Asking your clients what they really think of you can make those clients more engaged.

There is a strong connection between asking for feedback and building deeper, stronger relationships with clients, says Julie Littlechild, president of Advisor Impact Inc. in Toronto. And a more engaged clientele means increased client loyalty and profitability for your business.

Littlechild offers these tips on conducting successful client surveys:

> Know your objectives
Be clear about what you want your survey to accomplish.

Consider what you are hoping to learn or gain from this feedback, Littlechild says.

Typically, the results will break down into two categories: service-related feedback and growth opportunities.

Service-related feedback will show how clients regard your service levels and their expectations. Growth relates to opportunities to increase your business through greater share of wallet or referrals.

> Consider the commitment
Decide whether you want to do the surveys yourself or outsource the project.

Cost is, of course, a consideration, says Littlechild, but it is not always the deciding factor.

Consider whether you have the expertise to craft a meaningful survey yourself and the expertise to analyze the results, she says. As well, think about the commitment and whether it would be the best use of your time.

> Ask the right questions
Make sure your survey questions are useful, Littlechild says, by asking yourself how you will use the results for each question. If you can’t come up with an adequate answer, then the survey question is not framed properly or is not appropriate for your survey.

Also, the questions must focus on one point at a time. For example if you ask clients to rate your “knowledge and efficiency,” she says, the answer is useless because you won’t know which skill they are ranking.

Most of the questions on the survey should be quantitative, Littlechild adds. That means the respondent should give a ranking or answer yes/no. The survey should include only one open-ended question.

> Keep it short
Make sure your survey does not ask for an inordinate investment of time on the part of the respondent.

The survey should take no more than five to 10 minutes to complete, says Littlechild. Generally, about 20 questions can be answered in that time.

> Know your audience
Think about your clients and how they would like to receive the survey.

Based on how your clients prefer to receive information, Littlechild says, you will probably have to mail some surveys as hardcopies, while others can be sent electronically.

> Take action
Get the most from the survey by acting on the results.

First, you should follow up with clients, Littlechild says. Thank them for participating in the survey and let them know that you intend to take action based on the results.

Next, create an action plan for your business based on the results, she says.

> Space out the surveys
Get regular feedback — without driving clients crazy — by putting some distance between surveys.

Generally, 12 months is barely long enough to finish with the results of one survey before moving on to the next, Littlechild says. It’s best to conduct surveys every 18 to 24 months.