When a client leaves his or her financial advisor, the advisor rarely attempts to talk to the client about why they made the decision to end the relationship. That is a lost opportunity, says Larry Distillio, director of financial advisor business management with Mackenzie Financial Corp. in Toronto.

By conducting an exit interview with departing clients, you can learn about ways to improve your business while guiding clients to reflect on their own experiences.

Says Distillio: “It is a process that allows them to rethink their decision.”

Here are three steps to conducting a proper exit interview:

1. Invite your client to an informal meeting
When a client has made it clear that he or she wishes to switch advisors,be gracious. Offer to take the client out for a casual coffee or a drink. The location should be a neutral and casual setting, so avoid your office.

Tell the client that you appreciate your time together and you respect their decision. Say, however, that it is your policy to talk to clients who choose to leave in order to help you understand what you need to improve in your business in case the client should decide to work with you in the future.

“You want to keep the door open,” Distillio says. “And you want to leave the client with a feeling of goodwill.”

2. Ask questions that will get you and the client thinking
Posing the right questions can help your clients understand that they may have benefitted more from the relationship than they realized.

Begin by reminding your client of how long you have been working together and ask how he or she believes his or her financial wellbeing has progressed since starting the relationship. Then, ask for the top two or three lessons learned from your relationship. You can ask your client to tell you how he or she feels you have helped him or her most.

However, this discussion is also supposed to educate you. So, ask your client to share the biggest obstacle that prevents the relationship from continuing, and if there is anything you can do to overcome it. Also, ask if there is anything you haven’t discussed that is important to the client.

3. Suggest a trial period for improvement
If you want to try to continue the relationship, be ready to take full responsibility for the client’s grievance, and identify specific steps to rectify the situation. Offer a six-month trial period during which you can fix the problem, without your client having to make any commitment to continue the arrangement permanently.

For example, your client tells you that he appreciates your investment advice but needs an advisor with a greater focus on wealth management, including insurance and estate planning. While those services might not be not your specialties, you are connected to highly regarded professionals in those areas. Apologize to the client for not making those introductions sooner and ask if he would consider attending a meeting with you and those centres of influence.

If the client agrees, you have six months in which to repair the relationship, Distillio says. If he refuses, respect his decision and let it go.