Janine Collins explains how review meetings can ensure your clients are satisfied with your service
How many of your firm's clients have you met recently to discuss their satisfaction with the firm's performance? Providing a client-centric service means tailoring your firm's services to your clients' specific needs. Traditionally, law firms have second-guessed their clients' requirements. However, a firm can stand out by asking its leading clients pertinent questions.
The review process Invite clients to participate by telling them that your aim is to ask them how your service can be improved. Meeting key clients face-to-face is the most effective way to obtain feedback. Surveys sent by post have an unsatisfactory response rate and do not provide opportunities to probe deeper. The best person to carry out the review might be an unconnected partner or an objective third party. Clients are surprisingly honest when speaking to someone distanced from the firm with whom they will not be required to work subsequently. Tailor each interview to the client by giving advance thought to relevant topics. You may also need to record the interviews, preferably on tape, with your clients' consent. After the meetings, send thank you notes and detail follow-up items from the meetings. It is essential to complete these and meet any raised expectations of your clients following the feedback.
Themes to include in feedback interviews are:
Risks to the relationship;
Your firm's strengths;
Your client's future needs;
Client feedback can achieve many outcomes:
Increased client loyalty: "I'm so glad you came to see me. I'm amazed more firms don't visit."
Identifying clients that are planning to move to another firm: "We weren't happy with the service, but if you think you can address the issues, we're willing to continue using you."
The cross-selling of the firm's services: "We had no idea your firm has a tax department. Please set up a meeting with the tax partner to discuss our needs."
Discovering clients' requirements and developing ideas for improved service: "Our other firms provide a team leader. We'd like your firm to do this as well."
Exploring clients' perceptions of the firm: "I think some of your partners are old-fashioned and don't give the right impression."
Uncovering service delivery issues clients have not felt comfortable raising: "I suggest your corporate partner meets up with our general counsel to smooth over a few rough edges."
Client service teams Larger law firms find it effective to set up client service teams. These teams are able to penetrate clients' businesses, identifying their legal needs and working together as partners. The firm benefits by understanding the scope of services required by the client and can appreciate clients' expectations, budgetary constraints and the need for regular communication. The clients benefit from bespoke, proactive legal services.
Members of the team may include lawyers from several offices, chosen to fit the needs of the clients. The team leader is responsible for recruiting and coaching other members, building commitment and following up on action items following client reviews.
Janine Collins is legal solutions director of consultancy Client Intelligence