Client Satisfaction Surveys as a Marketing tool

I get the impression that client satisfaction surveys are not used as much as they possibly could be for reducing churn of desirable clients and for providing information that can be used in ongoing marketing messages.

Perhaps it is because most of our work is cold calling at the front end that I don't get to see too much of this being done at the back end.  We have on occassions asked clients if they had ever been asked to complete client satisfaction surveys either on a regular or adhoc basis and most of these responded with a no. 

So is this a bit of a missed opportunity for accountancy marketing in your view?  Do you undertake regular client satisfaction surveys or do you just ask for informal feedback on an ongoing basis?

The good thing about structured surveys is that they provide the opportunity to ask the same question in the same way on a regular basis and track responses to identify areas that have improved or worsened. 

If you do undertake surveys do you prefer to use a 3rd party or prefer to do these in house?

 

Comments
Mike Smith Consulting's picture

Client Satisfaction Surveys - A Great Tool

Mike Smith Cons... | | Permalink

 Your assertions from my experience are spot on Max  

A well worded Client Satisfaction Survey is a great marketing tool that delivers in many different ways. And we have yet to see a client who hasn't benefited from running a CSS

Communication with your client base is clearly an important facet but more importantly it lets your clients know that you are interested in their opinions and how you can improve your level of service or provide additional services.

It also provides great marketing collateral to go onto your website. 'In Our Recent Client Satisfaction Survey 93.7% Of Our Clients Rated Our Overall Service As Very Good Or Excellent" This in itself is a double whammy as it tells prospects that your service as judged by their peers is great and secondly your practice is caring enough to seek the opinions of clients.

The direct opportunities thrown up by clever questioning should not be underestimated. We have yet to run a survey which didn't result in direct billable work. And it's clearly a great opportunity to introduce a new service offering to your clients.

One of the main opportunities is to kick off a formal Client Referral program. And the question asking if the client is prepared to refer you usually ends up with a 100% positive response. Clearly the way you then handle the follow up is critical but this itself is aided by the overall CSS as you are able to run a debriefing session with each of your clients who've responded and discussing referral opportunities becomes a natural extension of that exercise.

Running a CSS is simple and facilitated by many on line survey organisations. All you need is an email list and some thoughtful questions. One note of caution however we have found that if you have more than 7 questions you will reduce responses significantly.

Bob Harper's picture

Every year

Bob Harper | | Permalink

@Max - nothing is used as much as it could be and surveys are one of the easy wins.

Most firms will think of a grand annual survey but this could be done one-to-one with final acounts and/or restricted to the best clients. Firms could also survey non clients and compare their results!

Bob Harper

Portfolio Marketing

Client Satisfaction Surveys - an excellent tool

m | | Permalink

An excellent tool for staying close to your clients, increasing your business with them and keeping them! Use of an independent professional leads to increased candor and even greater client goodwill-  they are so important to your firm that you have invested in a professional to talk with them!

MEC

 

With final accounts

HudsonCo | | Permalink

We send our survey with final accounts. We leave a section for comment and ask if we can use this in our publicity. We list some of the comments on our website.

Our fees are not the cheapest so it helps to tell prospective clients that we have 100% track record on "good value".

Unfortunately we lost this last week. (V small business came after year end so limited tax and business planning opportunities for last year) Although the client rated our fees "high" (other choice was "very high") he will still "probably" use us next year and is happy to refer us.

I'm never sure whether clients see our CSS as continuous improvement or yet another form but it certainly helps us to work on any weaknesses.

ChrisBurr's picture

Independently run surveys

ChrisBurr | | Permalink

You are right that client surveys are not used as musch as they possibly could be. Accountants are not alone on this, it is true for most businesses.  Through my own new practice, we have developed bespoke facilities for our  clients to conduct there own secure surveys of their customers opinions .  Our surveys focus on client service improvement, exploration of additional sales opportunities and collection of management info to support TCF monitoring (we havea particular niche for insurance brokers). 

