The 5 must-know advice client metrics that underpin practice sustainability


What are the five key metrics that forward looking advisers should add to their dashboard?

Measure it. Control it.

Management guru, Peter Drucker, made a valuable point when he famously said[1], “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”, which helps explain why today, businesses of all sizes generally have a wealth of business metrics at their fingertips. Financial advice practices are no exception, and discussions about KPIs and dashboards are as common as those about stock market movements and legislative changes.

But while most advisers and practice owners will have a good handle on the top line and obvious metrics (revenue, profitability, conversion rates, attrition rates, cost to serve etc), a smaller group are ahead of the curve, focusing on client metrics which – despite being largely non-financial and sometimes ‘off Broadway’ – can be far more meaningful in terms of measuring how effectively the practice is delivering successful outcomes for its clients and, by extension, its long-term sustainability.

In this article we will take a look at the five key metrics, or rather categories of metrics, that forward-looking advisers are focusing on, along with the underlying methodology and practical measurement techniques for each.

Five categories to focus on

This article will focus on five categories of client metric we believe are critical to delivering great client outcomes on a sustainable basis.

  1. Client satisfaction and loyalty
  2. Client service delivery
  3. Website metrics
  4. Client engagement and communication metrics
  5. Client sustainability metrics

1. Client satisfaction and loyalty

Arguably, the most obvious and valuable client metrics are those relating to client satisfaction and client loyalty.

Indeed, Fred Reichheld – architect of the Net Promoter Score (NPS) methodology – argued the best predictor of top-line growth can usually be captured in a single survey question and a single number[2] (as explained below).

But despite this, and despite good intentions, Australian research suggests less that one third of advisers formally seek feedback from their clients3.

NPS – the only number you need to grow

There are many methodologies that advisers can use to gauge how satisfied their clients are, including focus groups and surveys asking clients to rate certain attributes on a numerical scale (often out of 5 or 10).

Perhaps the most valuable metric however, which has been popular with large corporates and is now gaining traction with advisers and smaller businesses, is the Net Promoter Score (NPS) metric. Happily, this is also a very easy metric to capture, wrapped up as it is in the answer to one simple question:

“Would you recommend this company to a friend?” (On a scale of 1 to 10)

The worldwide phenomenon that is NPS was based on two years of research in which a variety of survey questions were tested by linking the responses with actual customer behaviour—purchasing patterns and referrals—and ultimately with company growth.

Surprisingly, the most effective question wasn’t about customer satisfaction or even loyalty per se, it was about willingness to talk up a company or product to friends, family and colleagues.  In most of the industries studied, the percentage of customers enthusiastic enough about a company to refer it to a friend or colleague directly correlated with company growth rates.

This willingness to advocate for a company or product to friends, family and colleagues is seen to be one of the best indicators of loyalty because of the customer’s sacrifice in making the recommendation. When customers act as references, they put their own reputations on the line, and they will only take such a risk if they feel intense loyalty.

There is even science behind interpreting the scores given often reflecting cultural norms. In Australia, for example, scoring a brand 5 or 6 out of 10 is not a ‘pass mark’. It means we are unhappy but too polite to say so. People giving a score of 6 or less are likely to be detractors of your brand, meaning they will talk you down to their friends and colleagues. Giving a brand 7 or 8 is polite neutrality. Only those people scoring you 9 or 10 can be classed as ‘promoters’, or advocates for your brand.

The simplicity of the NPS method is good for customers too, as they don’t have to work too hard to provide feedback, so response rates are generally higher.

In terms of administering NPS, immediacy is key, meaning it is important to ask the question (generally via email) as close as possible to the client contact (many organisations will ask the question after every single point of contact). Importantly, clients scoring you at either extreme are also asked ‘why’, allowing you to capture richer data on what you are doing well or badly.

While it is possible to administer this kind of program yourself, many advisers are choosing to outsource to specialist firms, who can run a program across an entire client base for as little as $80 or $100 per month.

