We regularly ask clients to evaluate themselves and their colleagues across a range of criteria. We have found that, unsurprisingly and quite understandably, most lawyers pride themselves first and foremost on their legal skills. But in a market that is bound to shrink in the next couple of years, it won’t be a simple case of the firms with the best lawyers leading the way.
What many professionals don’t realise is that it’s actually very difficult for clients to judge the quality of their work. What they can judge very easily, however, is the quality of service they receive. So, here are a number of areas where firms can ensure they stand out, and keep clients loyal:
1. Keeping in Touch
An image of disinterest or complacency will be fatal to any client relationship. Firms need to demonstrate a proactive attitude, appointing a dedicated Client Relationship Manager and allowing clients to make appointments and track progress in their case online where possible. More than anything, simple phone calls and messages to check that the client is happy go a long way and cost nothing.
2. Flexibility and Service Standards
Firms need a ‘client-centred’ approach, with flexible working hours and ‘out of hours’ meetings when possible, as well as service standards that include standardising the way staff communicate with clients, and must always be on the lookout for new services the firm could offer.
Paying for legal work can really be off-putting for potential clients, and anything the firm can do (within reason) to help will be a major factor in purchasing decisions. This includes fixed price quotes and guarantees up front, and the option of 0% finance. Flexibility in billing and collection, allowing clients to view the accounts ledger online, and updating them of the status of their account will all help your own capacity to plan as well as make life easier for the client.
It is important to demonstrate that your firm is a market leader, and this can be done through profile-raising events with a ‘wow’ factor in the local community, a ‘green strategy’ and other illustrations of CSR such as community and charity work, and holding networking events. These will all enhance the firm’s image, while of course being worthwhile in themselves.
Getting meaningful feedback involves more than just handing out a few questionnaires – although this is a good start. Client ‘focus groups’ for feedback can be very useful, as can using a ‘mystery shopper’ to contact the firm for quotes and to get an idea of how clients are treated, the client for feedback, and the competition for obvious reasons!
In more and more ways, law firms are being forced to adhere to standards that are the norm in other areas of business. The quicker they do this, the better for everyone involved . . .