How Client Feedback Tools Can Empower Financial Advisors: A Conversation with NEXA Insights' Chris Manker
In this Swift Chat video conversation, Marie Swift of Impact Communications, Inc., speaks with Chris Manker of NEXA Insights, LLC.
How can financial advisors and their firms use client feedback to empower their people, inform their marketing strategy, improve client communications, solidify client relationships, uncover potential referrals and business growth opportunities while also identifying "clients at risk"?
Chris Manker, the genius behind NEXA Insights, answers all these questions and more in this fascinating video interview.
To learn more about NEXA Insights and Chris Manker, visit: www.NEXAInsights.com
To learn more about Impact Communications and Marie Swift, visit: www.ImpactCommunications.org
Now, if you were doing it on your own, you would get a large spreadsheet of data, but because NEXA is built for advisors, we've formulated the data into a dashboard and a visualization that is specific to what advisors are looking for and we run that down two parallels. We know that advisors know their clients, for the most part, but there's definitely some shockers." ~ Chris Manker, NEXA Insights
Marie Swift: Hey everybody and welcome back to another Swift Shat. Today I am really pleased that I have Chris Manker. He is one of the co-founders of NEXA Insights and you know, Chris you're right here in my backyard in Leawood, Kansas. How cool is that?
Chris Manker: Since it’s the home of the greatest barbecue here in Kansas city, of course. It’s a little hot today but otherwise it's doing great.
Swift: Yes, we have a beautiful city here in Leawood, Kansas. It's actually quite a nice little suburb of Kansas City. I love living here, but you're actually in Lenexa, right? A kissing cousin to Leawood...
Manker: Lenexa. We’re very close. That's actually where our name comes from. NEXA, it's not that original, but it worked out pretty good for us and it's a short domain name. So that's important, I guess.
Swift: Perfect, and you and I have known each other way before you started NEXA Insights. Tell our audience today a little bit about who you are and a little bit of your backstory, if you will.
NEXA'S ORIGIN STORY
Manker: I started in financial services right out of college. My first job was with a small startup here in Kansas City. We did primarily performance reporting, back office, billing, trading solutions, everything for financial advisors though. I was one of the early employees there. We grew that company into 50, 60 employees and we ended up selling to Charles Schwab.
So that was back in 2009 and 2010, rough time for the market, but we ended up transitioning into Schwab employees there for a while, so I was with Schwab for a while. About 13 months or so and then I ended up transitioning into survey solutions. I went to work for a company that does health care surveys. So, we're talking employee engagement for large hospital systems, as well as patient satisfaction. We're serving tens of thousands of employees and tens of thousands of patients and I always had my desire to be in financial services so the whole time I was there, I was looking back at that sort of spectrum and saying, how can I use the new knowledge that I have and the new technology that I've developed and how can I transition that back into financial services?
I ended up working for a large RIA here in Overland Park and, you know, there's two or three or four or five big ones here in the central US. After working there for a couple of years, I really got a very good perspective of how advisors function and especially from the experience and the communications and everything else that goes into that that delves into the client relationship. I launched NEXA shortly after, and here we are a couple of years later.
BENEFITS OF USING THE NEXA PLATFORM
Swift: I've had the opportunity to take a demo, do a deeper dive, and I've been really impressed with what I've seen. You know, I think one of the things that our audience might be wondering about is, why should I pay for a software or a system like NEXA when I could say do something via Survey Monkey. So let's just throw that on the table.
Manker: So, a lot of the advisors that come to us have attempted it on their own in the past, which I applaud anyone, if you're going to not choose NEXA at least survey yourself. I'm a devout believer in surveying. I would rather you survey with Survey Monkey than not survey at all of course.
However, doing it on a professional level brings a new perspective to it. For one, it turns it in to just a quick little project versus it being a 20, 30, 40 hour process to put together questions and then conceptualize, figure out the communication, and those sorts of things.
There's a lot of work that goes into it, and NEXA has already done all that work for you. So it's so much easier when you launch. Most of our surveys are set up within two to three hours of that from the advisor. So, considering you know, you're saving 30 hours right out of the gate it fairly well pays for itself just right there.
But beyond that because we've done this for hundreds and hundreds of advisors, we have what we consider the NEXA benchmark. Think of an index S&P 500. So, when you're benchmarking your portfolio against something, you benchmark it against the S&P 500 or the Russell or any of the other ones out there.
We do the same thing with their firm. We benchmark them against other advisors, these hundreds of advisors that we've surveyed, and that provides the context so you can actually interpret the data. If you survey on your own you're going to end up with numbers 9.2 or a four out of five stars or any of those, but what does that really mean?
