Double Your Word of Mouth Referrals Using Net Promoter Score

Double Your Word of Mouth Referrals Using Net Promoter Score

Growing your firm’s client list can be an expensive and time-consuming process. You can cut your marketing cost and increase your revenues by retaining existing customers and getting them to refer their friends and colleagues to your firm. Using Net Promoter Score to measure and improve your customer service (experience) can help you double the amount of word of mouth referrals you receive thus growing your revenue without increasing your costs.

Frederick F. Reichheld, the author of The Loyalty Effect and Harvard Business alum, has determined that the most significant indicator of repeat business and referrals is customer loyalty, a belief that global brands like Airbnb, Apple, and Patagonia share. The simplest way to measure the abstract concept of loyalty is to ask your clients one question, “on a scale of one (1) to ten (10) how likely are you to refer my firm to a friend?” Clients who respond with a 9 or 10 are “promoters,” or loyal enthusiasts, while clients who respond with a 0 to 6 are “detractors,” or unhappy customers. Those who leave a 7 or 8 are “passives,” (more on scoring a the bottom of this post) they are happy customers, but they probably won’t hesitate to consider taking their business somewhere else if they get an better deal or see some potential additional value with another provider.

On the other hand, promoters will recommend your firm to their friends and trust you with their business in the future. Of course, if you have been in business for even a short while you’ll know that referrals from former or existing customers also have the highest likelihood of converting into new business since they originate from a trusted source. So how do you make more promoters? As it turns out, this actually pretty hard to do. Most businesses think that simply delivering on the service promise (e.g., a product that works as designed, or a drafting up an estate plan in the time frame) is that you need to have happy customers and you know something, that is right. However, when using NPS, you’ll find that often times happy customers can still be passives which really don’t help you generate those word of mouth referrals that you are looking for. In order to move clients from passives (happy) to promoters, they need to be more than happy, they need to be delighted.

Delighting a customer requires more than just fulfilling your fiduciary obligation and providing basic customer service, it means to leave them with an experience that they do not encounter often and that leaves a lasting positive impression on them. An excellent product or service is the baseline, but to get promoters you are not just looking at the baseline, you are looking to wow your customers. Doing that is hard and it is why to think through all the ways you interact with your customers and identify ways to improve those interactions. While think through that, we have some basics to help get you started.

Read on to see some suggestions for ways to delight your clients, if you think our list is missing something let us know in the comments section below.

Be Empathetic

When a client first walks through your door, she is likely under a great deal of stress. Circumstances have come about that are threatening her livelihood, family, or property and she’s depending on you to help her through this situation.

In times like this, you need to be able to empathize with your client. Putting yourself in your client’s shoes will not hurt your case, on the contrary, it might end up helping it.

Having empathy for your client can make you a better attorney, as former President of Bloomberg Law, David Perla explains, “…lawyers who can truly view issues as their clients do will develop stronger relationships with them. They will understand their goals, fears, and needs at a level of depth that will make them much more effective advocates.”

From time to time, it is alright to check in with your client and ask non-legal questions like, “how are you doing?”

Attempting to understand your client’s feelings about their case will illustrate to them that you are on their side and you want to help.

Use Language Your Client Understands

When Warren Buffet, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, sits down to write Berkshire Hathaway’s annual report, he doesn’t speak to his audience like they are seasoned financial experts. Instead, Warren likes to picture his sisters, though highly intelligent they are not experts in finance or accounting.

Talk to your clients the way Warren talks to investors. Your clients are smart people (of course they are, they hired you didn’t they?) but they probably don’t understand legal jargon, so speak to them in normal concise language.

Set Expectations For Your Time

Establish early on how you and your client are going to communicate and provide your client with an idea of when you will be able to return phone calls or emails. Try to give yourself a 24-hour window to respond to questions. It is much better to surprise your client with a quick response than to make them wait longer than they expected for information.

