Posted by Robert Half Legal on Tuesday, May 5, 2015 - 16:01 | Follow me
Client surveys provide vital insight into what your customers think about the services you provide. A well-designed satisfaction survey is key to effective legal practice management, helping you retain existing clients and secure new ones with smarter marketing and referrals. When you understand what clients want and need, you are better situated to capture and keep their business.
Client feedback is essential to legal practice management
When considering feedback surveys, some lawyers are concerned about opening themselves up to excessive criticism. Others may be overly confident about their customer relationships. Wherever you are on this spectrum, it’s best to know what clients think and how you can improve.
As the legal profession becomes more competitive and client demands drive innovation in legal practice management, maintaining and enhancing customer relations become more critical. Don’t wait to ask for feedback until a client is unhappy. At that point it may be too late to rescue the relationship.
Being complacent about happy customers is just as misguided. You never want to take your clients’ business for granted. Show them the firm is not settling for simply “satisfied” clients by asking what you can do to make the relationship even more valuable.
Effectively securing useful client feedback
Your methodology determines the quality of the information you gather. If you design it well, your survey will be a powerful marketing and customer service tool. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Most important questions first. Our suggestion is to start with this: “Would you refer this firm to others?” This is the acid test. If your clients don’t want to recommend you, you have a problem. Clients who are happy with your firm will promote it and help it grow. Those who are either lukewarm or unsatisfied can harm your business and reputation by word of mouth.
2. What areas to cover. Here are some other suggestions for questions:
Competence: Did we understand your needs, and did you feel well represented? What were our strengths and weaknesses?
Staffing: Did our attorneys and legal support staff make you feel welcome? Are you satisfied with the diversity of our legal team?
Communication/responsiveness: Did we keep you well informed on a regular basis? Were all your questions answered promptly and accurately? Are there other avenues of communication that would work better for you?
Engagement: How did you hear about us? Why did you choose this firm from among others in the legal profession? What services do you anticipate using in the near future?
Billing: Have there been any billing problems? Is the invoice clear and easy to understand? What are your thoughts on alternative billing arrangements, such as fixed or flat fees?
3. Quality of the questions. Be specific, or you won’t get what you need. For example, you may have asked customers about how responsive the firm is to inquiries. But did you mean routine questions — about court dates or invoices, for example — that are fielded by legal support, or substantive queries about specific case matters? Clarify the questions to avoid misinterpretation and ambiguities.
4. Quantitative versus qualitative. For basic feedback, a written survey sent to all clients is effective. Note that online questionnaires tend to be easier and quicker to fill out — and thus have a higher return rate — than paper surveys sent through the mail. To elicit more qualitative information about services, personnel and interactions, you will have more success with phone or in-person sessions. Since the latter format takes more time, you could reserve it for your bigger clients. A mix of the two approaches gives you a wide and deep look at how your firm is faring.
5. Recent-service surveys. After you wrap up a case or project, solicit client feedback within a day or two — while the client’s memory is still fresh. Questions might include what kinds of services clients used; whether the firm met, exceeded or fell short of expectations; whether clients received value for their money; and so forth. This type of immediate feedback can help you address problems before they snowball and cause client dissatisfaction to grow.
One of your top goals in legal practice management is to increase referrals and repeat business. When you regularly solicit customer feedback and, more important, act on those suggestions, you may just find that you delight your clients — and bolster your firm’s competitive position and reputation.