You may think that just because you haven’t received complaints from your top clients, you rate highly on the customer satisfaction scale – after all, no news is good news right?
Wrong. According to HG.org, ignorance of client dissatisfaction can seriously harm your business. One perennial client complaint is failure to return phone calls. Research indicates that an unhappy client will complain to nine or more people. Ironically, a client complaint can positively influence your practice if you identify the cause of unhappiness quickly and take steps to repair the situation.
There are ways professional services firms, and law firms in particular, can effectively solicit client feedback to ensure no news is not bad news. According to the American Bar Association, it’s critical to solicit client feedback. “All too often, attorneys assume they understand their client’s priorities without asking them directly. Having that knowledge allows attorneys to provide the kind of service that sets them apart from others.“
Altman Weil, one of the most highly regarded legal marketing consulting firms in the country, says, “One of the most cost-effective marketing and practice management tools available to law firms is to assess client needs and perceptions. With this deeper understanding of what your client really wants and really thinks, your firm can leverage its strengths, address its weaknesses and solidify client relationships.“
The myriad of benefits a law firm receives from a client satisfaction program include:
• Evaluate current client satisfaction and identify cross-selling opportunities.
• Establish clear, more productive relationships with clients.
• Identify specific new business development opportunities.
• Uncover information that may affect the firm’s practice areas or growth strategy.
• Develop programs and services that lead to additional, profitable business from existing clients.
• Prepare strategic or marketing plans based on anticipated client growth areas and needs.
• Determine potential changes in in-house team member composition that may affect relationships with firm lawyers.
• Assess and fix problem areas with major clients, offices or practice areas.
A satisfaction program also projects a clear signal to clients that you are committed to delivering quality service.
There are a variety of ways a law firm can facilitate a satisfaction program, including personal visits with top clients by the managing partner, marketing partner, executive director or chief marketing officers, or facilitation of an online survey that is sent to all clients. Suggested criteria to consider using when determining whom you should solicit feedback from includes:
• Clients that are the most profitable;
• Longstanding/institutional clients;
• Clients whose revenues have declined in recent years;
• Clients who work with a variety of firms and thus offer an opportunity to expand the firm’s work;
• Clients who have had changes in management/personnel who work with the firm’s attorneys;
• Clients with a responsible firm attorney who is planning a retirement in the coming two years.
Taking a genuine interest in and paying attention to their business and well-being not only builds loyalty, it makes the firm and its attorneys their partners, instead of their vendors. These kinds of relationships are more likely to stand the test of time – even when those times are lean or when people retire. Additionally, if the client uses more than one firm, you are differentiating yours by asking for feedback.
Of course lawyers are not always open to having a colleague visit their clients, but studies also show that firms gain the most honest and candid feedback by having a high-level partner or executive, who does not work directly with them, conduct the discussion. And if using a survey, allowing anonymity in the responses will also provide the best data. It is a critical client development technique that protects the firm’s interests.
In an industry where competition is fierce, savvy competitors are looking closely for weaknesses to exploit. Don’t let them be yours.