Be Realistic With Your Client

Briefing your client on the likely outcomes of there case might not be a delightful experience, especially if there is little or no chance for the ruling to sway in their favor. But as painful as bad news is it will be even more unpleasant if it comes from anyone other than you. If a judge or an opposing legal team drops a bomb on your client, it will be detrimental to your relationship. You are the one that needs to be breaking both good and bad news.

Be upfront with your client about the ways you think you’ll be able to help them and what outcomes both good and bad they can expect. Use your experience and research to lay out the likely outcome of their case and be transparent with them about new developments. Being direct with your client from the beginning will soften any unpleasant news you’ll need to deliver to them in the future. Ultimately, they will appreciate your honesty.

Tip: Speaking of predicting likely outcomes, Lex Machina provides litigation data about judges, lawyers, parties, and case subjects, culled from millions of pages of litigation information. It’s a fantastic tool that can be used used to predict the probable outcomes of a case and help you shape your strategy.

Keep Your Client Informed

Part of being transparent with your client is keeping them up to date about their case. Take the time to explain new developments to them. Litigation can be a long and arduous process. During this time your client will be hungry for information, so let her know the steps you are taking to ensure her a favorable outcome and any new developments that affect her case. Doing this will make your client feel like part of the process, not just a bystander.

Measure Your Results

So how can you tell if your efforts are working? Ask.

Ask your clients to complete a survey at milestones throughout their case and when you finish working with them. Use the question and scorning metric we talked about in the begging of the article, “On a scale of one to ten how likely are you to refer my firm to a friend?” Compile your results and crunch the numbers to produce a Net Promoter Score or NPS. To calculate your firm’s NPS, follow these steps:

  1. Enter all of the survey responses into a spreadsheet.
  2. Break down the responses by detractors (0-6), passives (7-8), and promoters (9-10).
  3. Add up the total responses from each group.
  4. To get the percentage, take the group total and divide it by the total number of survey responses.
  5. Now, subtract the percentage total of detractors from the percentage total of promoters—this is your NPS.


Example: If you received 100 responses to your survey:

  • 10 responses were in the 0–6 range (detractors)
  • 30 responses were in the 7–8 range (passives)
  • 60 responses were in the 9–10 range (promoters)

When you calculate the percentages for each group, you get 10%, 30%, and 60%.

Subtract 10% (detractors) from 60% (promoters), which equals 50%. Write your Net Promoter Score as an integer and not a percentage, in this case, your NPS is simply 50. It is possible to have a negative NPS, as your score can range from -100 to +100.

Fact: The ONE400 NPS score above is a live feed of what our current NPS score is. We have automated the calculation using Google Forms and Google Sheets and have embedded it here.

This metric is incredibly important. It no coincidences that some of the best-loved companies in the world (Apple, Tesla Motors, Toyota, Netflix, and ONE400 to name a few) all strive to have NPS scores over 60.

As your NPS increases, you should see a rise in your customer retention and referral rates. Keep testing and you’ll never stop improving.

If you have any questions about this article or would like to learn how ONE400 tracks our Net Promoter Score, please reach out to us. Additionally, we have a spreadsheet template and Google Form doc that we are happy to share that helps automate the tracking of your NPS. Send a a request through our contact page and we’ll email it out to you.

Bonus Points: Continue to offer value to your customer even when you’re not billing them

Managing a social media presence is a great way to continue to interact with your clients even when they don’t have you on retainer. It’s also an opportunity for you to establish thought leadership in your field which could lead to more business in the future.

Tip: Read our blog post Content Ideas for your Firm’s Social Media Page, to find out ways you can engage with your followers on social media.

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About the author

Allen Rodriguez Allen Rodriguez is a legal product development strategist who has been serving the legal industry for over 21 years. Over the course of his career, Allen has built a reputation for creating innovative legal services products as well as developing highly effective law firm business and marketing strategies. Allen is a valued speaker on the topics of law marketing, legal services product development, and future of law issues.

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