The advisor said he wanted to get feedback on the planning system he uses. Being at the center of the advisory relationship, that’s a great thing to get the clients’ perspective on. So I started going through the preparatory questions.
What specifically do you want to know about clients’ experience of the system? Silence.
Have all your board members been through the planning process? No. Are you planning to take your long-term clients through this process? Had not envisioned that, no. The idea was more for new clients.
What decisions do you want to make about how you use the system? What do want to learn from them? Hmmm. Had not actually thought about it that way.
I’m not criticizing. This kind of experience is not uncommon. Client Driven Practices start out believing in the value of feedback and the necessity of gathering it as a foundational principle of their strategic planning process. That’s where everyone starts. One of the first things we need to determine is exactly what you want to know. When advisory boards do not deliver value, it usually derives with not establishing just what guidance the advisor is looking for.
As the feedback process begins, you need to know what you want to know.
When asked that question, the first question on many advisors’ minds is, how are we doing? A worthwhile question. Let me save you the investment and time. You’re doing great. Your clients love you and the service you provide.
There is little value in undertaking a client feedback project unless you discover something you can change for the better. If what you learn is that everyone is completely satisfied, where is the benefit for your business?
Used for maximum benefit, client feedback can provide you with the client’s perspective of what it is like to work with you so you can identify how it can be improved. Being specific makes it easier to identify what to work on.
When it comes to a specific strategy, service, or tool, general feedback doesn’t give you much to work with.
When evaluating a planning system, we might ask which reports are most useful. What parts of them are easy to understand and which are difficult or confusing? Which sections of the system, what approach to presenting the conclusions, deliver the most value?
Returning to our original story, we reviewed the board roster and confirmed that most members had not experienced the planning process the firm had adopted and used with recent clients. We found an opportunity to present parts of the plan and discover where clients derive value.
We mapped out how a plan could be presented that might become standard for the firm. We can record highlights of that presentation and replay it for the board. (There are many ways this is better than doing a live demonstration but that’s for another post.) We can list the benefits we believe the process delivers and compare that to the board’s perception of value.
Having a clear understanding of what you want to learn about and improve will make your investment in collecting client feedback much more profitable.