Most small to mid-sized companies use on average three to five law firms. Larger companies use even more. So, each and every day you are being compared to your competitors. Knowing how you compare to them in terms of your service and client satisfaction is good to know. You can get this information in a variety of ways and use it to bring in even more business from the client. Chances are, just by taking the time to ask how you are doing will set you apart from your competition.
One way to get this feedback is through client interviews. The best way to get truly unbiased, no-holds-barred information from a client is to send in someone to interview the client other than the lawyer who works with the client or a managing partner from the firm. Using someone who is not involved in the relationship to do the interview will allow the client to be perfectly honest about the work and service being performed. It is much more comfortable for people to say what they think if they are not talking to the individual who is directly providing the service or ultimately responsible for the legal work and the relationship.
Getting this feedback can be uncomfortable for the lawyers and the law firm. It is like the dreaded performance review. A million things go through your mind about the good, the bad and the ugly that have occurred over the course of the relationship. But the great thing is once this dialogue is started, the ways you can not only improve with this client, but all clients will be identified. Generally, there will be a lot of positive feedback, which affirms that you are on the right track. Plus, clients love it. Surprisingly, not many firms take the time to do this. Typically the ones that conduct client interviews try to get the feedback by using the lawyer who works with the client, which makes it awkward for both parties.
One of the benefits of this approach, other than finding out what is going right and what might be done differently, is insight into additional legal services that your firm can provide. Once a client starts talking, if the questions are asked correctly, they will provide all kinds of insight into things that are troubling to them. You will find new areas where you can help and make your relationship with them even stronger.
Peer discussion groups
Another way to get feedback is through peer-to-peer discussions. In the technology world, these are now being used as virtual focus groups and are called “learning communities.” This process involves identifying clients that are either using your firm for one specific type of law or are in similar industries. They are brought together “virtually” to discuss topics they identify that relate to legal services and outside providers they use for these services. The discussion is facilitated much like a focus group and great insight is shared relative to likes and dislikes with current legal service providers. Your firm is viewed as the one that cared enough to bring this group together and get this insight. The clients typically fully embrace the idea because they like talking to their peers about similar issues and successes. You will benefit by listening to the discussion and identifying either ways you can improve or other areas where you can help.
A third way to get feedback is a simple online survey once a big project, case or matter is closed; it can be just two or three questions about how things went with the people involved. You aren’t asking about the outcome of the case, because that could be good or bad. You are asking about the service and the relationship and verifying that the client fully understands the outcome. Understanding generally aligns with satisfaction. Clients who don’t understand, because the attorney didn’t take the time to fully explain an unanticipated outcome, are generally less satisfied. If the client understands, even a less than desirable outcome results in higher levels of satisfaction with the attorney-client relationship.
Using all these methods is the best way to approach feedback. Some are better suited for larger clients, while others should be used for the smaller clients as they grow into larger ones. But, regardless, this is not something you want to be uncertain about because, after all, you are in the room with your competitors every day. Set yourself apart by getting feedback and making your relationship stronger. Be sure your clients love you, not just pretty sure.•
Dona Stohler of S2 Law Firm Strategies provides consulting services on business development and marketing for law firms. Stohler has more than a decade of experience in the legal services industry and is the past chair of the U.S. Law Firm Group marketing committee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through www.S2lawfirmstrategies.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.