Strong client relationships – the business case for listening

What people need from law firms has changed, and some firms are listening and responding quickly to steal a competitive advantage. If your firm is still struggling to move on from traditional feedback processes, this article lays out 5 benefits that can help expand your business case. A scalable continuous client feedback process can improve client retention, client acquisition, employee engagement, strategic alignment and word of mouth.
A project finishes and you send out a client survey. Response rates aren’t great, but your team diligently goes through the comments and addresses any issues that might impact the client relationship.
Sometimes it’s client interviews instead of surveys but the process is similar. Feedback gets reviewed and, if necessary, remedial action is taken.
But if your process stops here, you’re missing out on some key business benefits – and most firms are missing out…
In our recent law firm survey, only 22% of respondents said their firm asks for feedback during a matter.
By waiting until the work is done, firms miss the opportunity to strengthen client relationships. Why? Because they’re missing the signals that help them deliver a great experience, one that meets their client’s expectations as well as their needs. Not asking for feedback during a matter, also gives clients the impression that the firm’s process is more important than the client’s experience of it.
As a result, firms miss out on opportunities to create glowing testimonials and new referrals.
Our benchmarking survey also highlighted another missed opportunity. Just 35% of respondents said that insights from client feedback made it up to the senior leadership team, enabling action to be replicated across the business. 47% said the feedback promoted action within a team or to solve the specific issue. The rest suggested little attention was paid to feedback from their clients.
As a result, individual client teams and service lines are slowly learning the same lessons in isolation. When client feedback is seen as the way the firm learns collectively, rather than the way individual client teams learn, then the firm becomes much more agile. The firm becomes ready to compete on client experience.

Traditional feedback processes are no longer fit for purpose

Since co-founding MyCustomerLens, I’ve been able to talk to many Managing Partners, Marketing Directors and Client Listening Managers about how they manage client relationships. When we get on to the topic of client feedback, three core challenges with traditional feedback processes keep emerging. Firms are relying on generic tools and manual processes that are constraining:
– which clients get asked for feedback
– when clients get asked for feedback
– the insights that decision-makers can see
This matters because digital transformation is rapidly changing client expectations and how services are delivered. Interviewed by Briefing Magazine for the feature on how COVID-19 has changed client strategy, Julie Stott, business development and marketing director at Travers Smith summarised the situation nicely: “The market has changed, the demands have changed, and what people need from their law firms has also changed”.
In this new hybrid model of client relationships, the experience will be a key battleground. To future-proof your firm to compete on experience, you need to build a firm-wide business case for client listening.

Improve client relationships – 5 ways to strengthen the business case

Without a real-time aggregated view of client experiences, firms are missing opportunities to increase client retention, client acquisition, employee engagement, strategic alignment and word of mouth.
Client retention – sharing issues and evolving expectations across the firm provides a ‘red flag’ mechanism. It gives other client teams early warning of issues that could impact satisfaction and put future work at risk.
Client acquisition – sharing emerging trends across the firm, enables BD teams to quickly identify new market needs
Employee engagement – feedback is not just about future improvements, it’s also taking the opportunity to celebrate success. Sharing positive feedback boosts employee engagement and reinforces good behaviours.
Strategic alignment – having a consistent way of sharing feedback across the firm ensures that everyone stays on the same page. A shared view reduces the confusion caused by different teams having different assumptions about what clients need and expect.
Word of mouth – as highlighted earlier, by only asking for feedback when the work is done, firms are missing opportunities to create stand-out experiences that driven new testimonials and recommendations.

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