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InvestmentNews takes advisers through the developments and innovations in technology that’ll change the way you do business today—and tomorrow.

Use surveys to build stronger client relationships

A quick questionnaire can let you know how you can improve and shows clients you care

Jun 16, 2014 @ 11:40 am

By Sheryl Rowling

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According to a recent Dimensional Fund Advisors study, advisers who conduct a client survey lost 15% fewer clients and received 20% more referrals (than those who haven't). Would you believe that I read this piece of information just after I coincidentally sent out a client survey for my RIA firm?

I wasn't scientific about it. I went straight to Survey Monkey and made up my own questions. What did I want to know?

Essentially, I wanted to know if my clients are happy. Of course, there are many permutations to that. How do they feel about my firm's level of service? Are they satisfied with our investment management? Financial planning? Tax preparation? Where can we improve? What are we doing right? Do they have any comments? Do they want us to contact them about the survey? I figured that this feedback would be invaluable. Yet, I was not sure if I would get responses, nor was I convinced I would actually want to see them!

More: Collaborative planning helps deepen client relationships

Survey Monkey makes it easy. Pre-formatted templates allow the user to construct various types of questions including multiple choice, ratings scales, matrices, and "fill-in-the-blank." Once the survey questions are complete, a link is created to share with clients.

Junxure provided the engine to send out the survey in a mass e-mail that went out to my clients in a matter of minutes. I sent out a total of 182 emails, counting husbands and wives separately. After a little over a week, Survey Monkey showed 75 completed surveys. Based on what I've been told, a response rate of more than 40% is pretty good.

At first glance, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. No clients were dissatisfied and more than 70% said they were very happy and would refer Rowling & Associates to their friends. The big stress behind me, I was left with actually analyzing the results.

For this, I got my team involved. We identified both areas where we were doing well and those that we could do better. As a group, we developed new initiatives to generate greater client satisfaction and we brainstormed ways to take advantage of our clients' willingness to make referrals. Finally, we read each "fill-in-the-blank" comment, and I personally contacted each client who had requested it.

I think there's more to the DFA study than, "send out a survey, have happier clients." I think the clients become happier because the survey shows you care and as a result of actions you take based on their feedback. I suppose I could have hired professionals to construct, conduct and analyze the client survey. But, the way I did it was fast, easy, cost-free and gave me what I wanted: honest input from my clients that I could use to better cement our relationship and encourage referrals.

Sheryl Rowling is chief executive of Total Rebalance Expert and principal at Rowling & Associates. She considers herself a non-techie user of technology.

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