Client Satisfaction Surveys: How to kill 4 business birds with 1 marketing stone.

Kelly Monestime, Monestime Marketing, LLC

Many professional service firms conduct regular client satisfaction surveys while others know they should, but struggle to execute. After all, we know how hard it is to obtain a new client – the last thing we want to do is lose them. We also know how costly and time consuming it can be to achieve revenue growth, and we certainly don’t want to offset new client acquisition by eroding our existing client base.  

That is why most firms set annual client retention goals and create strategic marketing plans in order to achieve them.  Client satisfaction surveys are typically a big part of these plans. But a well thought out, cleverly drafted, properly executed survey can achieve a whole lot more than simply providing you with a gauge on client satisfaction levels at your firm.

In addition to learning how happy your clients are with the service they are receiving from you, the average client satisfaction survey may also enlighten you to where you are performing well while alerting you to areas that may need improvement.  But what else should you expect from these surveys?

1. Client Loyalty

We’ve all heard the expression “presentation is everything” and the same holds true with client satisfaction surveys.  How you present your survey to your client base is important and, done well, can earn client loyalty. Are you simply asking them to do you a favor by completing the survey?  Or, are you explaining your commitment to providing the best possible service to the firm’s valued clients? Are you sending multiple survey reminders asking clients to participate?  Or are you explaining why their feedback is critically important to help shape the future of client service at your firm? A well-crafted introduction to your survey serves as an opportunity to share your mission, express your gratitude to clients, and make them feel important, all while providing them with the opportunity to be heard.  Your clients want you to be successful, so make them feel like they can help you to achieve success. Doing so will help you earn their loyalty and even ensure a higher survey response rate.

2. Client Retention

The great debate is whether or not satisfaction surveys should allow respondents to be anonymous.  While there are pros and cons to both options, one of the greatest advantages to an open survey (non-anonymous) is the ability to identify any relationships that may be at risk.  By knowing which clients are dissatisfied, you can then interview them further or follow up to figure out how to fix the problems revealed by the survey. If a client survey does nothing else but help to save one (or a few) client relationships that you didn’t even know were at risk, it was well worth the time and effort.

3. Value Proposition

The number of questions in your survey should be streamlined in order to minimize completion time (no one likes, nor has the time for a 30 question survey).  There are also a few “tell-all” questions that almost every business should ask. But you can also include a few questions that will help you to identify some of your firm’s differentiating qualities that will allow you to craft a value proposition – the reason why a prospect should choose you as their service provider.  In many industries it is hard to identify what sets you apart from the competition. As a result, many firms make the mistake of marketing aspirational value propositions legislated by the firm’s leadership team, rather than realistic value propositions defined by actual-end users – your clients. When it comes to value propositions, it’s important to take an outside-in approach. A client satisfaction survey can help you do just that.

4. Testimonials

One of the most powerful marketing tools for professional service firms is testimonials.  Today’s buyers want to know what it will be like to work with you before agreeing to an engagement; arguably, even before reaching out to you.  With the internet at our fingertips, prospects will Google your firm, visit your website, read reviews, check out your social media channels, etc., often before making initial contact with you.  Long gone are the times when you would provide references in a proposal during the bidding process. Instead, prospects are researching your firm prior to you even knowing they are a prospect. So, you’ll want your online presence to showcase the buyer experience through testimonials, which can easily be achieved by asking one or two open-ended questions in your survey.  In fact, you can even include a question in the survey asking recipients if they would be interested in providing a testimonial in the future. However, you’ll want to make sure your survey software is savvy enough to only ask this of survey respondents who have given you near-perfect scores and are wildly satisfied.

As you can see, a strategic client satisfaction survey can kill multiple birds with one marketing stone.  The best part is that, with frequency, you can start to identify trends that will help you to augment your practice in its quest to reach new heights.  It’s important to note that professional service firms are unique in that they don’t sell widgets, they sell relationships and solutions.

Be careful when hiring survey companies that don’t allow you to customize survey questions.  Instead, rely on your marketing department, which knows your business inside and out, or consider outsourcing the project to a marketing professional who understands your industry.  Only then will you be able to increase client loyalty, retain clients, develop a value proposition and generate testimonials.

Kelly Monestime is the founder of Monestime Marketing, LLC, a marketing consulting firm that specializes in helping professional service firms realize the hopes and dreams they have for the business.  Learn more at