The value of feedback

As advisors, one of the richest sources of insights we can gain about a business is to speak to their clients. However, I'm amazed at how much of the feedback we present is new, even surprising to businesses that are in business for their clients.

All too often, agencies assume they understand their clients' priorities just because they talk to them all the time. Whether you are working with new or existing clients, feedback is critical to identifying what each client actually values. With that knowledge you can provide the service that sets you apart from the crowd and drive real value to your clients, both increasing the likelihood of retention and better organic growth.

Feedback gives you a structured way to understand what's working and isn't working and the best way to improve your service, but it needs to be done right so I've included a few pointers to getting the most out of client feedback:

1. Outsource it - I feel that having a 3rd party speak to your clients elicits better feedback. Clients are much more likely to be honest and direct if they’re not speaking their their relationship lead. Having someone else in the picture also means you can ask difficult questions, discuss competitors and identify any issues with the leadership team on the account. Your clients are your lifeblood and if it means paying someone to help you then you should do it

2. Benchmark - you should be able to tell how good your client feedback is against others in the industry, therefore the feedback mechanism needs to allow for some numerical and benchmarking scoring.

3. Frequency - do it every 6 months and not annually. A year is too long for issues to fester and 6 months gives a good balance between identifying and rectifying issues and opportunities

4. Agenda - go into the process with an idea of specific things you need to know about each client, a one size fits all approach won't work. What do you need to know about your business, the attractiveness of the proposition? What competitors are after? What services you could be offering?

5. Cross-sell - this is not a sale opportunity you are after honest feedback, however it's a good time to make the client aware of other products and services available to them. Asking a simple awareness question is the best way of addressing this

6. Own words - get the client to describe their relationship with you and their view of your business in their own words. Look for patterns over your client base, are they talking about a 'safe pair of hands' or a trusted, indispensable partner?

7. Net Promoter Score - different people see this question as valuable or not. Personally if a client is a promoter then they are willing to recommend me to someone they know which can only be a good thing. If they are a promoter, take them up on it. If they are not then work out why and act on it.

8. Patterns - look for patterns in the data. Sometimes the timing of the review will have an impact, you may have had a deliverable go wrong in the last month and the client is using the review to vent. That's why you need to look at all the data over all the clients, the patterns and insights will appear.

This post was originally posted on TheDrum.com. Here's the link:

http://www.thedrum.com/opinion/2014/07/23/value-feedback