Having taken out the gong for Customer Service Experience of the Year at the 2017 Optus My Business Awards, LegalVision’s head of client care, Jacqueline Fearnley, shares her tips for creating a winning customer service strategy.
We know how a great client experience feels. A quick email reply from a business makes us feel like we are their only customer. The convenience of online check-in for a flight provides a seamless airport experience.
Successful companies provide a great client experience – Apple, Amazon, Air New Zealand. You’d be forgiven if law firms don’t make your list.
In 2017, the average Net Promoter Score (NPS) for client satisfaction for law firms was 17 (NPS is a metric that measures customer loyalty between -100 and +100). Lawyers are good at meticulously drafting legal documents and solving problems for their clients. We view our ‘product’ as the legal contract or advice. But the product of any professional service should be the entire experience of interacting with the service provider.
A law firm that prioritises delivering an exceptional experience will attract more clients and retain their continuing loyalty. Firms that disregard their clients’ evolving expectations will be left behind.
The difference between client service and client experience
We hear people use client service and client experience interchangeably. But there is an important difference.
When a client calls a law firm, a lawyer may pick up the phone, warmly greet the client and listen to their issue. This is client service. But if a lawyer tells the client they will follow up later, and forgets to call back for a month, this would sour the client experience.
Client service is about the individual interactions a client has with your business. Client experience is the sum of all the client’s touch points with your business.
What makes an exceptional experience?
You’ve probably come across law firm marketing that touts some variation on these common themes:
- Legal expertise and industry knowledge;
- Practical and commercial solutions; and
- Professional service.
But these traits simply meet the base expectations that clients have for their lawyer. An exceptional client experience should exceed these expectations.
LegalVision focuses on four pillars that enable us to deliver an excellent client experience: usefulness of the output, ease of the process, anticipating client needs and perception of value.
1. Usefulness of your output
Legal writing can be wordy and unclear. The text is cramped on the page in small font, which makes it difficult to quickly refer to sections in the document if, for example, a business owner has questions about a refund policy. Or perhaps a lawyer provided an avalanche of information during a phone consultation, but the client didn’t fully understand their obligations under a contract.
A useful legal product is crafted with the client’s needs in mind, rather than the needs of other lawyers.
For example, a lawyer can make complex legal advice simple by creating a visual timeline or a one-page schedule that shows when a supplier must deliver their goods, and when the buyer must make payment.
2. Ease of the process
Historically, law firms viewed the client’s journey from a lawyer’s perspective. This included how we spoke with clients on the phone, drafted correspondence and billed for legal work.
But this service offering can be better tailored by working with clients on their terms. In doing so, you make the client’s journey with your organisation as frictionless as possible. This can include:
- Speaking with clients online rather than needing the client to come into the office;
- Listening to the client’s choice of words to gauge their level of legal and commercial knowledge;
- Mirroring the language and tone clients use in verbal and written communication; and
- Offering flexible billing options.
It’s also important to collect regular feedback from clients. Ask your clients questions such as whether it was easy to contact the firm and whether the client knew what to expect after engaging your firm’s services.
The aim is to action this feedback to make your processes easier, faster and more enjoyable.
3. Anticipate client needs
Modern technologies make it easy now to collect and record information about clients’ businesses, industries and enquiries. This information can reveal patterns about what a client likely needs next in their business’ journey.
For instance, a busy client may engage a legal firm for help with business structuring. If you know that other clients of a similar size and in a similar industry start thinking about registering a trademark within one year of setting up a company, you can pre-empt a conversation about protecting the business’ intellectual property.
This may not be at the front of the client’s mind, but they’ll appreciate you sharing your experience from working with similar businesses. You may also save them from landing in an uncomfortable trademark dispute.
Clients expect you to be their trusted advisor, illuminating the path you’ve walked with similar clients.
4. Perception of value
The perception of value is central to client satisfaction and loyalty. Value is multifaceted and encompasses technical advice, the ease of the experience, communication about the process and usefulness of the advice.
For example, a lawyer writes an article explaining in plain English the function of a shareholders’ agreement. The lawyer then shares the article with a prospective client.
This adds value because the client can read the article, in their own time, and decide whether the document is most appropriate for their business and circumstance.
This not only ensures the client has control over the decision-making process, but it also demonstrates the lawyer’s subject-matter expertise and can help the client reclaim time otherwise spent on the phone with a lawyer.
How you can transform your business’ client experience
Businesses must deliver a memorable client experience every time to leave a good impression on the client.
In our experience, listing the touch points your client has with you can help you better understand their journey. Touch points are like a map for your client, and can help guide them through their experience with your business.
Here are some questions to consider in mapping your client’s experience with you:
- How did the client come to know about your brand? For instance, digital marketing, a referral, meeting an employee at an event, reading an article on your website.
- What is the client’s first experience like? Can the client easily navigate your website, leave an enquiry or download a document? Is the site responsive on mobile?
- What is the client’s first point of contact with a team member? For instance, how soon after leaving an enquiry does a team member call the client? Does the client know the next steps in the process?
- How does your organisation stay engaged with the client and their business after you complete the work? This may include sending personalised updates about their industry or celebrating the client’s launch across social media.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.