A New Tool that Anticipates Client Concerns and Defections

How do you know what your clients are thinking in real time, as the markets jump around unpredictably, as clients go through life changes which are largely invisible to their advisor unless the clients proactively contact them? Is there a new, deeper level of client thinking, feeling and experiencing that 21st century advisors can tap into?

Until recently, the standard in this area has been annually assessing the satisfaction levels of advisory firm clients to help firms measure their service levels and see progress in various areas of advice, service and ongoing communication. The leader in this area has always been Absolute Engagement, which has crafted thousands of those client satisfaction surveys for advisory firms over the last 15 years.

Over time, the survey instruments evolved from questions about the overall satisfaction with the firm to asking clients for feedback in different aspects of their advisory relationship. If the advisor desire it, the surveys can become a suggestion box for services that could be added or improved. For instance, clients could tell the advisor how often they want to meet with their advisor in a 12-month period or how to better structure the client meetings they attend. Client input, if you will, which is a step beyond client feedback – and the results were collated and posted on an Absolute Engagement dashboard that was personalized for each firm.

Julie Littlechild, Absolute Engagement’s founder and CEO, greatly improved the value of this data when the firm began collecting and displaying individual as well as collective results. This allowed advisors to see which clients were satisfied and which were, well, on the border and might be inclined to seek out another professional relationship. Advisors could go to the dashboard and see the clients who reported a ‘3’ or less, which allowed them to reach out conserve some valuable relationships and collect candid feedback about any gaps in service levels.

That, of course, required the Absolute Engagement surveys to give up anonymity, where clients were identified with the scores and input they provided. Interestingly, Littlechild reports that this (rather dramatic) switch didn’t diminish response rates. “People didn’t seem to mind that the surveys weren’t anonymous,” she says. “By and large, they welcomed the opportunity to provide feedback.”