Lately I’ve been writing a lot about so-called business “wisdom” that advisory firm owners should take with a grain of salt. (See 6 Ways Business ‘Gurus’ Can Lead Advisors Astray and Coaching or Consulting? It Depends on What You Need.)
That’s the case mostly because I get tired of playing janitor in my consulting work when advisory firms come to me and I have to clean up the mess of those firms who’ve tried the latest “key” to success, before I can even do the real consulting work.
One of these current theories suggests that advisors should focus on client “satisfaction” and “engagement.” And its proponents offer elaborate (I mean sophisticated) methods to measure where a firm’s clients score in each department. One of the tipoffs for dangerous notions is the use of vague concepts and/or common terms used in unusual ways, such as these two words.
Take client “satisfaction” for example. We all know what “satisfaction” is, at least in a vague sense. We know when we are satisfied or what it might take to satisfy us: we are happy, or content, with an item or situation.
But how do we know if someone else is “satisfied” with this or that? We could ask them, of course, but anyone who’s ever been in a relationship knows that evaluating that answer to a relatively simple question is far from simple.
Quite often the answer the questioner wants to hear can play a significant role in the reply, such as receiving a present that the giver is quite proud of having gound. Better indicators are whether the recipient wears or uses the gift and how they talk about it, not only to the giver but others as well.
When it comes to determining client satisfaction, most advocates today suggest using “client satisfaction surveys.”
I’m not a fan.
In my experience, when filing out these surveys, clients tend to tell advisors what they want to hear; and unless the client is really upset about something, their answers will tend to sound more optimistic than they really feel. (If you do use client surveys, I suggest you focus on questions that have specific answers: ‘What could we do differently to make your experience with our firm better?’ for example.)
However, there are those who argue that some clients (possibly many clients) will stay with a firm even though they are not “satisfied.” There is no doubt that all firms probably have some clients who aren’t particularly happy with the firm but who stay because it’s too much trouble to leave. The big questions are thus: How many of them are there? And what can be done to increase their satisfaction?