By Carl White, Client & Brand Director, CXINLAW
How likely is a prospective client to instruct your law firm on the basis of their first impression?
There’s no doubt that the experience clients and customers receive when first making contact with you, quite apart from what legal knowhow is provided, defines how they feel about the firm, and what they choose to do. In fact, “how do we want our customers to feel?’ is Apple’s first question and one law can learn from.
In law, use of the term ‘sale’ is needlessly provocative - but what we are talking about here is ‘point-of-sale’ and the effectiveness of your firm in managing its first impression upon prospective clients. In this way your firm is really not too dissimilar from any high street retailer or service provider. Do come to terms with that quickly. It will kill your firm if you don’t.
As with a retailer, there is of course a commercial imperative in getting your point-of-sale right and we know that firms lose thousands of dollars by getting it wrong. So wrong in fact that 45% left shoppers just as likely to call competitors and a third, who made contact due to a recommendation, permanently deterred. In this respect the findings have been described by legal practitioners as “hard-hitting” and “harrowing”.
Every firm likes to deal with clients they can help and no firm willingly tries its best to annoy clients, much like budget airlines often appear to do. What’s extremely scary then, is the degree to which law firms are sending clients they have worked hard to attract, into the arms of their competitors, often without realising they are doing so. Do you know just how many prospective clients go “ouch” when making contact with your firm?
Here are some essential learning points from our findings and work advising law firms:
What’s your firm’s key perspective?Customer service must be in the DNA of everyone in the firm with all roles and functions responsible for excellent delivery. The starting point is the assessment of the current experience of your clients. At point-of-sale this means thoroughly understanding both the ‘utility’ and ‘soft’ aspects of the experience they receive. It’s then about engaging your staff with the findings to ensure the client is in their ‘line of sight’ at every moment.
No train, no gain
We all know what great customer service is, we know how it feels and we like it when it’s provided. The issue is that ‘business as usual’ at work often means that we neglect, forget or are frustrated by the need to deliver service excellence. This is critically the case in law. A solicitor recently expressed how she learnt about client service as a law student but now that she worked as senior associate, being ‘professional’ did not necessarily mean service was at the top of her list. Dealing with a client’s matter is. This point resonated with every legal ‘professional’ in the room. Does it with you? Today, the professional skills and capabilities of lawyers and support people must include customer service. The same is true of all the firms systems and processes.
It’s skills Jim, but not as we know it
Clients can teach lawyers and law firms a lot about meeting their demands, if only they’d listen. What we know from our work at point-of-sale is that your customers respond to being treated with care and empathy. You also know this as a customer yourself. You may feel that both qualities are demonstrated when a client calls, but it’s unlikely according to our research.
Help clients buy
ALPMA President, Andrew Barnes said in our new report, “We exist in very competitive times. Law firm differentiators are not easy to identify, let alone leverage. Firms who rely on the personal element of relationships will do well to introduce Client Experience Excellence into their thinking.”
Taking service development seriously presents an opportunity to turn failing at First Impressions into the greenest of green fields in your pursuit of growth. But only if you and everyone at the firm can see the world as your customers do.
About our Guest Blogger
Carl White is a founding director of CXINLAW in the UK and Australia. CXINLAW focus on the advantage firms gain with Client Experience Excellence and deliver client insight, strategic support and development.
Passionate about the impact of Client Experience Excellence in professional services, Carl White entered the legal sector with Ashurst in 2002. He co-authored the highly-regarded ‘Customer Experience in Law' report in 2012 and led the market-leading Australian research in 2015 which was supported by ALPMA. The research examines the Client Experience Advantage for law firms and used mystery shopping to assess law firm first impressions and likelihood of client instructions.
He has a background in employee engagement, organisational development and training within law and 15 years experience in retail operations.