Clients are vital to the business success of every lawyer, and asking for their thoughts and opinions signals that they matter.
In addition, letting clients know that you will act or have acted on their input will go a long way to earning and keeping their trust.
Having conducted client service interviews for many law firms, I was happy to contribute some how-to’s on this subject when LexisNexis launched the highly successful Lexis Practice Advisor℠ Canada (LPAC) in Spring 2014.
LPAC provides tools and guidance for transactional matters in an online format geared primarily to small and mid-size firms. I am LPAC’s exclusive contributor of legal marketing and business development content.
My Client Feedback Guide was released in Fall 2014 and is noted below.
Even if you think you know why clients choose you to help them with their legal issues, you will learn more than you ever thought imaginable and win greater loyalty by conducting a client survey.
Define Your Objective
Clearly and succinctly define exactly what you want to know. This is your overall objective. Write it down to keep it focused in your mind even when a conversation takes different turns.
Don’t bother asking questions when you and the client already know the answers, Ask questions that will result in new information. This helps to earn your client’s respect, glean new information, and manage your time together.
A client survey doesn’t have to be a big production. Simply ask if they might be able to spare five minutes – off the clock, of course – to give you some feedback on their needs and your services. Since most clients are never asked for their perspectives, they will probably be pleasantly surprised and flattered.
A Five-Minute Survey
Ideally, a client survey is best conducted in person. Doing so reinforces that the client is important and enables the interviewer to observe nuances in body language, work environment, etc. If an in-person meeting is not possible, the survey below can be done by phone. Do not use online or mail-response surveys as they risk being deleted or trashed.
Manage expectations by telling the client that your survey will take five minutes and is divided into two sections: marketing and business development. This underscores that you’ve done some planning and their responses have value.
Most of the questions below are open-ended. This enables a client to form their own thoughts and allows you to listen carefully, take copious notes, and ask follow-up questions to clarify their remarks. Telling client that there is no right or wrong answers may help ease their responses.
What are the specific reasons why you’ve chosen to work with me/this firm?
Answers could range from location, price, expertise, responsiveness, work style, etc. Give the client time to think about their response, follow the conversation where they lead and be prepared to ask questions to get clarity or probe for underlying concerns.
How can I find more clients like you?
Using a complementary style of questioning lets a client know that they matter. Answers can help you learn more about your client’s business habits and enable you to inquire about such things as:
- Media – What publications do they read that you could possibly write for or advertise in?
- Activities – What organizations do they belong to and/or what events do they participate in where your involvement might be beneficial for both the organization/event and you?
Might you be able to provide a testimonial?
If the answer is yes, tell them how you plan to use it: website, blog, brochure, etc. Ask if they could provide a testimonial for your LinkedIn profile. If so, when the interview concludes, immediately send them a LinkedIn testimonial request and add their quote to your LinkedIn page, and other online vehicles such as your website, Google My Business page, Facebook, etc.
Business Development Questions
What types of legal services – mine and others – are important to you?
This will help you learn more about what your client needs and how you can help them directly or by offering a referral. It can also help you focus on what they need most from you and determine if their needs fits well with the types of services you want to offer.
What can I/we do better?
This signals that what your client considers important is equally important to you. It also indicates humility and a keenness to learn. All you have to do is ask how you can improve and they will probably tell you. If they respond with “There’s nothing you can do better” you can say that while you appreciate their good opinion of you, no one is perfect and that if they think of something you can improve upon, you will warmly welcome their suggestions anytime.
What other comments or suggestions might you wish to contribute?
Providing an opportunity for additional comments and suggestions toward the end of a survey can open up a myriad of opportunities to chat about things you haven’t covered or any other topics your client wishes to talk about. Confirm with them that this conversation is off the clock and that your time is theirs. It may be that they might mention a current or future need on which you or a colleague can lend a helping hand.
Close the conversation by thanking your client for sharing their time and contributing their thoughts.
Afterward, you will want to review your notes and act where necessary. Once an action is complete, let the client know you’ve done so and ask them to confirm that this action is beneficial to them.
Heather Suttie is an internationally recognized legal market strategy and management consultant to leaders of premier law firms and legal service providers worldwide.
For 25 years, she has accelerated performance within law firms and legal service businesses — Global to Solo | BigLaw to NewLaw — by providing consultative direction on legal business strategy, market strategy, management strategy, and client strategy. The result is a distinctive one-of-one legal market position and sustained competitive advantage culminating in greater market share, revenue and profits.