Asking the right questions is essential for an effective client-feedback process. Those questions should relate to four key aspects of your relationship and you should provide some extra space for further commentary, says Julie Littlechild, CEO of Advisor Impact Inc. in Toronto.

Below are four areas of focus:

1. Your clients’ satisfaction with your level of service
Ask your clients for their overall level of satisfaction, but make sure to go deeper.

“The follow-up question should be on very specific, actionable things in the business,” Littlechild says. “That could be satisfaction with the frequency of contact, the team, performance and risk.”

The answers to those follow-up questions will indicate why your clients’ satisfaction is low or high. Where your clients’ answers indicate low levels of satisfaction, you will have examples of the areas that need to be improved.

2. How you have met your clients’ expectations
This area focuses mainly on the level of interaction between you and your clients.

Specific topics would include how often your clients expect to meet and how those meetings should take place. Do they think meeting in person is necessary for every appointment, or would they prefer to conduct some meetings by phone?

You might also ask whether your clients are comfortable working with other members of your team. Or, do they believe you should be the only one handling their file?

3. Clients’ overall needs
Although many financial advisors now offer a range of services, Littlechild says, clients often are not aware of all the services their advisor provides.

“By asking about their needs on different services,” Littlechild says, “you will get a good sense of what clients value. It can also uncover cross-selling opportunities.”

For example, you might ask: “Are you interested in learning more about the following services?” You would then list all the services you provide.

This question presents an opportunity to inform your clients that you provide those services, to increase your share of wallet and to prevent clients looking elsewhere for those services.

4. Clients’ individual preferences
This area refers to interaction with your clients that take place outside of regular meetings.

For example, you might inquire about the way clients prefer to receive communication, such as newsletters and notices. Do they prefer email or hardcopies in the mail?

If you hold informational events such as seminars, ask your clients if they would like to be included and what types of events would interest them. Would they enjoy interactive workshops or conference calls?

5. A brief “comments” section
Include an open-ended question at the end of your questionnaire. It will give your clients an opportunity to add comments that may not have been covered by the survey.

A standard way to phrase this question is: “What one thing could we do differently to improve the way we serve you?”

By asking for “one thing” instead of multiple examples, Littlechild says, you make it easier for your clients to respond.

This is the second instalment in a two-part series on client feedback.