Understanding and Improving Your Clients' Experience
Clients are a small law firm’s most important assets. Your satisfied clients will come back to you when they need additional legal help. They will recommend you to their friends and business associates. Dissatisfied clients, on the other hand, may spread the opposite message, sometimes even filing a malpractice claim or state bar complaint.
To win happy and loyal clients, you must think like a customer service specialist, not like a lawyer. Your clients are more likely to be pleased with your services and recommend you to others if they have a positive experience with your firm. But many lawyers focus solely on the quality of their legal representation, ignoring subtler factors that can greatly influence the way their clients feel about them.
To find out what your clients really think of your firm’s services, ask them. Consider setting up an anonymous survey of your former and current clients using an online service like SurveyMonkey. Ask them about the ease of getting in touch with you, the way you kept them updated on the progress of their matter, the billing and payment process, their interactions with your staff, and anything else that you can think of that might bear on their experience at your firm. Ask about their overall satisfaction and whether they would recommend your firm to a friend. And give them an opportunity to add any additional comments they might have.
If your firm has larger, ongoing clients such as corporate or insurance company clients, consider meeting personally with the client to discuss the client’s experience and ways that you can improve it. Meeting with the client shows that you care about the client’s needs and are willing to work hard to keep the business. The partner in charge of the matter may be the best person to conduct this meeting, or you may get more candid responses if the meeting is handled by another attorney or staff member.
Research has shown that it only takes seven seconds to form a first impression, and that means that your clients’ first impression of your firm is not going to be based on your talents as a lawyer. It will instead be driven by the look of your office and the manner of your receptionist.
To evaluate your appointment setting, office and intake procedures, consider a “mystery shopper” approach. Hire someone or recruit a friend who your staff doesn’t know – preferably someone who has similar attributes to your average client. Have them set up an appointment and come to your office for a consultation. Ask them to record their experiences and impressions and report back to you on everything from the receptionist’s telephone manners to the ease of finding parking to the attentiveness of your staff and the amount of time spent waiting for the appointment.
The legal services market is competitive, and lawyers need to use all the tools at their disposal to get and keep good clients. By evaluating and improving clients’ experiences, law firms can turn clients into fans who will bring repeat business and refer their friends and associates.