A relatively simple but effective way to evaluate the delivery and quality of the services your firm provides is a Client Satisfaction Survey. By asking your clients what they think, you can identify new selling opportunities, better market your existing services and perhaps even identify new growth areas for your business.
Face-to-face interviews, written questionnaires and telephone interviews are the most common methods used to gather quantifiable survey information. Written questionnaires and online surveys tend to be the most cost-effective. Keep in mind, however, that when using a written or online questionnaire, it's always helpful to test some of your questions during personal conversations with clients.
What makes a successful survey? There are three elements: The Mailing List, The Survey Questions, and The Results.
The Mailing List
The world's best survey won't be successful if it doesn't reach the right people and you may end up wasting money and valuable time. Before undertaking any survey, double and triple check your mailing list to make sure all the elements are updated and correct. This includes names, titles, and addresses and email addresses if you are conducting an online survey.
The Survey Questions
Know your purpose beforehand and keep it simple. Determine ahead of time what you want to accomplish. For example, are you looking for information about pricing, about the quality of specific services you provide, or are you hoping to identify new niche services? Try not to mix too many purposes into a single questionnaire.
Also, be sure to set up a rating scale that will provide you with reliable information.
Research shows that most people tend to provide an overall score that falls into one of the top boxes on the answer sheet. For example, if you use a five-point scale from excellent to poor, most respondents will answer in one of the top two answer boxes, providing a rating of excellent to good. The problem with this is that the ratings won't really tell you how well you measure up against your clients expectations. For example, a client may score your overall service excellent, but still not see it as any better than any other CPA, business or financial planner. Their answer may also mean that what you provide meets, but does not exceed, their needs and expectations.
You can avoid this problem by using a three-step expectation scale, such as:
- Much better than expected
- About as expected
- Worse than expected
As you start to create your survey, keep a few things in mind to help ensure you get a good response rate.
- Keep it short. Long surveys are a turn-off to most people. Don't try to find out everything in one survey. There's nothing wrong with conducting a survey every six months.
- Keep it simple. Limit the number of open-ended questions. Not only is it difficult to tabulate open-ended answers, but people also expect to be able to answer the majority of questions with a check-off box.
- Keep it real. Use language that is easily understandable to your client. Leave your jargon at the door. If you are trying to explore interest in new service areas, make sure you clearly define those services.
- Make it look good. Organize your questions logically, use a simple font and keep it looking neat and tidy.
Generally, if you mail your survey, it's wise to request a response within two to three weeks. If you use an online survey, you should ask for a response within a week to two weeks.
A typical good response rate is 30% of total participants for an online survey and 10% of total participants for a paper survey.
Once your survey is completed, be sure to share the results with your clients. Use it as an opportunity to communicate with them about the range of services you provide and the new opportunities you will be creating.