Less than one in three firms formally surveyed clients during the GFC. Rod Bertino wonders what the Dickens is going on

The importance of regularly seeking
feedback from your clients can never be overestimated. This is especially so when
you consider the increased volatility, high-profile corporate collapses,
multiple government enquiries and the negative media our profession has endured
over the past two years.

Given this, we were somewhat surprised that our
recently released Future
Ready IV whitepaper
found that less than a third of the country’s top advisory firms had formally surveyed
their clients during perhaps what was the most tumultuous period in living
memory.

It would appear that 70 per cent of Australia’s advisers agree with the
second part of the title of this article and the opening line from Charles
Dickens’ epic novel, A Tale
of Two Cities -
for them, it would appear now is not a good time to measure your clients’
satisfaction levels.

We completely disagree. In fact, we argue that, in times
like these, you simply cannot afford to just assume all of your clients are
comfortable and content. And, for those who may think that the roller-coaster
ride we have all been on for the past two years makes it impossible to obtain
an increase in underlying client satisfaction, let me share with you the
following real life case study.

The Tynan Mackenzie practice in Adelaide,
headed by Glenn Sterrey, first completed a Business Health CATScan Client Satisfaction
Survey during the second quarter of 2008. While the overall results were very
strong, the CATScan did highlight the following three key areas of concern.

  • As much as the clients trusted Glenn and truly valued his advice and guidance,
many expressed concern that if something should happen to him, their future financial
security could be at risk. The practice subsequently added a younger adviser to
the team who now attends all client engagement and review meetings.
  • In the
lead-up to the 2008 CATScan, Glenn’s Adelaide practice had replaced its own
longstanding personalised newsletter with the corporate publication produced through
Tynan Mackenzie head office. Many of the comments we received throughout the
survey made it clear that while the clients still appreciated the new
communication vehicle, they sorely missed the personal and intimate nature of the
previous editions. The Adelaide practice decided to recommence the local
bulletins and use these to supplement the corporate pieces.
  • Some clients also
expressed a desire for more personalised and proactive communication, so a series
of specific communication programs were developed for each of the different
client segments. These were heavily tailored to the known needs and interests
of each group.

We recently conducted a second CATScan survey of these clients
and I am delighted to advise that when measured against the 2008 results, the
Adelaide practice recorded an increase in client satisfaction (especially in
the areas of communication and reviews) and achieved top quartile ratings in
every one of the nine key service delivery areas covered in the CATScan.

Further
proof to us that, provided you are willing to listen and then act (don’t embark
on any survey process unless you are serious about doing something with the
results – client feedback that is perceived to be ignored or discounted can do
more harm than good), now is the ideal time to find out what your clients may
not be telling you.

And, if you need further convincing, the following extract
from the Future Ready IV paper clearly shows that the practices
that invest the time, effort and money to find out what their clients are
thinking, not only strengthen their relationships, but also generate, on
average, a 74 per cent increase in bottom line profit.

So, as you finalise your
plans for the remainder of 2010 and beyond, consider how your clients would rate
your performance in the following areas – these are the current national
benchmark standings from the 40,000 plus clients that have completed our
CATScan survey.

Rod Bertino is a partner and director of Business Health – www.businesshealth.com

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