- Posted by Poston Communications
- On March 29, 2017
- client feedback, customer service, Legal Marketing Association, LMA, Ogletree Deakins
As law firms continue to take steps to operate more like businesses, certain areas – such as customer service – are starting to garner more attention. In particular, law firms have learned that client feedback programs can be a great tool.
Legal marketing executives who have experience in running client feedback programs also say that they have another bonus: They can lead at times to new business.
At its heart, a client feedback program is a survey of a firm’s clients. Surveys can be conducted via email, by phone or in-person, and third-party providers or a firm’s marketing staff can conduct them. A best practice is that the partner in charge of the client’s work should not handle the interviews. The idea is for the client to feel as comfortable and as honest as possible in providing feedback to the firm.
The experience can be an eye-opener for a firm’s partners, said Jim McGrew, Ogletree Deakins’ chief client services officer, who spoke on the topic during a Legal Marketing Association Atlanta City Group event on Feb. 24. For a number of years, McGrew has overseen the client feedback program at Ogletree Deakins, one of the nation’s largest labor and employment law firms. Ogletree Deakins has 52 offices across the United States and in Europe, Canada, and Mexico.
McGrew is a big proponent of client feedback programs.
“People don’t view it as adversarial,” McGrew said of the interviews. “They view it as customer service.”
McGrew said he typically conducts 20 to 25 in-person interviews a year and attempts to schedule as many as possible in the same location for efficiency and to be budget-friendly.
Buy-in from a firm’s managing partner is essential in establishing such a program. That is because these programs come with a cost – whether it comes in hiring a third-party service to conduct the interviews or in having a firm’s marketing staff fly to interview a client’s general counsel in another city – but it is a cost that is worth it.
Without such a program, a firm could be at risk of losing business and could be completely unaware that a client might be unhappy. A client feedback program helps a firm to solve such a problem – before it is too late.
McGrew said in the event that he receives a complaint, he deals with it “urgently, sincerely and professionally” and endeavors to get as much detail as possible from the client so that the problem can be solved in the most satisfactory and efficient way possible.
Conversely, positive feedback can make a partner’s day and also can be used as material to train other attorneys who work for the client in terms of what the client expects – whether it’s an item that is idiosyncratic or one of major concern.
Questions that firms should ask of their clients include:
- Is there anyone with whom you don’t want to work?
- Is there anyone with whom you prefer to work?
- Is there anything we do that really drives you crazy?
McGrew also cited an article in the Harvard Business Review that said client feedback programs could begin with one simple question: “How likely is it that you would recommend [company X] to a friend or colleague?”
Whether it was from McGrew or from other marketing executives, the idea of client feedback programs leading to new business was repeated often. In the course of conversations with clients, clients might mention a matter that needs to be addressed. In that event, it is best not to do a hard sell at the moment, perhaps picking up the conversation at a later time after passing along the news to the relevant partner.
While some firms might not be accustomed to two-way feedback with a client on a topic such as customer service, it is a reality of doing business today – and it is a reality that can end up paying dividends for firms.