Growth is great, but client retention is an art! Measuring client satisfaction and loyalty is key. A well-written survey can be an essential benchmark for knowing how your message is being received by your clients.
Identify Your Goal
Brainstorm with your team to not only identify an overall goal, but also smaller, more measurable aspects of your goal. For example, if your main goal is to increase overall client satisfaction, how will you do that? Will you focus on improving your communication, the client’s understanding of the process or your client’s connection to their tax preparer? In our firm, we had several goals this year we wanted to measure. Under the umbrella of overall client satisfaction, we wanted to gauge the client’s understanding of our bundled tax packages, amount of communication, ease of using eSignature to e-file and the client’s relationship with their tax pro.
Tailor Your Questions to Your Goal
Be specific! Don’t ask unfocused questions or those only designed to elicit responses you want to hear. A well-written survey is an objective, neutral way to learn exactly what your clients think of you and your services, while giving you valuable feedback on what might be missing or broken in the process. Ask a handful of multiple choice questions, and try to avoid too many open-ended “explain why” questions. The goal is to make the survey easy and engaging for the client in order to elicit their response.
Which Online Survey Product to Choose?
While there are dozens of different survey tools to choose from, the largest difference is the capability the free versus paid versions offer. If you’re looking to do light market research, a free survey should be sufficient. However, if you are interested in exporting data, customizing logos and themes, producing unlimited surveys, and more, a paid version will have more robust features. Some of the most popular online survey tools include SurveyMonkey, Typeform, Google Forms, Client Heartbeat, Zoho Survey, Survey Gizmo and Survey Planet. For our needs, we’ve found that the free version of SurveyMonkey is sufficient; we love that it tells the client that the typical time spent to complete the survey was only one minute!
Determine How and When to Present Survey to the Client
Have you sent out surveys in the past and gotten lackluster participation? The right timing is essential! Do your clients respond better to general emails after the craziness of tax season has passed, or are they more apt to keep up with the flow of emails during tax season? Experiment a little to see which category they fall into. For example, send your survey to each client immediately after you’ve e-filed their return, then also send the survey via bulk email to your client list after tax season to determine which timing prompts the most responses.
We have sent the survey both ways – at the end of April in a bulk email and right after the return was e-filed. For us, data shows that we got more participation sending it right after the return was completed and our scores soared as well; perhaps that was because the experience was fresh on their minds.
Analyzing Survey Data
Are you noticing a trend with your clients’ replies that seem to target a particular area of disconnection for them? This is a perfect opportunity to make a course correction! For example, if your goal is to improve communication, are they indicating that you have actually gone overboard on your communication with them and they are overwhelmed with the frequency of contact? Take the time to evaluate how you could scale back your client communication while keeping the essence of your goal intact. This could mean more succinct emails, creating a step-by-step flowchart of the return process for the client to follow or ensuring that your employees aren’t sending clients redundant emails.
For the past two years, we have shared the survey results in our weekly employee meeting to get real-time feedback that can help us focus or course correct. For example, two years ago, we had a technology issue with our tax organizer. Because of the feedback we received in early February, we were able to make some small changes that had big results.
Get Prepared for Next Year
I know that by the time you’re reading this article, tax season is over. It’s not too late to send this year’s surveys out to your clients, but if you think you want to wait until after next year, there’s no time like the present to start planning.
When we send out our surveys evaluating our services for tax year 2018, we plan to ask a new question: “In order to help you reach your financial goals, we want to know what is important to you. What is the one thing you want to accomplish in your financial journey by December 2019?”
By asking this question, we hope to gather data to find out what is important to our clients. We are also asking this question in our client meetings when we review the return line-by-line, then plan to follow up with the client in mid-year meetings. In addition, we will plan to write articles about the top categories so that we can educate all clients when we send out a newsletter.
Editor’s note: Sending out surveys is one way to know how your firm is doing with its client service; for a list of other methods, read “5 Ways to Ask Your Clients for Feedback.” This article was originally published May 23, 2018.