Is your firm growing as fast as you want? Are your clients always returning to you when they need legal services? If not, keep reading— you may have to rethink the experience you offer to make your law firm more client-centric.
You and your colleagues may be exceptional lawyers, providing a lot of value to clients in terms of the legal services you perform. But in an increasingly competitive market, attorneys need to think not just about the actual practice of law, but about all the other factors big and small that make up what some call the ‘client journey.’ If you’re not getting the retention and growth you want, you need to take a close look at the overall experience you’re offering clients.
The concept of a ‘client journey’ is borrowed from consumer-driven business sectors which, in recent years, have seen a change in what their customers expect from them. This shift is largely driven by internet and wireless communication technology which allow near-effortless access when purchasing many goods and services— a matter of clicking on a few buttons. As such, people have come more sensitive to friction points or inefficiencies in how what they buy is delivered to them, whether it’s a book from Amazon, a meal from UberEats, a visit to their doctor— and, yes, hiring a lawyer.
That being the case, you need to think about each step of your client’s journey, from their initial contact with your firm— generally, these days, via your website— and onward to subsequent steps: intake, engagement letter, working with you on the legal matter in question, and, finally, billing and payment.
Each of these stages has the potential to diminish or enhance the experiential journey you’re providing. We’ve written articles on this blog previously regarding each of these areas, with a focus on what new approaches and technologies can do for you and your firm: establishing a strong web presence, using technology to enhance client communication and document sharing, and client-friendly alternatives to traditional hourly billing.
Every firm, and every client, is different. A firm that serves businesses through interfacing with their in-house legal department is offering a vastly different client journey than, say, a solo criminal defense practitioner focused on DUI cases. This means that the path to optimizing that journey will likewise be different in every situation, and general principles alone won’t get you very far. That’s why ONE400 advises legal practices of all kinds to help them enhance the “experience” they provide to their clients. You can get in touch with us here for an initial consultation.
Once you’ve designed and implemented the steps of what you hope is an exceptional client journey, how can you tell if it’s working? Well, the proof will be in the pudding… eventually. Satisfied clients will refer friends and colleagues to your firm, and return to you when they need additional legal help. But those outcomes can take months or years to materialize, and meanwhile, you have other clients you need to ensure are pleased with their experience. It’s best, then, to get feedback faster. If something isn’t working as well as you hoped, you want to find out as soon as possible, so you can change it.
That’s why more and more law firms are taking a cue from other industries and using online client satisfaction surveys. It’s a great way to gauge how your clients feel about the entirety of their experience with you— and the relative anonymity of a computer screen often elicits more candid, and thus more useful, feedback than they might be comfortable delivering face-to-face. And, it doesn’t need to be a large-scale campaign, at least at first. Many law firms have simply implemented the Net Promoter Score concept even if just an immediate first step
Tiny enhancements— and tiny annoyances— can have an outside impact on how your clients feel about their experience with you, often on an unconscious level. Consider the DoubleTree hotel chain, famous for offering every guest a freshly-baked cookie when they check-in. Now, nobody chooses a hotel because of a cookie. You can get cookies anywhere! You don’t need to book a room. Nonetheless, this small but distinctive (and quite inexpensive) touch has become a key element of the Doubletree brand, and while it’s hard to quantify its sales impact, there’s no doubt it drives some level of repeat business at very low cost— and it certainly increases word-of-mouth brand awareness. Market research suggests that around one-third of Doubletree guests have “told a story to someone else about that cookie.”
We’re not saying you should offer your clients fresh-baked cookies. (Though, honestly, for the right kind of practice it’s not a bad idea.) But it’s worth thinking about little touches that distinguish your firm from your competitors and considering which one is right for you. This might seem odd, but to reiterate, for your law firm to prosper in today’s environment you need to think about how the same shifts in psycho-dynamics in other consumer spaces impact what clients expect and want from you, despite the more rarified and tradition-bound culture of law firms. Here’s a great example of how a California estate-planning attorney has thought through his practice to make small client-centric adjustments, all the way down to pre-cut packing tape for document returns.
Conversely, and perhaps more importantly, small annoyances in a client’s journey can have large negative effects on their perception of their experience. A moment of unclear communication can sour an otherwise strong lawyer-client relationship, for instance. Many firms overlook small issues in their physical office or environment. How easy is it for clients to park at or near your building? Does the seating in your lobby area have easily-accessible power outlets so clients don’t have to hunt around if they need to recharge their phones? How accessible is your practice for people with disabilities? Other small factors might be more service-oriented. For instance, how many rings on your firm’s main line does a caller hear before someone picks up?
These kinds of issues might be tough for you and your colleagues to spot. Many stores and restaurants employ ‘secret shoppers’ because an outside eye is often more adept at identifying little glitches in the customer experience. And, yes, some firms are employing these services as well.
The good news: most law firms aren’t good at being client-centric. This means that if you implement this approach successfully, you’ll be ahead of many of your competitors. With a rocky economy and a possible economic downturn on the way, the time to invest in retooling your client journey is now — and ONE400 is here to help you.