Soliciting feedback from your clients and listening carefully are crucial ingredients in building a base of engaged clients, says Julie Littlechild, CEO of Advisor Impact Inc. in Toronto.

“It’s not a coincidence,” Littlechild says, “that engaged clients are considerably more likely to have been asked for their input on the service provided by their advisors.”

A report released last week by Littlechild’s firm entitled The Rules of Engagement, which draws on data collected through Advisor Impact’s “Economics of Loyalty” research, notes that 70% of engaged clients think it is important to be asked for their input on the service provided by their advisors.

With that in mind, Littlechild offers the following advice on how you can solicit and implement client feedback into your day-to-day activities:

> Customize your service
While your clients might seem to have similar financial objectives, you must define each client’s individual needs.

The first step is to have a proper exploratory meeting with each client before you talk about any investment products or services you will offer.

Avoid the “cookie cutter” approach, in which you herd all your clients into the same type of product, Littlechild says.

Your goal is to offer the right products and services to each individual client.

> Don’t be shy — ask!
Before you begin your exploratory meeting with a new client, take a couple of minutes to write down a few questions that you would like your clients to answer.

For example, try asking:
“Why did you select me as your financial advisor?”
“What was the trigger that made you decide to get financial advice?”
“What is the problem you want to solve?”

Asking broad questions such as these will help launch an in-depth conversation with your client that can help you understand how you can build a solid foundation for a long-term, trusting relationship.

> Find a system that works
Gathering feedback is important. But being able to analyze and develop a proper structure to draw conclusions on what you’ve heard is equally important.

The success of any client feedback program, Littlechild says, depends on your ability to interpret the answers your clients provide and use that information to help you define new revenue opportunities.

You need to devise the strategy that works best for your particular practice. You might choose to have a particular member of your team specialize in this kind of data analysis, or you could decide to outsource the project to another organization.

This is the fourth instalment in an occasional series on how client engagement can benefit your practice. Next: Asking the right questions to build your client-feedback program.