons for running the survey is to help improve your business. That might mean confronting some awkward truths or even criticism but, in the long run, you’ll have a better business for it.
Having said that, we don’t want to overplay the possibility of criticism.
Let’s remember that our research shows:
- 95.2% of clients are happy to recommend their adviser or planner to others
- 98.19% say that working with their adviser or planner has helped them to achieve their goals.
So, in reality, you’re likely to find very happy clients, who have a few suggestions about how you could improve your service.
2. Get the timing right
There’s a right and wrong time to run your client survey.
The wrong time is after an annual review or immediately after you’ve taken on a new client, because:
- Completion rates are so low it makes sending them pointless. We know many compliance providers and networks love sending surveys after annual review meetings and when a new client has engaged, but if almost no one is completing them, what’s the point? It’s just a box-ticking exercise so the firm can say they sent a survey.
- After these meetings, a client is likely to feel positively about you and their financial future. That makes it the perfect time to ask for a review in public (using Google and VouchedFor), not feedback in private.
So, if that’s the wrong time, when’s the right time?
At fixed points in time, every one or two years. Here’s why:
- Completion rates are higher
- It’s easier to measure change
- It leaves you free to send requests for Google and VouchedFor reviews without worrying about “overloading” clients.
Whether you run your survey every one or two years is a function of the pace of change in your business. If you’ve gone through a period where you’ve introduced lots of new initiatives, you probably want to run your survey more frequently. On the other hand, if nothing much has changed, you might prefer to go every couple of years.
3. Use the right tools (and don’t forget clients who aren’t online)
We run all our surveys online using SurveyMonkey as the platform.
It’s brandable and allows a variety of question types. Additionally, the user experience, for us and (more importantly) your client, is excellent.
Occasionally, we’ll work with an adviser/planner who has a large proportion of clients without online capability. Their views are just as important as other clients and we don’t want them to feel excluded, so we’ll send the questions through the post along with a pre-paid return envelope.
When the surveys arrive back, we’ll input the responses into the online survey, so we have one source of information.
4. Send a “heads up” email
If you’ve ever been to a gig, you’ll know that the headliner almost always has a support act to warm up the crowd before the main event.
You need to do the same with your client survey.
We recommend sending a “heads up” email a few days before the survey, explaining what you want your clients to do (complete the survey), why it’s important that they do, and when you’ll send it.
5. Send the survey out at least twice
To maximise completion rates, we recommend the following sequence of emails:
- Day 1: “Heads up” email
- Day 4: Initial send of survey
- Day 18: Reminder (sent only to those clients who’ve not yet completed it)
- Day 32: Close the survey.
That’s three emails in total.
If you’re worried about “pestering”, “bombarding” or “annoying” clients, please don’t. In large part, the survey is for their benefit. It’s their opportunity to tell you what they like and dislike about a service they’re paying a not-inconsiderable amount of money for.
Your emails should be short and to the point:
- Explain the benefit to them of completing the survey
- Tell them what they need to do and how long it’ll take
- Show them a clear call to action (a link to the survey).
We’ve seen some firms offer incentives, such as entry into a prize draw, to encourage people to complete the survey. That doesn’t seem to increase the number of completions. So, we’d only recommend doing this if you’re struggling to get people to complete the survey, in which case you could offer it just before you close it as an incentive to boost numbers.
6. Get the number of questions right
Most of the surveys we run typically have 15 to 20 questions and take around five minutes to complete. That said, there’s no perfect number. Instead, we recommend some general guidelines.
Firstly, for every question, ask yourself how you’ll use the answers. If you can’t think of a good use for the data, ditch the question.
Secondly, less is often more. Although longer surveys will help you gather more in-depth answers, fewer people will likely complete it. Don’t include so many questions that clients give up on the survey, or worse, don’t even start.
Finally, make sure you get the information you need, in the fewest possible questions. That’ll often mean refining the survey several times and even getting it tested. Your internal team can help here.
7. Mix up the style of questions
Your aim is to get the information you need by maximising the number of clients who fully complete the survey. That means you need to get both the number of questions right, as well as the style.
