Are legal firms taking Customer Experience seriously?

The moment of truth.

Last year I sat on a panel at a law firm conference and the topic changed to client feedback.

Question from the audience: “Can I ask the CEO of the law firm what feedback he receives from his clients?”

I could have predicted the answer, but here goes…

“We receive a 96% excellent rating from our clients at the end of the experience.”

I had to interject. “So, tell me, what percentage of your clients do you ask?”

There was a pause and then “I believe we send out forms to 11% of our clients at the end of matter.”

“Ok,” I asked, “and what is the response rate of the 11%?”

“I believe 3%.” He murmured.

So, 3% of 11%, which equates to 3% of all clients think you are 96% excellent.

I did not have the courage but the words “so what do the other 98% think?” just fell out of my mouth.

This example highlights the biggest issue facing law firms today. They simply are either too scared to, don’t know how to, or even worse, don’t think they need to, listen to all of their clients all of the time.

Why the stigma?

So why, compared to all other business sectors are law firms so poor at the feedback game?  Arrogance, complacency, too busy, not skilled, can’t find the right partner to help?

We can make as many excuses as we like but it does all start at the top. If that be the CEO, the Department Head or the Marketing Lead.  The truth is most firms think they are really good at cx, when in reality they are getting left behind.

  • When 500 European leaders were asked if they delivered good or better customer service 80% of them raised their hand. When their customers were asked only 8% put their hand up. We all think we are good…but we don’t know if we don’t measure.
  • We know that firms that work with insight6 deliver a 12% better experience on new enquiries than firms that do not. See the Legal Journey 2018 for the proof.

This is not about being left behind other firms (although if you do nothing you will be) it’s about the whole sector being left behind society as they experience exceptional experiences elsewhere…

At a recent conference, that I was involved in organising, Amazon stated that their record click to delivery to the door for food in London is…wait for it…6 minutes.  Yes, 6 minutes.

The customer most likely to be receiving that order is a millennial (25-35 years old?) whose expectation now is just that. When next month it’s 30 minutes, if it ever will be, they are going to be happy, but not ecstatic. The NPS score may move from 10 to 8.

The issue for the law firm that has been trading for hundreds of years is that Amazon are now their competition and when someone calls to speak to a fee earner, how long do you think, is it acceptable to them to wait for a response. In their head “food….6 minutes, returned call…?”  It needs to be now, to compete.

So, the stigma is leaders in firms really need to understand that those raising the customer experience bar sit outside their sector and that is the place to look for the inspiration.  When British Airways introduced the “lie flat” bed, they looked at the luxury boat industry to find a solution. If they had asked their own engineers it would never have happened.  The same applies in law, until the leaders start to look outside their arena they will never make the change required.

Of course, what will, and is happening is that the internet and “disrupters” will come more into play and take the market share of enquiries and then start dominating the legal landscape.  No one can say no one has not been warned or indeed they did not have time to do anything about it.

It’s going to happen and how you respond will determine your firm’s future. 

So why are leaders so slow to react and do anything?

There are generally three categories that we assess firms by as to where their CX thinking is. It goes like this:

  1. Firms that are doing it but need to do it more or properly
  2. Firms that want to but don’t know where to start
  3. Firms that know they are already great

It does not take a brain surgeon to identify the category that needs to worry most, but there is little point in worrying about those firms as they are great already…and by the time the leader retires it will be far too late.

So, let’s look at the first category. Yes, we are doing it but need to do it more or properly.

A few months ago I was sitting in the boardroom of a prominent law firm when I was asked by the partners how much measurement and activity do we need to do to make this really work? My first question was “well, what do you do now?”

They looked at one another.  I was in my head working it out. 60 fee earners, 200 support staff, they must do team surveys, end of matter surveys and maybe some client reviews (mystery shopping) as a bare minimal…surely?

The answer came like a bolt out of the preverbal blue… “last year we did 10 phone surveys.”

“OK, and how many conversations in each survey?”

“That’s it ten.”

The good news is they were a tad embarrassed and were in the room with me as they knew they needed to get it sorted out. The even better news was that they were keen, enthused and were going to be the influencers in this business that have traded for many hundreds of years.  They were going to be the catalysts for CHANGE. One piece of key advice I can give is it is always best to start these programmes in a small way and then open them up slowly to the whole business.

