Many legal practitioners and firms understand that the way they deal with clients is critical to their success. After all, word of mouth referrals and repeat business from clients are the key to growth in the market.
Unfortunately, when asked, most firms and practitioners don’t actually know if they are delivering great experiences to their clients. They may think they are doing so, and even quote a few anecdotal examples, but in almost all cases there is very little systematic understanding of the client experience being delivered, and the views clients have of what was good, and what could be improved about that experience.
This failing means that most firms are missing out on what is fast becoming a key differentiator in this competitive market, creating extreme loyalty and advocacy among their clients.
So how should legal firms overcome this failing? The key is to establish a formal client feedback program, one which systematically gains feedback from clients regarding their experiences, and turns those insights into action.
A client feedback program can take a number of forms, depending on the specific case. In the case of legal firms, due to the nature of the relationship with clients, the recommended methods for obtaining client feedback are either a) face to face or b) over the phone interviews and surveys (generally undertaken by external professionals) of a reasonable proportion of the client base.
These types of interactions are much more personal and can obtain much richer insights than faceless online surveys used by many retailers, and are thus better suited for a professional environment.
It is important when considering the implementation of a feedback program that firms consider which parts of the client journey they wish to obtain feedback about. It is strongly recommended to obtain feedback regarding the overall experience with the firm, but firms may also consider obtaining specific feedback regarding key moments in the client experience, such as first impressions, initial meetings, obtaining written advice, billing or any other key activities.
Equally as important as obtaining client feedback is to make sure that the firm takes action in relation to the feedback and insights obtained. There are three ways that this action may manifest.
1) In certain cases, the client feedback will pertain to a particular situation or interaction and may need to be dealt with immediately to resolve any issues or concerns. This is a critical activity, and a process for this needs to be implemented at the beginning of the feedback program.
2) More broadly, the feedback and insights will almost definitely point to a range of systemic issues and incremental improvements that can and should be worked on and implemented by the firm to optimise the overall client journey. These improvements may take the form of people, process or tool-related improvements, or a combination of these components, and should be managed as a program of work across the firm.
3) To take this even one step further, firms may wish to map out the “ideal” client experience they wish to deliver based on the insights obtained, and develop a program of work to ensure that they deliver this ideal experience very time. This approach, whilst more radical than the previous two can create step change improvements in client outcomes in a much faster way than the incremental changes outlined previously.
If you are a legal firm who relies on anecdotes and informal feedback to understand your clients, it is time to consider a more systemic approach to this very important component of success. By first of all listening to your clients and then taking action based on their feedback you will be well on the way to success in the future.
Shane Goldberg is a Principal of CustCore Consulting, a boutique consultancy specialising in customer experience.