Essentially, there are seven different types of questions to choose from:
- Demographic questions: To understand name, gender and age, which allows you to segment other answers based on these factors. We also recommend allowing your clients to answer anonymously
- Closed-end questions: Asking clients to choose from a list of answers defined by you
- Multiple choice questions: Giving your client the option to select more than one answer from a pre-defined list
- Questions with scales: The scale could be either numerical or descriptive (satisfied, very satisfied and so on) and allows clients to rank your performance
- Follow-up questions: To obtain more information about why someone answered a closed-ended, multiple choice or scale question the way they did
- Binary questions (also known as dichotomous questions): Giving the client only two possible answers, for example, “yes” or “no”
- Open questions: To let your clients give their unconstrained opinions, telling you exactly how they feel. They can be used as stand-alone questions or to explain why they answered other questions in the way they did.
Think about the type of information you want to obtain, and how you’ll use it. Then, let that dictate the style of question.
8. Be careful with a net promoter score question
Net Promoter Score (NPS) is beloved by many marketers, but we’re not so sure.
Let me explain why.
The question itself is simple, “How likely would you be to recommend us to other people” followed by a 0 to 10 scale. However, when it comes to calculating your NPS and then explaining it to suspects, prospects and clients, life gets harder.
To calculate your net promoter score you need to deduct the number of “detractors” (people who scored you 0 to 6) from the “promoters” (people who scored you 9 or 10) while ignoring your “passives” (who scored you 7 or 8).
Next, because not everyone is aware of NPS, how it’s calculated or what a good score is, you need to explain it before you promote your score.
That means you’ll probably start to lose people’s attention.
So instead of using NPS, we prefer a simple, binary question, “Would you recommend us to other people?”.
It’s easier to answer and much easier to promote.
9. Send a follow-up communication
Most advisers/planners who run client surveys keep the results secret and don’t communicate them to two key audiences:
- Existing clients
- Non-clients, namely, suspects, prospects and professional connections.
Let’s start with clients.
One of the marketing hills we’d die on is the belief that survey results should be shared with all clients. Very few firms do this, despite the benefits:
- It closes the loop and means the clients who completed the survey see the results of the time and effort they invested
- It allows you to explain the things you’ll be changing as a result of the survey and shows your clients that you’re listening
- It shows the clients who didn’t complete the survey that there was a benefit in doing so and, therefore, should raise completion rates next time around.
10. Decide how to promote the results
Assuming they’re positive (they don’t have to be perfect) not promoting your client survey results is a mistake. After all, if you’re not going to promote them, no one else is!
We’ve spoken a lot in the past about getting the balance right between content production and promotion. Essentially, you need to spend more time promoting than producing. The same applies to your client survey.
Think of the results as content that needs to be promoted to:
- Existing clients: To help turn clients into active advocates
- Prospects: To move people who’ve made contact with you, but have not yet become a client, into engaging
- Suspects: To convince people who know of you, but who haven’t reached out yet, to do so
- Professional connections: To encourage them to recommend people to you.
There are many ways to promote your client survey results:
- Add the results to the most popular pages on your website
- Develop an infographic, which can also be added to your website and used in your wider marketing or, instead of an infographic, consider an animation
- Write a blog (this should be different to the communication we recommended in #9), add it to your website and publish it in your newsletter
- Write a series of social posts linked to the blog, infographic or animation
- Add the key stats to your social media banners
- Include the results in the proposals you send to new clients.
A complete end-to-end service
If you made it to the end of this week’s blog, well done!
It’s longer than usual for a good reason; client surveys are incredibly important for your business, your marketing, and your recommendation strategy.
Despite that, most firms haven’t run a survey in the past two years.
If you’re one of them and now’s the time to put that right, we offer a complete end-to-end service including:
- Agreeing on the questions that’ll be included in the survey
- Sending the three emails we described including the “heads up” email
- Developing (where necessary) a paper-based survey and inputting the results of these completions
- Analysing the results
- Presenting the results to you
- Writing the follow-up client communication
- Recommending ways to promote the results to suspects, prospects and professional connections.
We charge a one-off fee of £750 plus VAT for this service.
If you’d like to learn more, click here, and we’ll get in touch.
In the meantime, if you have any questions, queries or feedback on this week’s blog, we’d love to hear from you.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0115 8965 300.