The advantage of an independently run survey is that all the design and management work is already done for you. Also the respondent can provide anonymous responses to an independent which can significantly help response rates and yield more forthright opinions, whilst the elements for exploration of upselling of additional services are still possible. 

On line facilities are great for some surveys if you have the time but  a big issue seems to be a lack of time for people to prepare the questions and manage the whole survey themselves.   Many smaller busiensses just want to be able to pick up a ready made relevant survey structure, have it adapted it to their needs quickly  at reasonable cost and then run with it. Having an ability to confidentially compare and benchmark the results against best/worst  performers, top market quartiles  and averages is also is  an advantage to a 3rd party run survey. 

On line surveys can be seen as a bit impersonal and this may be particularly true for clients of accounting practices.  Having said that, surveys run through a third party can demonstrate a commiment to objective assessment and a desire to take the whole process more seriously.  On line and hard copy surveys can be easily combined at a little extra cost.  Longer surveys can be successful if the survey flow is 'smart' and only relevant questions are aksed.  Response rates fall off when people feel they are being asked questions that are irrelevant or where they feel the answers should alreay be known.  Clients will respond if they feel there is going to be  benefit and a well run survey will ensure this is the case.

Like I say, we've created surveys for insurance brokers and charge just under £300 for  our Ready to Go Survey.  For this, they get a branded and adapted version of our ready made  survey hosted  for a whole year complete with their own secure results portal and email trigger alerts.   I wonder if there would be demand for a similar service for accountants who are also just  too busy  to design and set up their own survey using one of the general online providers?  I would be happy to  create an accountant's survey and offer free no obligation trial to any accounting practices interested in developing and piloting a client survey for accountants.

Chris  www.brpuk.com

 

this has been on my to-do list for a few months and i must get i

deltaforceaccountant | | Permalink

I really want to get this sorted. I want to know what our  clients think of our services, if they think we are any good and whether we're expensive/good value or better. Its taken a while because its made us think about what we actually do. I know it going to be less than 7 questions long and seen a few sample ones, but  none quite hit the target. what are 7 best to include? this is how far i've got:(in no particular order)

1 How do you rate our  services?

2 is there anything we can do better?

3 Can we do more for you?

4 are we good value ?

5 Is there anyone you know who you would recommend us to?

 

Mike Smith Consulting's picture

@Deltaforceaccountant

Mike Smith Cons... | | Permalink

 Hi

We've run many surveys for accountants and would be happy to put one together for you.

There are 3 deliverables from a good Client Satisfaction Survey

1. How you are viewed and scored by clients - in various key areas

2. What additional services your clients want - chargeable opportunities

3. Find the clients prepared to refer you and kick start your formal Client  Referral Strategy

A fourth by product is great marketing collateral - '95% of Clients in Our Recent Client Survey Rated Our Overall Service As Very Good Or Excellent'

The surveys are totally automated and collated and very easy to initiate

Let me know if I can be of further help

Regards

Mike

maxxy's picture

A bit more about surveys...

maxxy | | Permalink

Agree with the point that has been made about a 3rd party doing this sometimes can be really beneficial to gain responses that you may not get yourself but I don't think that delegating responsibility to a 3rd party is a good enough reason to not ask your clients for feedback and referrals yourself. Using a 3rd party survey can serve as a useful "snapshot" and overall results measured by way of trends over a timeline. 

Any survey should have a balance of Ratings v Importance so that not only are you measuring how satisfied someone is with something but also how important it is to them.  Imagine then the scores on a 2 x 2 matrix with highly satisfied and highly important in the top right hand corner, and lower scores and lower importance in the bottom left corner.  The other scores are where something is important but not highly satisfied or happy but in an area that's not really important (Phew, that took some explaining). 

Another thing to mention about surveys is the communication and action that takes place or should take place.  It can be harmful to do a survey for the sake of it and ask for opinions and feedback only to completely ignore comments and suggestions! That will really hit home that clients are not listened to. 

