Written by Dan Stokes
In the marketing and communications world, we as professionals are always on — measuring and optimizing. Our clients demand it, particularly in the commercial law industry. So it comes as somewhat of a surprise to me when clients are reticent to commit to engaging outside consultants to conduct client feedback. Everywhere you turn, someone is asking for your feedback: “Please rate your online experience” or “Press 1 if you are willing to stay on the line for a brief survey.” Even your doctor follows up to see if you are content.
So why are attorneys so adverse to taking their client’s temperature? FEAR. Most law firms and individual attorneys don’t want to interfere with what they perceive is already going well (even if it isn’t). They don’t want to bother the client. Or, they worry about discovering a problem they can’t solve or a service they can’t directly provide.
The other day, I was talking with Nat Slavin regarding the legal industry’s reluctance to initiate client feedback. Nat who is a partner and founder of Wicker Parker Group, past president of the Legal Marketing Association international board of directors, 2015 fellow in the College of Law Practice Management, and 2014 Legal Marketing Association “Hall of Fame” inductee, has authored more than 100 articles on legal department management, and frequently speaks on myriad topics such as client service, client loyalty and trends in the legal industry.
As expected, Nat offered interesting insight into client feedback programs as a “roadmap for client service” and a proactive way to show that you are listening, which ultimately leads to better service and relationships overall. He noted that, “Client feedback programs reveal a wide-range of client needs. It reveals what the client’s value from the firm, their individual preferences and sometimes clearly identifies pain points that the firm, and the relationship attorneys, may not have otherwise become aware of in the normal course of serving the client. This may even create opportunities to expand the relationship, particularly when needs are expressed by the client(s) that can be supported or solved by the firm.”
Following the call, I began to consider an expanded paradigm where client feedback not only serves as the catalyst for building a stronger bond that is far more lucrative, but also demonstrates that you can adapt as your relationship and the client’s objectives evolve. In addition, I considered my “Top 3” client feedback goals when executing such programs on behalf of our agency clients:
1. Understand distinct client preferences. I focus on finding out what the client prefers or does not appreciate when it comes to the delivery of legal services. This way, you know what is and is not working and can make adjustments as needed. Notably, you would be surprised how easy many of the changes actually are.
2. Make clients feel valued. By asking for candid feedback, you clearly communicate that you and your firm value not only the client, but also your individual contact’s opinion, which ultimately creates a symbiotic relationship of mutual success.
3. Find room for improvement. By constantly seeking to improve your firm’s service and offerings by actively listening to client feedback, you remain at the forefront of innovation and one step ahead of your competition.
At a time when it is increasingly difficult to distinguish one legal practice from another, client feedback can be a valuable tool and shed light on new opportunities for leveraging strategic advantage. In my decades of running a business, client feedback has only led to a greater sense of complete client loyalty and satisfaction… and then process starts all over again.