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Have you ever had a very good friend speak badly about you behind your back?
Yes, it has happened. And it is not pleasant at all.
Have you been downgraded in Chambers?
Yes, this has happened as well. And it is not pleasant at all.
See the connection?
Lawyers are confident in that they know and understand the needs of their clients for several key reasons, including:
- clients may have become longlasting friends (or were before);
- daily contact with clients provides the opportunity to perfectly understand whether or not any tensions or disappointments have arisen.
And this is true most of the time.
However, in a market that is suffering from the automation process, where the personal relationship is strictly interconnected with the professional one, but where still “business is business”, we should be prudent and ask for feedback and listen to the needs of the client.
Why is it so important to consider the implementation of a client satisfaction program? In the past, I called it a “client happiness program”. The reason is: happy clients will never leave the firm, and will always come back.
Let’s consider the added value of asking for feedback:
- you have a clear view of the external perception of the firm’s professionals and activity;
- you have the chance to catch any issues with the client and solve it before the client decides to leave;
- you have the possibility to ask for advice and improve your services and attitude;
- you can be one step closer to knowing in advance the client’s strategy and projects;
- you engage the client;
- you show the client you care about his point of view and his thoughts.
Firms have nothing to lose.
The client satisfaction program must be designed on the client base. This means, it must be adapted according to the client and the activity performed and can therefore use multiple methodologies:
- The program can be run internally by the marketing department or with the support of a thirdparty;
- We can use an online questionnaire, a phone interview or a faceto-face meeting;
- And then, we can go for closed or open questions, quantitative or qualitative questions, or scales;
- Should the partner in charge be present or not?
- Which questions do we ask?
- How long should the survey be?
- Should the survey be anonymous?
- How do we use the results?
Take into account that the technique to build a questionnaire that provides reliable data is a real science and it is recommended to involve professionals who are familiar with the most effective methods. Marketing professionals often have the necessary expertise.
It is true that the implementation of this process can be time consuming, especially for the marketing department, and expensive, particularly if you decide to involve a specialised third-party company. But, on the other hand, the cost can be optimised and adjusted thanks to the multiple-methodologies approach.
Do you need concrete proof of how the view given by your best-friend-Client could be different from the one you expect? I had the opportunity to look at Chambers Unpublished, a service on the market that gives access to all feedback (positive and negative) released by the interviewee to the researchers. The partner I was working with was simply astonished.
The variables we have to consider when deciding to use one process versus another process are considerable.
- Size of the client: is the client a Top 10 client? A growing one? Does the client have potential for other practices? Is it a problematic client? Did the client come via a referral?
- Role of the person who will reply: is it the inhouse counsel? Is it a lower level who has nevertheless followed the deal closely?
- Practice area: is it transactional? Nontransactional? In-Court? Out-of-Court?
- Geography: consider the culture of the client.
It seems clear: before structuring a questionnaire, ask yourself who will receive it and what is the best approach to generate actionable feedback. Keeping in mind that the feedback may not be the most eager to please, but it will be the one from which we can learn the most.
We should always be ready to receive disappointing feedback and be agile in the reaction. There is no need to fear negative feedback. The worst thing that can happen is that we are obliged to improve.