We know how a great client experience feels. A quick email reply from a business makes us feel like we are their only customer. The convenience of online check-in for a flight provides a seamless airport experience. Successful companies provide a great client experience – Apple, Amazon, Air New Zealand. You’d be forgiven if law firms don’t make your list.
In 2017, the average Net Promoter Score for client satisfaction for law firms was 17%. Lawyers are good at meticulously drafting legal documents and solving problems for their clients. We view our ‘product’ as the legal contract or advice. But the product of any professional service should be the entire experience of interacting with the service provider.
A law firm that prioritises delivering an exceptional experience will attract more clients and earn stronger loyalty. Firms that disregard their clients’ evolving expectations will be left behind.
The Difference Between Client Service and Client Experience
We hear people use client service and client experience interchangeably. But there is an important difference.
When a client calls a law firm, a lawyer may pick up the phone, warmly greet the client and listen to their issue. This is client service. But if a lawyer tells the client they will follow up later, and forgets to call back for a month, this would sour the client’s overall experience.
Client service is then about the individual interactions a client has with your business. Client experience is the sum of all the client’s touch points with your business.
What Makes an Exceptional Experience?
We’ve likely encountered law firm marketing that touts some variation on these common themes:
- Legal expertise and industry knowledge;
- Practical and commercial solutions; and
- Professional service.
But these traits simply meet the base expectations that clients have for their lawyer. An exceptional client experience should exceed these expectations.
In our short history, focusing on these five pillars has enabled us to deliver an excellent client experience.
- Eam dedicated to the Client Experience
In the same way that law firms have teams dedicated to producing legal work or marketing campaigns, so too do organisations need a team that has the client experience front of mind.
The role of the client experience (CX) team is to ensure the client’s journey with your organisation is as consistent and frictionless as possible. This requires the Client Experience Officer (CXO) to identify the barriers that could prevent lawyers delivering a great experience.
For instance, a lawyer has competing priorities – speaking with a client about their legal matter, creating and sending the invoice and completing the legal work. As a result, they may be slower in responding to a client’s questions, forget to update a client on next steps or sound rushed on a phone call.
The CXO, recognising that delays in communication will impact the client’s experience, can then work across teams and design solutions to these delays, such as:
- separating service delivery functions;
- training specialist legal project managers to respond to client enquiries; and
- creating invoice templates to increase efficiency.
- Personalising Service
Historically, law firms viewed the client’s journey from a lawyer’s perspective. This included how we spoke with clients on the phone, drafted correspondence and billed for legal work. Law firms can better tailor their service offering by working with clients on their terms. This involves:
- Meeting clients where they are (online and mobile);
- Mirroring the language and tone clients use in verbal and written communication;
- Listening to their choice of words to gauge their level of legal and commercial knowledge;
- Offering flexible billing options; and
- Setting out what scope of work is included in the price.
How a lawyer makes a client feel can either overwhelm the client and deter them from proceeding with the legal assistance they need, or energise a client about the next steps in their business’ journey.
- Ask for – and act on – feedback when it’s provided
Clients can more easily check the reviews of the legal service your firm provides online – the lawyer’s demeanour, the usefulness of the advice, the speed of their replies and the cost. Your legal team and CX team should collect feedback at all stages of the client’s journey with your firm using Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys, social media reviews and phone calls for qualitative feedback.
Don’t ignore this feedback. Part of the CX team’s role is to action feedback from your clients to make your processes easier, faster and more enjoyable. Sometimes, a client may leave a negative review online. As a first step, it’s important to speak with the client to better understand the nature of their complaint. If the complaint stems from an internal process or procedure, this may require assessing the existing framework and making changes within the team.
- Provide real value for clients
Law firms now too often focus on providing legal services at a competitive price. But a CXINLAW report found that 60% of clients say the quality of service most informs their purchase, and 25% say the cheapest price. When choosing a legal services provider, we know that cost is a factor for clients. But it’s not the determinative factor.
The perception of value and quality is central to client satisfaction and loyalty. Value is multifaceted and encompasses technical advice, the ease of the experience, communication about the process and usefulness of the advice. For example, a lawyer writes an article explaining in plain English the function of a shareholders’ agreement and its terms. The lawyer then shares the article with a prospective client. This adds value because the client can read the article, in their own time, and decide whether the document is most appropriate for their business and circumstance. This gives the client control over the decision-making process and demonstrates the lawyer’s subject-matter expertise.
- Anticipate the client’s needs
Law firms can now access tools to collect and record information about their clients’ businesses, industries and legal enquiries. This information reveals patterns about what a client likely needs next in their business’ journey. For instance, a busy client may engage your firm to help with business structuring. But if you know that other clients of a similar size and in a similar industry started thinking about registering a trade mark in eight months, you can pre-empt a conversation about protecting the business’ intellectual property. This may not be at the front of the client’s mind, but they’ll appreciate you sharing your experience about similar businesses. You may also just save them from landing in an uncomfortable trade mark dispute.
About Author: Jacqueline is the Head of Client Care at LegalVision, Australia’s fastest growing tech-driven law firm. She holds the degree of graduate lawyer in legal practices and General Legal Practice Specialization in Corporate and Commercial Law from Bond University.