You know, when we're talking about a 9.2, is that good? Is it bad? With us having the large benchmarks and having other advisor data in there, we're able to say, this is good or this is bad because there are a lot of questions that come in low. If we had talk about fees, everybody's going to score it low.
So, if you don't have the benchmark data, you don't know if your low score is actually low or if it's just, you know, it could be great. It might be the lowest scoring question in your entire survey, but yet it's still better than the benchmark. So that context and the ability for NEXA to really frame the results in a way that compares your advisory firm to other advisory firms is a huge benefit.
And of course, then we're always here to answer any questions you have, or really dive into anything that you're wanting to do. The survey is a unique opportunity for you to research some other things that you're maybe thinking about doing so we can really talk through and help you along that path and ensure that everything's done in a good way.
Swift: So, do you have some determined or suggested questions? Do you help the advisor customize them? Just talk a little bit about the nitty gritty.
Manker: So, when you sign up with NEXA, we launched what we consider our best practices survey. When we started this, we found that every advisor tends to gravitate towards the same 18 to 20 questions.
Now we have over a hundred total that we've curated run through compliance, but people tend to tend to gravitate towards the same ones. So, we've developed our best practices based on our most popular questions naturally. We also have everything from the welcome message and the thank you message and the invitation emails and all that put together and really out of the gate, you get this best practices template that you can then quickly edit and make your own and launch it from there. That's why we can take it from 20 to 30 hours down to two to three. And of course, we have the technology behind the scenes to ensure that you're able to easily do that as well.
THE VALUE OF THE NEXA DASHBOARD
Swift: Talk a little bit about the dashboard and some of the Intel in the dashboard, and then the consultants add on top of what the system provides. What do advisors typically see? What are the ahas?
Manker: At the end of the survey and actually throughout the entire survey, because our data is real-time. So, it's coming in and especially the first 24 hours is really exciting.
So, you have let's say 500 or a thousand clients. You'll hear from 150 of them within the first 24 hours and so you'll get a ton of feedback right away. That's actually the most shocking thing both to me and other advisors is that, you know, we did a firm with 15,000 clients the other day and they hit 12% participation rate within the first 24 hours and 20% within the first 48. When we're hearing from 3000 clients all at once, it's amazing the insights that you get.
Now, if you were doing it on your own, you would get a large spreadsheet of data, but because NEXA is built for advisors, we've really formulated the data into a dashboard or a visualization that is specific to what advisors are looking for and we really run that down two parallels. We know that advisors know their clients, for the most part, but there's definitely some shockers. But 93% to 95% of your clients, they're going to be incredibly satisfied with the services that you're offering.
So, we look at it from a retention standpoint. There is that 5% to 6% that are not necessarily entirely happy with your services. We provide a focus into those 5% to 7% of your clients and sometimes it's 1% I've seen it as high as 15%. Every firm is a little bit different. We don't know going in where you're going to end up. You don't know going in where you're going to end up either, but we have a very good methodology on how we determine at-risk assets. So, we tell you these clients might be at risk. Now they're not leaving tomorrow. They're not transferring assets yet.
NEXA is a proactive solution. We're trying to get out ahead of these retention issues and we're going to try to identify these individual clients that could be running out the door and then we of course tell you those.
So, let's say there's Bob Smith with $2.7 million in assets that is really not very happy. Sometimes you know about that, sometimes you don't. Sometimes there's a reason that you know why he's unhappy; that's completely understandable and he's not going anywhere.
NEXA exists in this little bubble. We rely on our data to make these determinations and then you, as an advisor, have all the knowledge behind the scenes to really take that and run with it. You know, we're the spotlight and you guys are the, everything else, the context behind the scenes. So, it makes it really great but besides retention because I know that a lot of advisors, they think they know their clients. They do know their clients. I don't want to say that they don't, but there's always shockers in there.
But we want to add value beyond just looking at client satisfaction and retention and those sorts of things, so we really take a look at the growth aspect of it too. We've got 93% of your satisfied clients captured here. We've got them already in the survey so let's use this mechanism to try to identify additional opportunities for growth. We ask questions that are focused on that and what we find is around 40% to 50% of the respondents will be interested in learning something more about your firm
Oftentimes it's something that they're not leveraging, that they didn't even know existed, whether that's estate planning or tax planning or insurance solutions finding those individuals through the survey is a huge mechanism for growth. We'll take those, we'll identify them, we'll present them to you and at the bare minimum it's an amazing discussion for you as an advisor to have with that individual client. I look at those and I say, well, there's 37 people that want to learn more about estate planning so let's reach out to those individuals and lets really talk about estate planning and go through that.
