Getting client feedback can help you improve your service, ensure you are meeting their expectations and identify at-risk clients.

“Clients are usually happy to provide feedback, whether it’s positive or negative,” says Nadira Lawrence-Selan, marketing and communications consultant with Hathleigh Consulting in Woodbridge, Ont. “Asking them for feedback makes them feel good, knowing that you are interested in their opinions.”

Here are five ways to generate client feedback:

1. Formal surveys
Lawrence-Selan recommends getting client feedback through formal surveys. Several online survey tools are available that can be linked to your website or sent directly to your clients. These tools are efficient and easy to use.

Third-party surveys allow you to get feedback that some clients would not otherwise give you directly, Lawrence-Selan says. Rather than using basic “tick the box questionnaires,” she says, you can also ask open-ended questions, which can provide you with broader insights into what your clients are thinking.

2. Meet in person
Scott Guitard, portfolio manager with Fiduciary Trust Canada in Calgary recommends meeting clients in person.

“You can’t pick up the puzzled look in a client’s face [online or] over the phone,” Guitard says. “Their body language provides very important feedback.”

Typically, clients provide more information during a personal meeting. You should ask personal questions, Guitard says, to get them to open up. As well, be specific in your questions. For example, ask: “Is your portfolio meeting your expectations?”; “Are you happy with my service?”; “What else can I do to make sure you’re happy?”

3. Let your client choose the venue
Clients are more at ease when meeting in places they are familiar with, says Guitard. Let your client pick the place, whether it is their home, a coffee shop or a restaurant.

“When clients meet in your office, they can feel pressured and tell you things they think you want to hear,” Lawrence-Selan says. “When they are more relaxed, the conversation is generally more free-flowing because it’s on their turf.”

4. Host client-appreciation events
Client-appreciation events are a good way to interact with clients in a more relaxed environment,” Lawrence-Selan says.

Guitard agrees, adding that the feedback you get is not the same as what you would get in a formal meeting.

Plus, says Lawrence-Selan, if you allow clients to bring their spouses to an event, “the depth of feedback can be greater and you can get a more realistic sense of their opinions. You might be surprised at what you can learn from a client’s spouse.”

5. Make use of team members
Introduce your clients to members of your team whom they might deal with at various times, Guitard says.

“Clients would have different types of conversations with different team members and provide different cues,” Guitard says. This way, you can aggregate the feedback of various team members to get a better picture of your clients’ opinions.