Online reviews

Another metric gaining popularity is the online review. In a financial advice context, the best known and most widely-used examples is the dedicated platform, Adviser Ratings, and Google Reviews.

Both Adviser Ratings and Google Reviews involve a score out of 5, along with free form comments. Although their methodology is similar to NPS in its simplicity, there is less science in that there is no question behind it. Clients just give a score, meaning what exactly they are attaching that score to is open to interpretation.

There are several advantages to online reviews. Firstly, as the name suggests, these reviews live online. That makes them invaluable because of the critical role online search plays in the consumer research process (one study[4] suggests around a third of investors visit at least seven sites during their financial research process). Even prospects referred to you will check you out online first.

Secondly, they are simple for your client to provide – much easier than providing a full testimonial or completing a lengthy survey. For this reason, a growing number of advisers have an explicit strategy around reviews – incorporating the appropriate links in client communications. This can be done at different stages of the client journey, including as part of the onboarding process for new clients, after contact with existing clients, or as part of a dedicated campaign to your wider client base.

Understandably, some advisers are fearful of the public nature of these reviews, lest they get a negative review. Certainly, that can happen, but clients can do this anyway. Even the best advisers sometimes will have unhappy customers, and – provided you are confident in your service and that positive reviews will outnumber negative ones– actively encouraging your clients to provide reviews will help lift your score.

Both the Adviser Ratings and Google Review platforms are free to participate in.

2. Client service delivery metrics

Client service metrics give you insights into how well you are meeting your promises. They are a lead indicator of what clients are likely to be thinking, without actually asking them, and are a great way to identify likely customer pain points, as well as any process breakdowns and/or staff performance issues.

Studies[5] have shown that the main reasons clients leave advisers are service related (rather than due to fee or returns). And, according to research by Forrester[6], 77 percent of consumers say valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide a great customer experience.

For this reason, response time metrics are crucial. The time taken to respond to emails, return phone calls, process transactions, and get SOAs out the door are being constantly judged by your clients, and compared against their own expectations and your agreed service standards.

Remembering that social media is now used as a mainstream communication channel, especially by younger clients, response times to messages through social channels should be tracked just as much as emails and phone calls.

The starting point for such metrics is to set benchmarks, which can be done based on the experience you want to deliver, or by understanding typical market benchmarks by talking to other advisers, your licensee, or industry bodies.

Handling or touchpoint metrics can also be important (clients don’t like being handed from staff member to staff member).

Complaints are another important client metric (and not just because ASIC has mandated the reporting of a range of complaints data, including the number of complaints, time to acknowledge, and time to resolve). As well as the compliance aspect of complaints data (including meeting stipulated response timeframes), complaints data at an aggregate level can be useful for identifying systemic issues, either with your processes, your product offering, or with your staff.

Whilst the NPS and Google Review methodologies provide valuable aggregate level data, sometimes it may be appropriate to seek feedback more targeted to a specific part of your process or offering, such as response times, or how easy it was to speak to one of your staff (sometimes articulated as the ‘Customer Effort Score’[7], where effort is rated from very easy to very difficult.

Sometimes this – or other questions such as ‘did we solve your issue today?’ – is done in conjunction with the ‘likely to recommend’ question in the one survey.

While the above is a list of commonly used metrics, the unique aspect of your offering might mean some bespoke metrics of your own design are more relevant, and in this regard your own imagination is theoretically the only limit on what you might measure.

3. Website metrics

Calling out the practice website as its own category for measurement reflects its central role as a marketing, service and communication channel.

Relevant metrics here include site visits, unique users, bounce rates, and time on page. Happily, Google Analytics (free) offers all this data and more.

Audience data is especially valuable, and here the big three are users, sessions, and page views.

  • ‘Users’ – the number of unique people who visited your website over the time period being viewed
  • ‘Sessions’ – the number of separate occasions your site has been visited by a user. If everyone visits exactly once, the number of sessions will equal the number of users. To the extent that people often leave and then revisit the site, the number of sessions will usually be bigger than the number of users. In general terms, the bigger this gap, the better.
  • ‘Page views’ – how many individual pages of your site were viewed. For example, if a person comes to your site’s main page, then goes to the “About us” page, and then goes to your individual “Bio” page before leaving, that will count as one session but three page views.

