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Coaches Corner: Should You Use Client Surveys or Advisory Boards?

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Providing outstanding client service is crucial for any financial advisor. If the client is happy, so is the advisor. Yet few advisors realize they are in a service industry and even fewer are committed to always doing the right thing for their clients. So how do you know what’s best for your clients? The answer is simple: ask them. 

Asking your clients what they want from you, as their advisor, is the most important step to providing an unmatched client experience. There are many ways to reach out and generate meaningful feedback, but today we’ll cover two of what I believe are the most effective methods.

One technique is implementing a client advisory council, consisting of a handful of your best and most loyal clients to serve on a board that meets periodically to candidly discuss what they want out of their client experience. A simpler method is to administer client surveys to all of your clients.

Both ways can be effective, but the structure of your firm will determine which is right for you. 

The Best Option for Large Firms

Client advisory boards are usually more effective than client surveys, with the exception for large firms. In the case of organizations with a large client base, taking a small sample to make up your client advisory board might not be a big enough percentage to represent the entire book of clients. In this case, administering a client survey can be more effective in order to poll a larger population of your clients and gain a better understanding of how your clients feel.

However, most surveys are structured in a way that makes it difficult for the response data to be useful. For example, if you ask your clients to rate the responsiveness of your firm and earn a low rating, it is impossible to know what that low rating truly means. Are they referring to your responsiveness as the senior advisor, a different advisor or the firm as a whole? Survey questions are usually not the most detailed, making the resulting data hard to analyze. Advisors often use a pre-made survey template and don’t carefully consider the questions they are asking, rendering the answers worthless. 

When a Client Advisory Council Makes Sense 

On the other hand, if you have a smaller client base, choose the best 10 clients for your council and call it a day. It’s a much more effective method in this scenario for one big reason. A client advisory council allows clients to effectively communicate with you and your team in a personable and open environment.

While a survey is more about reflection and ratings, a client advisory board allows you and your clients to brainstorm new ideas and gain new thoughts to improve their client experience. It gives you the opportunity to ask specific questions and gain meaningful feedback, with the ability for follow-up questions and comments that you would never have anticipated beforehand.

In addition, the clients participating will most likely want to participate, while the participation rate on surveys is very low and can skew your answers. 

Before selecting your client advisory council, ensure you create a meeting agenda laying out the specific topics you are trying to accomplish or understand. The key to an effective meeting is to start with a detailed agenda. Next, choose a handful of clients you truly respect to include on your board. These clients should also be game-changers as far as your firm’s revenue is concerned. Make sure these clients are as happy as possible.

Remember, if they were to walk away for some reason, it would greatly impact your practice in a negative way. If your council members are happy, more than likely the rest of your clients are satisfied as well. 

While both client surveys and advisory boards can be helpful in understanding your clients’ needs and lead to a better client experience, the option right for you will depend on the structure of your practice. For most advisors, a client advisory council is best for providing beneficial insights from clients and opportunities to create a uniquely great client experience. There’s only one thing left to decide: 

Which is right for you?