Most firms aim to achieve client ‘satisfaction’. Yet in a world where the bar of client experience is being rapidly raised, firms should be aiming for client service excellence.
Why? Because the old adage, ‘clients are your best referrers’, has definitely held true. In fact, a study by Altman Weil found that when selecting a law firm, a referral or reference has the second-largest influence (beaten only by a demonstrated understanding of the relevant business or industry).
And, now more than ever, clients have more channels to both evangelise or criticise your firm. Whether in a tweet, over dinner, or in a blog post.
So, how can you achieve client service excellence? Obviously there isn’t a simple answer to such a question. But I can help you start asking the right questions, at the right time, and to the right people.
Regular client surveys will ensure you continue (or begin) delivering client service excellence, thereby converting clients into evangelists.
So challenge your firm’s thinking around client feedback – remember clients give feedback because they are loyal. Most complaints are not about points of law. They are about communication and service delivery.
Best-practice client surveys address:
- Which clients should receive surveys?
- When to send and what to ask?
- What happens when feedback is given?
- How to improve the effectiveness of surveys?
You can start by making your clients aware that your firm values their feedback and will be asking their thoughts both during and at the end of the matter. In this way, surveys will not have the feel of randomness or disconnect that many surveys have today.
Your lawyers should feel comfortable to position surveys with their clients and feel positive about the process and any follow up that may be required. There needs to be transparency of information throughout the firm and continuous commitment to use survey feedback to build a differentiated client-experience culture.
Therefore, staff should understand that surveys are not being used as a performance measurement tool.
You should establish a workflow discipline that allows each matter to be assessed weekly as to when is appropriate to send the survey, not if. Assign responsibility and authority to someone in the firm for managing the survey process.
When to send and what to ask
Client experience is any moment where an impression of service is created. Do this well and clients will gladly pay for the value that has been delivered and then go on to talk positively about their experience to others.
So, consider the experience along the client journey, not just at end of the matter. Specifically:
- At first enquiry stage
Understand the client’s frame of mind – ‘will we work together?’. Use mystery shopping to understand the prospect experience
- During the matter
Use a mid-matter survey to provide answers which are directly actionable by you, whilst the client is still working with you.
- End of matter
Surveys should assess whether you’ll see repeat business and how likely clients are to become an evangelist of your firm. So keep them short and focus on measuring client loyalty and their reasons why.
The most important part of the survey process is that the client is expecting the survey AND that they receive it in a timely manner after a conversation that introduced it.
What happens when feedback is given?
Feedback allows to you to excel in client service as well as highlight changes that will differentiate yourself and your firm. Feedback interpreted from this perspective can also identify changes that aren’t explicitly stated which provide your firm with a market advantage to innovate your service delivery.
Use this A+ roadmap to effectively respond to feedback:
- Assess the background to the feedback and potential resolution
- Thank the person and acknowledge their feedback. Who does this will depend on whether the feedback is positive or negative.
- Demonstrate the action taken to solve the problem or build on good work
- Give an assurance of delivering/maintaining high quality in the future
How to improve the effectiveness of your client surveys?
Clients should feel that surveys seek to understand if the firm has treated them right, in a way deserving of their loyalty.
Therefore, ensure your surveys are:
- Systematised into your workflow
- Well positioned by the lawyer from the outset
- Sent in a timely manner
- Feedback is acknowledged and actioned as appropriate.
To find out more about how to optimise your client surveys, contact Carl White (firstname.lastname@example.org or 0423 254 484).
About Carl White
Passionate about the impact of Client Experience Excellence in professional services, Carl White founded CXINLAW in the UK and Australasia. He co-authored the highly-regarded ‘Customer Experience in Law’ report in 2012 and led the market-leading Australian research in 2015 that examines the Client Experience Advantage for law firms, in association with ALPMA.