This article first appeared in Professional Adviser.

Client service reviews may unintentionally become a tick-box exercise, but they can be a great way to demonstrate value and give clients a chance to have their say too.

Ever since the arrival of MiFID II it’s been tempting for advisers to consider annual suitability reviews as little more than a tick-box regulatory burden that takes more time than it’s worth. But to view them that way is to miss an opportunity. It is also a potential trap for future complaints if not done well.

The requirement to review your recommendations on a regular basis not only creates a permanent record of the suitability of your advice, it is also a chance to demonstrate value to existing clients, hone your offering for prospective clients, and ensure those already on board are making the most of the products available to them.

If the last few reviews have been almost identical, it is probably an indication that the review process isn’t working, or is deficient.

Essentially, it’s another chance to get to know what truly matters to your clients and to tailor the service you provide for them accordingly. All of which is crucial for building long-term relationships.

The key to unlocking this greater potential is to treat the review not just as a report, but as a means of engagement or an avenue for conversation. And the best way to start is by asking questions.

Let clients have their say

No matter what kind of business you run, the importance of feedback should not be underestimated.

Certainly, we’ve all seen our fair share of suspect reviews online, whether as the buyer or purveyor of a product. As a rule, it’s often best to take them with a pinch of salt.

Nevertheless, allowing clients to have their say is a crucial chance to confirm what they truly value about your service, especially when that service is something physically intangible such as financial advice.

Often, it’s the simple things. Clients will say they love that their adviser always answers the phone, or that they always remember to ask about family or what was mentioned in the last session.

Equally, reviews are a chance for clients to identify weak points or aspects of the service that don’t work for them personally. Sometimes, what you think a client values and what they really do, are not the same thing – and it’s better to establish the difference early.

With that in mind, the mandatory suitability reviews advisers conduct on a yearly basis are an ideal opportunity to ask for feedback and to generate a regular dialogue with clients.

At the very least, you could include a call to action and explicitly ask recipients to leave you a review. But to truly make the most of the opportunity, you could even direct them to a third-party survey with questions tailored to your particular business.

This should ensure that your client’s feedback is detailed and targeted at any areas of particular interest or concern to you.

Tailoring your service to meet clients’ needs

Aside from revealing any room for improvement in the service you provide across the business, feedback from clients is also essential for continuing to meet their personal needs and for ensuring they’re making the most of your offering.

In some cases, clients will have financial needs that they themselves have yet to recognise, and questions attached to annual service reviews are another means by which to identify them.

For instance, it could be that a client originally came to you for advice on managing their savings and investments but has since decided to start a family and may soon need advice on mortgages too. Or perhaps a change in circumstances means that they should really start considering tax or estate planning.

Such developments may well crop up during your regular conversations, but not necessarily – especially in cases where the changes are nuanced, and the client may not know that you provide a relevant service or product.

By asking questions designed to reveal those changes early on, advisers can ensure that clients are benefitting from their full range of expertise and the business can continue to meet those needs both now and in the long term.

Demonstrating value

Maximising value for your clients is one thing, but proving it to them is another matter. Here, too, annual reviews can be hugely beneficial.

For many advisers, much of the reluctance surrounding MiFID II was initially centred on the increased disclosure of costs and charges. Indeed, the notion of reminding clients on a regular basis how much they pay you might not feel like a particularly great way to ensure satisfaction.

This, however, is a misconception. Rather than aiming for the minimum requirement and treating those disclosures as a sore subject, advisers should embrace the chance to effectively communicate value for money.

It’s a chance to demonstrate exactly how your expertise has proved effective and to highlight the gains you have facilitated. Clients may already know how much the value of their investments has risen this year, but do they also know you’ve made their portfolio more tax efficient and saved them a significant amount of money? Some advisers set this out very graphically, adding the actual tax savings to the investment performance.

Signposting these achievements in a clear and controlled way is key to ensuring long-term satisfaction and your existing annual suitability reviews are the perfect platform on which to do so.