It's a touch point that you generated as an advisor versus the client having to reach out to you and it was all because of a survey. It was something that is extra on top of your measurement. There it is. Here's these touch points and what happens is you increase engagement across your whole client base because you're increasing these touch points through here, so the survey actually increases that sort of engagement. So, when you survey a year over year over year, that will automatically improve your overall satisfaction because clients want to hear that their feedback's being taken seriously. They want you responding to it and so that's a good way.
The other way when we're talking about growth is referrals. We've got all these people that are incredibly happy with your services so let's ask them if they have anybody else that they know that they would like to introduce to you. We get a lot of referrals through this survey and these are good, good leads. So, it's pretty amazing to see it all come out and of course, NEXA has these visualizations that brings it all together. You're not looking through a spreadsheet. You're clicking, everything's drillable, it's quickly and easy to use. I haven't ever had to train a single advisor they usually just jump in there and make a few clicks and they say, "Oh, well, now I got it figured out I'm good, Chris."
That's how we pull everything together and that's the presentation that the advisors ends up with and, of course, at the end I do go through everything because we see so many of these firms that there's things that jump out to us that aren't necessarily going to be obvious to you as an advisor so we're going to go ahead and highlight those things as well.
ASKING FOR FEEDBACK SENDS A GOOD SIGNAL TO YOUR CLIENTS
Swift: You know, it's interesting. One of the things that occurs to me is that people want to be heard and so just the act of asking your clients for feedback is important. I'm wondering from your perspective, if you would add anything to that, and I'm just wondering if clients are from your perspective, enthusiastic to participate or little reticent, and is the survey anonymous? If you could just address some of that client dynamic.
Manker: So, we have a fairly, what I would consider a high response rate. We average about 33%. I don't think we've hardly ever had a firm get below 21 to 22%. A lot of them are 45 50, 60, 70%. I've had it as high as 98%. That advisor worked hard to get everyone to respond, but for the most part NEXA has a process of how we send the invitations, when we send the invitations, that sort of thing that really increases the participation rate. This is not a survey you get at Home Depot or, you know, through the mail from Apple or anything like that. It's very targeted in the relationship that you, as an advisor have with your clients is one of a partnership.
So they're willing to provide this feedback and you'll get a lot of good, good content. There's going to be a few things that we might need to address that are kind of hard to hear oftentimes, but for the most part you're going to find that you have a large number of partners in your client base that want to see you succeed.
Swift: So now you've got me curious. You said you might have to address some things that the advisor might not want to hear. What could some of those things be?
APPROACHING YOUR CLIENTS
Manker: Every advisor that we approached they know their clients. They think they know their clients, but there's always a sleeper in there. There's that one individual that's been there for 20 years that maybe was slightly neglected, or maybe there was a trade error recently, or maybe there's any kind of situation going on that isn't necessarily obvious to the advisor.
When we talk about human nature, we all avoid confrontation, especially with individuals that are managing your money. The survey allows them this unique medium in order to provide that feedback in a non-confrontational way. It almost starts the discussion with the advisor in order to facilitate the repair of that relationship.
Every time we come out of the survey with one or two or three that were shockers and sure enough, they make a phone call, they start to talk about what the situation is, and they identify that, yeah, you were right. There was something going on there that we didn't know about you know, our quarterly cadence of calls that just didn't come up because we're not asking specifically for their satisfaction level. We're talking about things like goals and performance and things like that. It just doesn't have ever that direct conversation. It's just not a natural thing. The other things that we see come up are situations within your firms especially with larger firms. I had one, it's been two months now, they have around 10 advisors. They are a high, high-performing firm. The eight top advisors were performing towards the top 60th percentile of our benchmark, but the bottom two were straggling 21, 22%. This is where NEXA really comes in where I say we exist within a bubble. We have to make our determinations based on what the data that we have.
So I asked them, I said, well, what's going on with these two advisors? And I already knew because I had reviewed all of the written feedback, but they said well, the bottom adviser, she actually is semiretired recently. So, she's still got most of her clients, but she's only working 5 to 10 hours a week.
There are other advisors who were transitioning those clients to. So you look at an overall just a spectacularly performing firm, but yet these two instances, these two individuals had really drug them down from an overall perspective. They didn't understand really the impact of that retirement and the unplanned transition of clients on the client experience.
When we talk about the client experience and the relationship, it's the trust you have in your advisor, that's what makes the most impact on whether or not they're satisfied. You can have the greatest technology and good performance and all of those sorts of things, but you're my advisor. That's who I'm going to, when I have questions or troubles, or I need to talk to someone. Once you lose that, that's a big thing, you know?
