Annual Client Surveys Can Enhance Client Relationships

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An annual client survey can be a valuable marketing strategy that you can use to “stay in touch” with your best clients, to develop more cross-selling opportunities and to ask for quality referrals. The purpose of a client survey is to determine whether your clients would like to review any of their personal or business planning needs and to schedule an appointment to review those needs.

Success is often dependent upon the strength of your client relationship and your ability to motivate your client. Survey your best clients first, but before that you must consider the types of issues or concerns that are most likely to be of interest to them.

For example, lets assume that you typically work with high-income professionals. These individuals are generally interested in how they can increase and protect their income, how they can reduce their income tax burdens, and how they can accumulate and protect their wealth for their familys retirement, education, and savings needs.

In light of a more challenging financial and economic climate, its clear that these clients may need to review their accumulation and protection strategies.

From an asset accumulation perspective, how many of these clients have the “right” investment plans and strategies? From a protection perspective, what percentage of your clients annual income would be lost in the event of disability or death? How effective are their estate and insurance plans if a catastrophic illness, accident or death should occur?

In many cases, your clients are simply unprepared, and you need to disturb them in order to schedule a review of their needs.

Producers who work with high-net-worth clients may wish to consider some of the most recent changes in the tax and financial environment in order to disturb them. For example, consider the impact low interest rates and turbulent equity markets have had upon the income and assets of these clients. In addition, consider how gift, estate, charitable and insurance planning strategies might need to change if estate tax modification or repeal should occur.

Your annual survey can be designed to focus upon personal needs, business needs or both. For purposes of this discussion, lets assume that business needs fall into three general categories: business insurance and succession planning, employee and retirement plan benefits, and nonqualified benefit strategies.

If you are looking to disturb your business clients, ask the owner to consider what happens to his or her business investment and familys income if he or she (or another owner or key employee) were no longer around or became disabled? Alternatively, ask your clients to consider how health care costs have affected their companys profitability and cash flow.

As for retirement programs, ask your clients to consider whether they are sure they have developed the best retirement planning strategies for their business and whether they might be interested in “special” benefit programs developed exclusively for their key employees.

In most cases, business clients will recognize that these areas need to be reviewed and that cost savings or improvements can be made.

How Should You Get Started? An annual survey can help you achieve three important goals. First, a client survey can help you retain your best customers. Second, a client survey can lead to or position new product or planning sales. Third, an annual survey can provide you with an opportunity to develop new referrals as you service your clients.

The best way to get started is to identify a small number of your best clients and to simply experiment by calling them. Since you are already familiar with the types of products and services they have purchased from you in the past, you may have some ideas as to what products or services they may be interested in learning more about.

During your first few calls, explain to your best clients that your purpose is to stay in touch with them, to make sure that they are satisfied and to determine whether there have been any important changes that might have affected their personal or business planning needs. Absent any specific response, you might want to suggest issues or topics (e.g., reviewing investment, estate planning, life insurance needs, etc.) they may wish to consider.

After you have made a few telephone calls, you will be in a better position to determine what really works for you and your business. The content and implementation of your survey will depend upon your goals and the needs of your clients.

As you get started, it usually makes sense for you to tap the creativity and support of your staff and your business associates. For example, you may wish to establish reward or compensation programs that reward cross-selling and new business referrals. If you work with business associates who specialize in different areas or disciplines, you may wish to develop alliances or create referral opportunities for each other.

In summary, annual client surveys can be a valuable strategy to increase the satisfaction of your existing client base, to generate additional cross-selling opportunities and to obtain quality referrals. As you develop your strategy, keep in mind that your goal is to help clients identify their planning needs and to develop solutions tailored to their personal, family, and business planning objectives. Good luck!

is second vice president, advanced sales at Travelers Life & Annuity, Hartford, Conn. He may be reached at brian.mckenna

@travelersla.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, January 6, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.