Using these three core measures, Google Analytics is then able to calculate a number of associated and useful metrics.

For example, the measure of ‘page views/session’ indicates how many different pages people are reading when they come to your site. Similarly, the ‘bounce rate’ is the percentage of visitors who visit your site and leave (or “bounce”) without looking at any page other than that they first landed on. For people who do visit other pages, Google Analytics also records how long they spend on those pages.

You can also dig deeper, using Google data in conjunction with your own. For example, if you have an online enquiry form, you could calculate the ‘conversion rate’ – from visits to enquiries, or enquiries to new clients.

As with other data, both the trend and benchmarks around these metrics will often be more meaningful than the absolute numbers.

These metrics can indicate a variety of issues, ranging from the overall appeal of your website to a potential mismatch between people visiting and your ideal client.

For example, a bounce from your home page of, say, 65% or higher means a lot of people are finding your website, landing on it, then quickly deciding you’re not what they were looking for. In which case you may consider the content and design of that page, or your search marketing settings.

4. Client communication and engagement metrics

The engagement metrics measured in relation to your website can also be applied more broadly to other communication channels you are using in your business. This enables you to get a sense of whether your communication is hitting the mark – are you genuinely engaging with your clients, or are you just blasting out content in a one-way conversation? And is your message being understood?

Areas you could track your communication and engagement (along with suggested benchmarks[8]) could include:

Email campaigns (e.g., newsletters to prospects or existing clients)

  • Bounce rate – shows how out of date your client email list is (industry average 11.55%)
  • Open rate – the percentage of people receiving your email who open it (21.56%)
  • Click through rate – rate at which people click links in your email (2.72%)
  • Unsubscribe rate – for clients you would hope this is zero. Industry average across clients and prospects is 0.2%
  • Conversion rate – rate at which recipients follow a call to action (less appropriate for client newsletters) (no benchmark – varies by email purpose).

Social media (is your content grabbing attention?)

  • Followers, subscribers and trends
  • Impressions
  • Engagement – the number of people who liked, commented, shared, favorited, or clicked on your post compared to the number of people who saw it
  • Views of any video content you share

Other ways of measuring engagement can include attendees at client events (including dropout rates), registration rates, no-show rates and retention rates for webinars.

Even response rates to surveys can indicate as much as the survey results themselves.

5. Client sustainability metrics

Beyond the obvious client sustainability metrics such as attrition rate, lifetime value and fees generated, there are countless other measures which you can project forward and serve as lead indicators of the strength and sustainability of your client relationships. Optimising for these metrics over time can enhance the experience you deliver to clients, as well as ensure you’re attempting to retain assets as they pass from one generation to the next.

One example might be the number of referrals a client gives you (this can be thought of as a physical manifestation of the NPS described above). As previously discussed, referring a friend, family member or colleague to you means risking their own reputation, and is not something people do lightly. Metrics relating to the absolute number of these, as well as the conversion rates and outcomes, are likely to be particularly important.

Another might be the next generation client retention rate. This is especially important in the context of the intergenerational wealth transfer and the alarming rate at which the children of advice clients sever ties with their parents’ financial adviser once they have received an inheritance (which is, according to research9 , up to 66%).

Metrics around the profile of new clients being onboarded may also provide valuable insights into the future sustainability of your practice.


Running a successful business is complex and challenging, and access to quality, timely management data is critical. While most advice practices have a good handle on the top-line financial metrics (revenue, profitability, conversion rates, attrition rates, cost to serve etc), there are other measures – including those around client sustainability, client engagement and client loyalty – a which can be far more meaningful in terms of measuring how effectively the practice is delivering successful outcomes for its clients and, by extension, its long-term sustainability. Using these in conjunction with the traditional financial metrics offers advice practice owners a richer, more comprehensive picture, and a stronger likelihood of future success.




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