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Law Firm Client Satisfaction: Words don’t always Match Action

Law Firm Client Satisfaction  Words don’t Equal Action

“Client satisfaction is the enemy of superior service,” according to a BTI Consulting webinar titled World-Class Client Feedback 2014 Webinar.

The word “satisfaction” stems from Latin roots which literally means “to do enough,” according to Michael Rynowecer, the consulting firms’ founder and president who co-presented with Jennifer Petrone Dezs, a principal.

The point is that “doing enough” for clients may not be enough to earn more, or additional, legal work from clients.  It’s even worse when it’s a blind spot.  The result can lead to seemingly great client feedback one week, and replacement the next.

The slides from the webinar are embedded nearby, the video from the entire webinar (runs about an hour) follows below.  We also offer 8 takeaways from the notes we took during an excellent webinar.

8 Takeaways for Law Firm Client Feedback 

1. Client satisfaction is an emotion.  Measuring emotions can be complicated, because emotions don’t always indicate behavior.  A client feedback mechanism that doesn’t include the “competitive environment” is misleading.  “Satisfied” means no further action is required, but if law firms learn how that satisfaction measures up against the competition, then a plan of action can be created to improve.

2.  “Position” in the hierarchy of client firms. According to BTI, clients may use up to 47 different law firms on a daily basis so it’s important for a law firm to understand its “position” in the client’s mind in terms of being the primary provider or a secondary provider. Primary providers earn between 35% and 50% of the total spend, while secondary providers have an opportunity to earn greater share of the work. There’s good news for secondary providers that follows below.

3. Critical information requirements. In developing client feedback mechanisms law firms need to aim to go beyond mere client satisfaction. Data collection recommendations BTI Consulting suggests include:

-The number of law firms used by the client
-The client’s rating of where “you stand” as a law firm on that list
-The little things that can snowball; what “drives clients crazy”
-What is “extraordinarily important” to a client
-How a law firm measures up against the 17 activities the drive client relationships

4. Superior performance leads to financial rewards.  Obtaining client feedback that leads to programmatically superior performance is an endeavor with clear financial rewards.  Law firms that clients rate as “superior” tend to have:

-33% higher profits
-19.5% rate premiums across all staff levels
-2X fees from single client
-33.1% higher client retention rates
-35.6% higher overall growth

Mr. Rynowecer was careful to point out during the webinar that these statistics and research apply in a flat market.

5. Past performance is no guarantee of future returns. Clientopia is BTI’s term for the “ideal state of the client relationship.”  Cleintopia is when a client not only uses a law firm, but easily recommends its services as well. Just 40.1% of clients recommend their primary law firm – which BTI Consulting interprets to mean the other 60%, while satisfied with their primary law firm, might be inclined to try a new law firm if an opportunity presents.

6.  Clients are becoming more loyal to firms.  That 40% of clients do recommend their primary law firm is a higher percentage than in previous years, which suggests to BTI, law firms are “stepping up their client service game” and consequently, clients are becoming more loyal.  Some firms can have Clientopia rates as high as 70% while others can be as low as 24%.

BTI Consulting reports the average Cleintopia rate among accounting firms is 57% or 17 percentage points higher than the law firm industry average. There is room for improvement and the question for law firms becomes:  How do law firms bring more clients into Clientopia? The answer may well be professionally designed client feedback mechanisms.

7. Four stages of law firm embracement of feedback. BTI categorizes law firms along something akin to a client feedback maturity model, when is divided into four stages:

-Non-believers.  These law firms believe they know everything they need to know about their clients.  No mechanism for client feedback exists.

-Test pilots. This is usually a group of reserved supporters – those that believe a client feedback mechanism is an important program, but lack firm-wide acceptance.

Strategists. This stage is actively building a business case for a broad client feedback mechanism.  These programs have already identified financial metrics, and warning signs that indicate client flight risks. The process is built on firm-specific data and includes the business development function in the activity.

Market Leaders.  This group has robust client feedback mechanism in place and is gaining market share at the expense of other law firms. Client feedback – and actions as a result of that feedback – is built into the law firm’s strategic plan.  Benchmarks for measuring improvement are in place, goals are shared across the firm and results are presented to all staff levels.

8.  Four methods for obtaining client feedback.  BTI Consulting presented four methods of which just three seem like viable methods for law firms obtaining client feedback:

-In-person interviews. This process provides qualitative feedback and can provide in-depth information.  The challenge is that it’s hard to scale and if a 3rd party isn’t used for the interview process, the results can be skewed.  BTI says this method is best for complex relationships to conduct client “triage.”

Telephone interviews.  Telephone interview are the most popular means of obtaining client feedback – and BTI contents it’s the most objective mechanism as well. Telephone interviews can provide both qualitative feedback, and because the program can scale, quantitative feedback as well. Strong interviewing skills are required to perform these effectively and they are best used for a) assessing the firm’s performance or b) identifying new opportunities.

-Online surveys.  Online surveys are easy to scale, have broad reach for quantitative analysis. The downside is that online surveys tend to introduce “response bias” which means clients happy with a law firm’s service are more likely to respond than those clients that are not.  It is best used for end of matter assessments.

-U.S. Mail. Conducting surveys by mail have similar characteristics as conducting them online, however they need to be carefully constructed to stand out.  This is because response rates on postal surveys tend to be low.

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You can find more from BTI on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and its blog The Mad Clientist.

Photo credit: BTI Consulting’s slide deck from this webinar.

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About Frank Strong

Frank Strong
Frank Strong is the communications director for the LexisNexis software division located on NC State’s Centennial Campus in Raleigh. In this capacity, he leads communications efforts in support of software products for law practice and law department management and also litigation tools – across large law, small law and corporate counsel segments. With more than 15 years of experience in the high-tech sector, Strong previously served as director of public relations for Vocus, which developed marketing, PR and media monitoring software. He has held multiple roles both in-house with corporations, ranging from startups to global organizations, and has also endured the rigors of billable hours, having completed gigs at PR firms including the top 10 global firm Hill & Knowlton. A veteran of two year-long deployments, Strong has concurrently served in uniform in reserve components of the military for more than 20 years, initially as an enlisted Marine and later as an infantry officer in the Army National Guard. Strong holds a BA in Film and TV production from Worcester State University, an M.A. in Public Communication from American University, and an M.B.A. from Marymount University. He is a PADI-certified Master Scuba Diver and holds a USPA "B" skydiving license.


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