The legal profession has become ever more competitive in recent years, as (like so many other things) legal services have become more commoditised.
Artificial Intelligence is continuing to have a huge impact (in many and varied ways) on the underlying execution of tasks and the delivery of services, and technology is continuing to open up access to services, so those that need them can easily find them.
In private client work, the long-term (or even multi-generational) loyalty towards “the family solicitor” that used to be common is now a rarity. In the age of price-comparisons-for-everything, clients tend to shop around for the cheapest fix-priced service available.
It has probably never been harder for a firm of solicitors to secure and retain a loyal long-term client.
Of course, the most successful firms are those where the fee earners can build and maintain a strong trusting relationships with their clients based on outstanding service, sound advice and competent delivery.
Differentiating your firm with superior service
It’s not a new idea that, to avoid simply competing on price in a “race to the bottom”, law firms can differentiate their offering and foster loyalty by providing a better service and better experience to their clients.
Many firms are very focussed on this, but many don’t give it the attention it really deserves. After all, most solicitors are hard at work, doing what their clients are paying them for…
What are clients really paying for?
Of course the obvious answers might be “expert advice” “help”, “representation”, “solutions”… and similar words.
In a results-focussed environment, solicitors are (rightly) very aware of the quality of advice they provide, and ultimately the actual “result” that their firm delivers for their clients. Objectively, perhaps the right result should keep clients grinning from ear to ear and coming back time and again.
But sadly, even a “great” result isn’t enough.
Many clients are not only paying for the result, and they won’t just judge a firm based only on the result the firm obtains for them.
Clients increasingly care (a lot) about the actual service they receive: the care and attention, the communication. And they have higher expectations. If the service is poor, many clients won’t appreciate the end result, however outstanding it might be.
This is a key (if obvious) reason many law firms don’t inspire more loyalty:
They simply don’t do enough to inspire that loyalty by making people feel that they have been treated really well.
Many firms do provide great service of course, but it’s also common to hear first-hand stories of disappointing service from solicitors.
Poor communication of information and poor interpersonal skills are common complaints, along with an attitude to clients that can be seen as aloof and sometimes even snooty or superior.
Of course there’s a massive chasm between awful and great, and most firms fall somewhere in the middle.
But the leaders of a forward-thinking firm might ask themselves “are we satisfied being somewhere in the middle? or even just good?”.
So, what can a firm of solicitors do to effectively take charge, and start the process of consistently improving client satisfaction, client loyalty, and its reputation?
High quality feedback from clients is essential
An obvious and fundamental answer is “seek feedback from clients – and listen to it”.
But this is easier said than done.
Before you can listen to feedback, you must obtain it, which can be a challenge. Clients are busy people too. So, what to do?
A dual approach
The approach that we recommend to law firms includes two key parts:
1. Mystery Shopping Reports
This activity is focussed of course on what makes happens before the prospective client formally engages the firm. So it can include every touchpoint and exchange that could influence a prospective client, right up until the moment of a decision to instruct the firm (or not). These touch points could and should include:
- Online enquiries
- Phone enquiries, covering reception, and different legal departments, which might include initial advice and quotations or estimates being issued.
- Initial face to face consultations (pre-booked).
- Visitors walking in off the street.
The insights gained from Mystery Shopping activity can directly help a firm to:
- Identify and eliminate major and minor failures and friction points that could cause a prospective client to hesitate, or not instruct the firm.
- Help convert more enquiries into initial instructions.
- Establish whether opportunities to up-sell and cross-sell relevant services are being taken.
- Make service improvements that will be enjoyed by all clients, at every stage.
- Increase client satisfaction and loyalty.
Video Mystery Shopping is an option that can help firms to literally see themselves through a customer’s eyes and look in fine detail at these potential client interactions, including nearly all of the subtle nuances of communication. Recording of telephone calls is also very useful for similar reasons.
A well thought out programme of Mystery Shopping allows a firm to truly hold up a mirror and see where and how it can improve.
In nearly all cases, there will be opportunities that are being missed to:
- Create better first impressions.
- Convert enquiries into paid instructions more effectively.
- Cross-sell and up-sell relevant services (e.g. retainer agreements, services from other departments depending on the client’s circumstances?).
- Improve engagement and relationships and ultimately increase loyalty.
2. Client Surveys
Client surveys reveal key information about the experience of actually being a client, from real clients who did decide to instruct the firm and went onto use the service, (hopefully) until the matter was concluded. This information will inevitably be less detailed (and generally less objective / accurate due to the time that’s elapsed) than the information available through Mystery Shopping. However, (perhaps with appropriate incentives) it is possible to cover all the key factors that will affect the way that team members and the firm as a whole is viewed by clients. Also, a much larger sample size of respondents provides more of a reliable overview of clients’ perceptions.
What is the value of each approach?
Client surveys are obviously more likely to be completed if they are short and / or if some sort of incentives are offered. Very short surveys can often provide very clear, reliable and useful information on how people feel about the service they received, and also how it could be improved.
The questions asked of Mystery Shoppers (and the way that report templates are designed and scored) should reflect a key truth about achieving high levels of customer satisfaction consistently:
The little things all matter because they can all contribute to an overall perception…of delight, disappointment, or anything in between.
To achieve real and lasting improvements in customer satisfaction, it is necessary to take charge of the little things, and tackle them through training, and ongoing reinforcement and monitoring. At it’s core it’s a question of culture. Cultures are sometimes slow and difficult to change, but it can be done.
Get in touch
To find out how, or discuss any initial ideas, please contact us online or using 01392 984224.
Using Mystery Shopping (including a range of enquiry channels and routes), we can help you to gain a crystal-clear understanding of how real interactions play out with real customers (when you or your managers are not watching, listening, or supervising).
But we’re not “just” another Mystery Shopping company. We specialise in helping in situations where we can make the most difference, by looking closely at sales interactions and finding ways to improve processes, methods, approaches and habits.
Every client and every situation is unique and receives a unique approach. We do our best to gain an in-depth understanding of your business, your market and your priorities. Then we work with you to look at how (sometimes seemingly small) changes might improve your results.
If your organisation is considering using Mystery Shopping, or working on any of these ideas, and you want help or just an initial chat, then please get in touch online or by phone on 01392 984224.
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