Monday, May 20, 2013

360 Degree Client Satisfaction

It's surprising the lack of sophistication one finds in evaluating client satisfaction among law firms. Where client service IS evaluated- and this is by no means a given- the survey or questions tend to focus on the technical quality of the services provided. While that's certainly important, it really is just the 'tables stakes' to get in the game. 'How' the services were provided is equally, if not more, important. Let's call this the 'emotional satisfaction' that clients have in working with their outside counsel. In the case of doctors, this distinction is similar to the distinction between the medical outcome the Doctor provides and the Doctor's bedside manner. Managing the technical and emotional services levels of the firm is managing 360 degrees of your client's satisfaction with the firm.

Just to clarify, I'm defining the 'technical quality of the services' here as the quality of the work product; the attorneys understanding of the issues; his creative legal strategy; the attorneys knowledge of the client; his business and industry; the timeliness and quality of their communications and bills; etc. Obviously, all of this is critically important in the client relationship.

I define 'how services are delivered' as the emotional satisfaction clients have with the firm. Firms focused on improving 'emotional satisfaction' with the firm focus their training on: how the secretary is treated; how quickly phones calls are returned; how associates are treated in front of a client; how pleasant and engaging the attorney is; how quickly problems are resolved or complaints addressed; how easy the attorney and firm make it to do business with them; etc. This is an all-incompassing view of the client's experience with the firm. And, most importantly, that view has to be from the persective of the client.

While emotional satisfaction is much harder to track and evaluate, it is often more important in maintaining and deepening the client relationship. There are lots of good quality, technically proficient firms and lawyers to choose from. But surprisingly few firms that distinguish themselves by delivering extraordinary and consistent service levels across their population of attorneys in the firm.

One of the primary reasons why cross selling is difficult to make happen in law firms is that many lawyers simply don't trust their partners to deliver 'how they provide the services' at the same level at which they themselves deliver services to their clients. What's more, it's nearly impossible for them to control for others' levels of service toward their clietns within the firm. The technical quality of the services is rarely the issue. Lawyers can more easily assess the technical proficiency of their partners. It is far more difficult to determine how services are delivered and who is courteous, accessible and responsive.

To be honest, even the technical quality of services isn't an overly common topic of law firms. Lawyer up! conducted a study of the top 50 largest law firms in 2011 (based on attorney count) to see which of them state their commitment to client satisfaction on their main site pages. The study also documented which of these firms backed up their pledge with objective evidence, either by describing their procedures or citing awards and testimonials or other means. Among the top 50, less than 10% had any meaningful content describing their commitment to client satisfaction. And few, if any, addressed the softer yet more potent side of client satisfaction. I doubt the results have changed much two years later.

Pay attention to the emotional satisfaction your clients have with the firm. It is the secret sauce that can bind your clients to the firm.

If you would to improve your client’s satisfaction level with your firm, Call Eric Dewey at 502-693-4731. You’ll find that I am an eager resource and that it costs nothing to talk.

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