There has never been a time in our history where it has been so easy to solicit or receive immediate input and feedback on, well, just about everything. Our receipts from pharmacies and other brick and mortar retailers ask for an opinion in exchange for a discount, at the end of our Uber rides, we get a text demanding a star rating, and our email inboxes are flooded with surveys from establishments we just visited over the weekend. Opportunities to get and give real-time (or near real-time) feedback are abundant.
In the legal profession, I believe that our success and satisfaction should be predicated on the success and satisfaction of our clients. Of course, client satisfaction in our profession, like many others, relies on many factors and will vary based on each client, their needs, and their experience with the firm. However, it is clear that caring about the client experience and communicating consistently can only enhance the client experience.
The article Focusing on Client Satisfaction in the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Magazine highlights a communication issue, saying, “Just as a doctor should never diagnose or treat a patient without the patient’s input, a lawyer should never help a client without the client’s input. To do so creates the risks of mismatched expectations, overly high costs and missed opportunities. Despite these risks, many lawyers don’t seek or use client feedback in a systematic way. Lawyers and their firms often operate without sufficient client feedback. Lack of feedback not only causes the law firm to miss many benefits, but it also deprives clients of the benefits they can reap when encouraged to give honest, candid input.”
Clients claim that when lawyers implement a formal system for garnering feedback, a significant benefit, among many, is “closer alignment of the client’s expectations for process with the law firm’s delivery of legal services.” On the other hand, attorneys who implement formal feedback programs find one of the greatest benefits to be “ascertaining the level of client satisfaction and/or areas where the firm can improve in service delivery before it’s too late and the firm loses the client.”
It is definitely too late when you use the client, but I would argue it is more detrimental to your firm if the client goes online to share their dissatisfaction with you and your firm before you even lose them. I’ve shared previously that with regards to Yelp and other online review sites, lawyers tend to get fewer reviews than other businesses, so each review a lawyer receives can have a significant impact on the firm’s reputation.
In an April 2017 Forbes article, consultant Mark Cohen asked “Legal Marketing Spend Is Up– So Is Client Dissatisfaction. Now What?” Cohen paraphrases a study conducted by LexisNexis and Judge Business School at Cambridge University, citing the top reasons for client dissatisfaction:
“ (1) clients want solutions and law firms offer advice; (2) law firms strive for perfection while clients generally want a ‘good enough’ basis to solve a problem–this varies with the value a client assigns to a matter; and (3) law firms fail to provide cost and time predictability–they have not invested in project and process management capability that is common among their clients.”
As an SaaS legal-tech company CEO, I can ensure you that case management, and moreover process-management in our profession is a top-priority right now, and there are many of us who are working hard to help streamline practices. We’re using available technology to create greater communication pathways between lawyers and their clients, fostering better collaboration and partnership.
The Lexis-Nexis/Judge Business School study concludes, “Clients wish to treat the relationship as being distinct from the various interactions driven by transactions. Law firms need to recognize this, and act accordingly. This requires moving beyond pragmatic engagements with the client and providing a sense of partnership where the client feels valued and protected.” We couldn’t agree more.