Most firms know they could (and should) improve client service. The problem is, it’s easy to get bogged down in billable hours for one client and then move onto the next, without pausing to reflect on the bigger picture.
This article will take an evidence-based look at where you should spend your time to get the biggest return on effort in improving your client service.
Focusing on client service is a critical investment. Not only will it help you to win more repeat business, it will boost word-of-mouth recommendations. And it’s referred clients and repeat clients that tend to be most profitable, and the best to work with.
If you want to get a jumpstart on your competitors, read on.
Key trends in client service
FirmChecker’s data over the past four years shows client satisfaction with their legal and conveyancing providers is increasing year-on-year.
This is a double-edged sword.
While it shows that the profession is moving in the right direction, it also means that if you’re not improving, you’re going backwards competitively. This trend also relates to perceived value for money. While perceived value has been increasing over time, perceived expensiveness among legal services providers has been falling. This is a sign of a very competitive market.
Tips to outperform the competition
Prioritise key drivers of recommendation
Word-of-mouth is still how most clients first hear about their professional services providers, according to FirmChecker data. To boost word-of-mouth about your firm, it’s important to focus on your behaviours that influence clients' likelihood of recommending you to others.
Four key drivers of recommendations are listed below, plus one weak driver which is massively overestimated by most firms.
It’s clear from these data that soft skills have the biggest influence on client recommendations. Specifically:
- Reliability: make promises and keep them. With respect to budget, time, and the substance of deliverables - do what you say you’ll do.
- Understanding needs: take time to listen to the client’s problem. This will improve the commerciality of your advice and give the client peace of mind that you’re not giving cookie-cutter solutions.
- Communication: give regular updates and speak in plain English.
- Expertise: provide quality work.
As a professional, clients have limited ability to judge your expertise. They do, however, know how you make them feel. You are selling peace of mind. By listening, giving updates and doing what you say you’ll do, you will stand out from professionals who focus purely on technical work because you will instill confidence.
When it comes to pricing, avoid nasty surprises. While perceived expensiveness has a negative impact on clients’ propensity to recommend, the impact is too weak for it to inform strategy. In all likelihood, discounting your price will simply erode your margins and reduce your capacity to deliver on the things that matter more. It’s more important that you provide certainty.
Allow clients to remain anonymous in their end-of-matter reviews
If you want honest feedback, the option of anonymity should be offered.
FirmChecker data indicate clients who don’t share their names are more likely to give constructive feedback. This allows you to identify areas to improve your service so that all subsequent clients are more satisfied.
While it might hurt in the short run to get criticism, finding these small optimisations has a remarkable impact on your growth in a competitive market where it’s hard to stand out.
Respond to all feedback
This should be obvious, but it’s overlooked by many firms. While correlation doesn’t necessarily imply causation, firms that regularly respond to feedback (whether positive or negative), have higher overall satisfaction. As a discipline, respond to all feedback.
More consistency is clearly correlated with higher overall client satisfaction. High standards with respect to consistency make a huge difference. That is, every client, every time, by everyone in the firm.
Such a philosophy means the ball is never dropped due to expedience. There’s no forgetting to reply, or forgetting to give an update. When you make clients chase you, you make them feel like they’re doing the work.
They’ll soon wonder what they’re paying you for.
Offer fixed fees wherever possible
Clients on fixed fees perceive their matters to be less expensive and better value. This is independent of actual price, and holds across all practice areas. The upshot of this is very simple. If you want more recommendations, use fixed fees wherever possible.
There are several major reasons for this, including:
- Fixed fees avoid nasty surprises for clients when they are evaluating your work.
- They encourage your firm to deliver work efficiently.
- They make clients perceive their fees in terms of the value they are receiving - not in terms of how expensive your charge-out rates are.
There’s also a strong business case for charging fixed fees. Because clients perceive the matters to be less expensive and higher value, you can charge risk premiums and recover larger fees for the same work, with happier clients. It’s a genuine win-win.
And this makes sense. As the professional with experience in how matters play-out, you’re in a much better position to understand and accommodate for scope risk. Because of the law of averages, you can also better make up for scope risk that doesn’t go your way. A client doesn’t have the luxury of many bites at the apple, so paying a little more in exchange for certainty is valuable to them, much like buying insurance.
In contrast, an hourly rate places all scope risk on the client: the party less able to manage risk. Charging hourly rates when it’s avoidable is poor business practice.
Measure client satisfaction
What gets measured gets managed. If you’re not requesting feedback from each and every client, your standards will slip because your team will not be held accountable to excellent client service.
It’s also polite. If a client spends thousands of dollars with you, it’s simply good manners to check if they are satisfied.
Accountability to client satisfaction can instil fear in professionals, but it absolutely should not. In fact, good, bad or ugly, client feedback is the biggest opportunity your firm has to stand out. This is because:
- When it’s positive, it creates a rewarding and motivating workplace for your team, and boosts your online presence.
- When it’s neutral, it gives ideas for new services and client experience initiatives, and
- When it’s negative, it allows you to save client relationships and make improvements in your service that benefits all future clients.
Gain deeper insights into your client service
To gain deeper insight into your clients and stand out from your competitors online, be sure to sign up to FirmChecker.
It’s free to start, takes 60 seconds to sign up and can be implemented incredibly easily.
If you sign up on an annual subscription before 15 January 2022, you will also receive 10% off your lifetime subscription thanks to FirmChecker & LPI! Just use the promocode LPI10.