So, this firm was able to use the survey as a way to identify that, that transition isn't going as well as they thought it would. The retirement isn't as good of a situation as they'd hoped it would be and so they were able to refocus and, you know, I'm sure they saved a ton of relationships by getting out ahead of that and identifying that situation.
LARGE, MEDIUM AND SMALL FIRMS CAN ALL BENEFIT
Swift: That's really interesting. Earlier, you mentioned that you had done a survey for a firm with 15,000 clients. Is that right? That's a huge firm.
Manker: Huge firm. I want you to survey the clients that are most representative of their service level that you normally provide. So, they actually have 30,000 or 40,000 clients.
A lot of them are 401(k) clients that they're not really managing and so of course the satisfaction level would be unique and different there. We do charge by clients so it's important to basically focus on the clients that actually are serviced at that level. So, we ended up with 14,000 - 15,000 total clients. They hit a 41% response rate, which was spectacular. I think it shocked even them. One of the better firms in our database.
I was very impressed with everything. It was an amazing experience. It definitely tested NEXA. We have three or four other firms that I would consider large RIA similar to that, but definitely not at that level. So, we got to definitely stress test our software and now we know that we can take on pretty much anyone in the market.
Swift: So, you've given us the example of the really big firm and then the firm with 10 advisors, which we'll call a mid-size firm. What about a solo practitioner -- is NEXA a good solution for them?
Manker: Absolutely. I would say 25 to 30% of our firms that we survey are solo practitioners. So, we'll survey 40 or 50 clients at a time. Sometimes it gets up to 150 and 200. It works just as well. Everything is scaled so the more clients respond the more referrals you're going to get, the more opportunities, the more at risk assets we'll identify, but even at 150 or 200 clients, the value is amazing. To be honest with you, those smaller clients have a better response rate generally.
They've got a different relationship with their clients. Their clients have a different relationship with the overall firm and the team. How they view that individual, that firm is different than how you view a large RIA. So, we'll see those firms hit 60, 70 to 80% participation rate.
But it's still just as applicable. I had a firm a year ago. They they're surveyed with us twice now so two years ago. They survey and it was a father and son firm, and everything was spectacular with both of them except for the technology situation. We survey across things like communication and the relationship and the overall office and the team that they work with, the individual advisor.
One of the areas that we work on is technology. So, this firm had father son, the father was scoring very low in the technology sections despite the fact that the firm itself is offering the same exact technology to every single client. So we dove into it and what it came down to communication issue.
The father wasn't as technology savvy as the son and therefore his clients weren't being communicated to in the same way about either problems they had or what was available to them. So, it jumped out in the survey, and we addressed that issue and when they surveyed the next year, of course, that it all fixed itself.
So, it's really amazing -- even at those smaller firms, I think they had 190 clients or so, you'll still see things like that jump out and every firm is different and that's why NEXA really brings that expertise to notice things like that, that you wouldn't normally get if you're surveying with something like Survey Monkey.
FREQUENCY FOR USING A FEEDBACK TOOL SUCH AS NEXA
Swift: I wanted to get into this frequency. What is your recommendation about how often firms should survey their clients? Then the measurement, is that called a net promoter score, over time that you can actually see that just to, if you can address that dynamic and what you can see over time.
Manker: So, we recommend surveying every 12 months. That varies sometimes it'll be 14, 18. It's really based on your schedule. We're very flexible there. I wouldn't recommend surveying in the middle of a pandemic. We had client survey and in March of last year, that shockingly the performance of the market didn't impact the satisfaction as much as one would think.
So, it was really neat to have firms survey during that downturn. But you know, we guide you down that, for instance, let's not survey through Christmas break, and things like that. But from a cadence standpoint, we recommend every 12 months to go ahead and survey your clients. That allows us to really evaluate the trends.
It's not too frequent that we're bothering clients, but it's not too far apart that so much has happened that we don't know that the results from the prior survey were addressed and therefore that impacted it positively. We trend everything. We trend the participants. So, I know that if an individual goes from 10 to 8 we're going to highlight that. If a client moves too much, even though they might not be at risk yet, there's something that went on there over the last 12 months we might need to get ahead of. So again, it's all about being proactive here. We also trend the questions. We have 20 questions; sometimes it's 30. Advisors have full control over this, but like I said, they tend to gravitate towards the same 18 to 20. So, we trend each one of those to make sure that communication's still solid. It's moving in the right direction we're not lagging in anything there, but we also trend the overall advisor and we roll our data to the location. So, if you have 20 or 30 locations, you can look at it there as well as the overall firms. So, we try to trend every level of the hierarchy as well as individual questions and then individual participants. That's why we recommend every 12 months.