 

-- www.maxxy.co.uk www.find-me-an-accountant.com Twitter:@maxinemaxxy

Bob Harper's picture

Questions, motivation and strategy

Bob Harper | | Permalink

@deltaforceaccountant – I’d question the questions and motivation behind the survey. What’s in it for your customers?

If I were a client and read these the questions would give me the impression that you want reassurance and referrals. Tie the survey into what is happening in the environment and link it to your strategy. Without knowing what you are thinking I cannot recommend anything but here are a few ideas.

If you believe Cloud computing is the way to go ask a question about this. You can put one or two sentences to set the scene about the benefits. I would suggest asking specific questions about what new services your clients would welcome. Ideas include Tax Credits, Management Accounts, Profit Improvement, Strategic Planning and Integrated Financial Planning.

If you want clients to grade your firm, be specific. Perhaps ask clients to score the clarity of communication, speed of communication and you could ask clients to choose how they perceive you – reactive or proactive.
Good luck and also think what you will do as a result. I’d recommend putting a report together and sending this with your suggested action plan. This could trigger a Client Advisory Board and/or you setting up a discussion online using Linkedin or Facebook.

Bob Harper

Portfolio Marketing
 

ChrisBurr's picture

Suggest perhaps starting with a bit of quick research

ChrisBurr | | Permalink

Using very general questions can result in low responses rates and difficuilty knowing what to specifically do with the generalised responses you have got.

Looking at it from the clients perspective,  you are asking them to invest thier valuable time in filling in a survey.  They will be more inclined to do this if they feel there will be some real benefit to them from doing this.   The more relevent the questions are to them and their dealings with you the more likely they are to feel that this will happen and so the more likely they are to respond in meaningful ways.

Your suggested questions are not far off.  Perhaps you could start with some quick oral based research using open questions of a more  value based nature.  Try these out on a few select key clients orally:

*****************************

"We want to find ways of improving what we do for our clients.  To start the process we're initially condcuting  a pilot survey asking  a select number of our  most valued clients to tell us what they think about what we do so that we can then listen carefully to what you say and take action to address their needs and any  issues that they may have.

As an important client to us, we would therefore really appreciate your assitance by providing us with your forthright responses on the following questions:

Are there any aspects of your [accounts/tax/finance]s  or issues that particularly concern you at the moment?

What do you value most about what we do? Why?

What do you value least about what we do?Why?

Given the service(s) we currently provide to you, what do you think we could improve most?

Do you feel that there are any ways in which we could do more to support you or your business?"

**********************************************

The results of this initial 'reasearch' discussion should reveal some useful themes and ideas for you.  As well as starting to address the needs of your most key clients, this should  help you to determine more specific relevant survey questions and answer options for distribution to your wider client base.    This approach should help you to shape your survey to fit your clients needs and this should yield you more responses that are of greater value to you and your clients. 

I agree with Maxxy that ultimately follow up action and communication are key to success with surveys.  Once your clients do see that action follows and they and other clients can get benefit from the process, their engagement in it increases significantly.  That is why the ultimate client survey is not a one off or periodic activity, but one that becomes  a key part of your 'business as usual'.  Perhaps you could include your eventual survey on your website and/or deliver it with  their completed accounts/ tax returns or other work or even with your bills to catch them whilst it is all fresh in their mind.  Onse set up it does not take that musch extra effort to maintain.  It could become an efficient and valuable part of what you always do rather than something you get around to doing when you've got the spare time.

Good Luck

CSS

reza.hooda | | Permalink

Hi Mike

Just came across this post and am looking at putting a CSS together to send to our clients.

Would be grateful if you could send through a general questionnaire that you may have put together yourself. My thinking is along the lines you have elaborated - aim of the survey is to generate some marketing material for us (assuming we're right in thinking our clients approve of our service!), deciphering any potential weakness areas to address and generating proactive referrals from clients who are happy with us.

Many thanks

Reza

 

Add comment
Log in or register to post comments
Group: Accountants and marketing
A discussion forum to share how accountants are marketing effectively.