That way the influencers can influence and the partners who sit on the fence see the benefits and then come on board. Over time they all do. If you introduce a large programme across the group excuses are made for the feedback, it gets too hard and it kills off any future activity again.  It would have been less damaging to do nothing.

How do you, the influencers, work your magic?

To help with influencing those who are still sat on the fence it is best to ask whether our CX programmes do one or all of the following:

  1. Will it make us money?
  2. Will it save us money?
  3. Will it make people happier?

So, let us take one department of a firm, let’s say family. Family clients are emotive and therefore tell the story but more than that they need to connect with your team faster and quicker than any other client group, as it’s all about them and their personal needs.

How can we save money by working on the CX in a firm with a family department?  The easiest way is to start with some measurement.

For example, how many clients pay 100% of their bill on time.  Our experience tells us that 20% of clients query their bill, and over 50% of the bills are reduced by 10%.  OK do the maths…a firm turns over £20m. £4m of billing is questioned. £500,000 is given back as a way to appease.  Then add in the time and disruption to the business handling the client plus the reputational damage…you get the picture I am painting here.

Agh, I forgot about the firm I met recently that has a full time complaints officer. Let us make it £600,000 given away each year. That’s a lot of new business to create.

How can a good CX programme actually make you money?

It’s simple.  You totally tear up your enquiry strategy and start again. Here are some startling facts we found when we recently measured the enquiry process for 70 law firms. The headlines are:

  1. Only 7% of new phone enquiries are followed up
  2. Only 25% of clients felt that a meeting with a solicitor was held in a suitably private place on walk-in enquiries.
  3. Only 39% of website enquiries led to a conversation between the client and a fee earner.

If you want to view the full report, please click here.  Handling enquiries really well where the potential client receives good advice quickly and there is a slick follow up process will revolutionise the conversion from enquiry to business.

Customer mapping, where you work with your team to identify the process now and how it needs to be changed to sign up more business energises the team and makes them responsible for the process, which in turn leads to more sign ups.

It makes firms more money.

How can a programme save you money?

CX programmes save you money because they identify issues before they become problems.  This approach ensures less clients query the bill and if they do the reduction is less. It makes sense really.

Why do restaurant staff ask you if you are enjoying your meal? It’s simple, you are reaffirming to yourself that its good or not. If it’s not they can act on it so when it comes to pay the bill there will be no dispute. In fact, stats tell us customers are happier when a problem is resolved really well, as opposed when nothing has ever happened before.

So, image your firm where 75% of your clients give you feedback on a regular basis which is directly linked to a department, a fee earner or a building.  Every morning you turn on your PC and up the results come in real live time from all the clients that have responded to your online survey. They will answer it as you mentioned it when you signed them up and explained the benefits it will bring to both them and the business.

You can see:

  • Which customers are really happy – these are the ones who are not going to have a query on the bill at the end of matter and become your fans. You can ask them for a testimonial and more importantly say well done to the team and the team member.
  • Those customers who are neither happy or disappointed. So, action is required here, and you ask the head of department to call the client to work out how you can make them really happy with the experience. This is where as a business you really learn. The insight your client will give you leads to internal action that will improve life for everyone.
  • Those clients that are not happy. This is time for the CEO to step into action. There is nothing more powerful than the CEO turning around the situation. The good news is that you have caught it early and you have another 6 months to make them love you again. During which time you shall be asking them 4 more times. It works.

Let me share two top tips that I have picked up working with law firms:

  1. Use technology that is tailored for your business
  2. Work with a supplier who can help you with solutions. There is nothing worse than measuring and the client thinks you are doing something about it and nothing happens.

How can we make the team happier?

In the thousands of team surveys we have conducted the number one incentive teams want is a “well done.” It is that easy. Recognition from the boss, personal and heart felt goes a long, long way.  How can you have such a system in your business?

Let’s start to talk about what you can do about it.

The answer is in the measurement and reflection.

So what next?  This initial process may take 6 to 12 months to bed in but you will see instant results both financial and motivational. The next challenge is how you move this new initiative or culture shift across the whole business.  That one is for another day but if you like what you hear and you need some CX partners then please click here to contact one of our CX Directors who can help you with everything I have mentioned in this article.