You mentioned Net Promoter Score. We absolutely assess the Net Promoter Score. It's one of the core questions to our survey, as well as all of our algorithms. That's the how likely are you to recommend your financial advisor to a colleague or friend? It's a zero to 10 scale and nine and 10 are your promoters and that sort of thing.
But it's not the only question we ask. It's a supplement. I know that a lot of people talk about Net Promoter and they say, well, you only need that promoter score and a couple other questions to go with it. But that is not the case with advisors.
When I ask an individual client, how likely are you to recommend your advisor to a family member or friend, a lot of them will say it's very unlikely, even though they're perfectly satisfied with your services, because they don't want to inject themselves in the financial situation of a friend. So, we see that a lot where that Net Promoter Score is actually impacted by individuals answering that question very literally. That's why we ask all the other questions to go with it. To make sure that we understand the why behind the context of the Net Promoter, but we are a devout believer in the Net Promoter Score and it's part of every survey it's highlighted very clearly on the visualizations in the dashboard.
HOW SAVE 10% OFF A NEXA SURVEY
Swift: So, in the last few minutes we've got Chris, I'd like to hear a little bit about how those who might be interested, how they get started, how they learn more, if they're on the fence. I know that you have done something special for some of my clients in the past so if you want to share that with our viewers today, that would be great.
Manker: So, when you start out with an NEXA it's usually a phone call. It's a demo. I want to show you the solution. It's easy to talk about, but everyone uses surveys in a way. You know that receipt at Wendy's that you get, and that's not NEXA at all. So, I want to show you what we do and it's very obvious once you start to see it how it comes out and it's even more obvious when you see your own data flow into the dashboards and the visualizations. After you see it and you love it, then we sign you up. It's a pretty much, it's a quick implementation. We have an implementation manager that will hold your hand from start to finish.
That's a point that we don't want to automate that relationship that we have with clients is important because we want to be a part of the survey. We're the experts here. So, we've got a lot of valuable information that we can provide to those clients. We walk them through the survey and then we launch, and the launch is usually three to four weeks. So, when they’re on we take care of everything in between there and then at the end, all of course, meet with everybody to review the results. We'll go through everything. We'll talk about what I know in the industry, based on what I'm seeing at other firms, what other firms are doing to improve things like that. So that's pretty much start to finish. It's, like I said, two to three, four hours of work on the advisory firms part at most.
Swift: So the website is NEXAInsights.com?
Manker: NEXAInsights.com. Yes.
Swift: I can put a little link here in the slides and if people drop my name or mention that they learned about NEXA via someone at Impact Communications, you might treat them extra special, right? The Swift/Impact special.
Manker: Absolutely. Coming through Marie and Impact you'll definitely get the "friends and family treatment."
Swift: Yes. We've got a couple of our RIA clients right now who are setting up or are in the process of doing some surveying with NEXA.
So, we're excited to be sitting in the marketing consultant’s role and seeing how that informs what we can do to be better in touch with the clients of those firms.
This has been really interesting and we're now just approaching 30 minutes so I want to start locking us down, but in the last one minute that we've got, is there anything that you wish you said, or that you'd like to leave our viewers with today?
Manker: We've got a new software release coming out this week. We're going to include testimonials. So this is one of the best mediums to collect those. It's uncoached; it's compliant. We've run it through a number of compliance departments. It's just an opportunity for you to you to really collect those testimonials from your clients and we have a way to filter that down. So, we only ask the happiest clients so you're not asking someone that's upset for a testimonial. All the technology is built around those sorts of things and then you can then leverage those in marketing now.
So, it's exciting. That's a new feature that's going to really help us out a lot and really provide a ton of the additional value to the satisfaction.
Swift: I'm so glad you brought that up. That was my last question I was going to ask you, but I forgot to ask you so bravo, Chris, and thank you so much for being here.
I'll have to have you come back over for a TGIF at the Impact office sometime soon. That was so great last time. You brought a couple of craft beers for us to try. What was it? What's the name of that beer that you brought?
Manker: Yoga Pants by Martin City Brewery. It's a local brewery here -- just down the road from you, Marie.
Swift: Yoga Pants, I'm not a beer drinker, but my colleagues enjoyed a beer with you out on the deck and I had a lemonade or something, but I hope to see you again soon around the neighborhood here in Leawood and Lenexa, Kansas, and perhaps even at a conference or two as the coronavirus concerns start settling down.
Manker: Absolutely I look forward to it, Marie. Thank you very much.