Industry insights: Customer experience key to success
Helen Hamilton-Shaw is director of services with LawNet, and here she highlights the major lessons learned from the legal sector’s biggest-ever customer research project, undertaken with LawNet’s independent law firm members, which range from £2m to £25m in turnover.
Leading organisations have long seen customer experience as key to success and profitability, investing significant resources in ensuring they deliver exceptional and consistent service.
Your clients’ service expectations are framed by their experiences elsewhere and so the legal sector cannot be immune to the pace of service change in other sectors. Indeed our research shows that understanding and responding to what your customers want is a key driver to future law firm growth.
The research has been undertaken across our member community, as part of the delivery and audit of the LawNet Mark of Excellence, part of our bespoke ISO standard. Over 1,100 mystery shopping experiences have taken place and more than 25,000 clients of LawNet firms have completed online customer experience questionnaires.
One of the most important lessons learned was the need to stand in the customer’s shoes on a regular basis. It sounds obvious, but first impressions count and it’s a good idea to have someone responsible for regularly taking the customer journey.
Also highlighted was the need for strong communication as the basis for a relationship where both sides feel informed, valued and positive. Our research showed that nearly 50% of clients used their law firm either because they were recommended to them or they had used them before. Happy clients are more likely to return or recommend; so it makes sense to ensure the whole firm is focused on communicating effectively with clients.
It can be tough hearing how you have performed with a mystery shopper, or seeing what customers thought about your service, but being brave enough to face the facts can bring real value, as we’ve seen with members of the LawNet community who have implemented changes in response to the findings.
For example, at FBC Manby Bowdler LLP in the West Midlands, research showed a need for improved communication skills amongst reception staff, as a result of which they carried out a focused training programme for their front-line. This has helped them to understand the important role they play in the firm and improve the customer experience.
At Andrew & Co LLP in Lincolnshire, feedback from customers showed they wanted to be better informed of the progress of jobs and any changes to fee estimates. As a result, the firm has encouraged each team to take ownership of the way they work, with benchmarks for service delivery. It’s given the firm much improved scores in their customer feedback and more efficient working, with less time spent dealing with invoice queries, since the customer already knows what to expect.
Other process changes made by firms in response to feedback are often simple, but bring remarkable results. For instance, staggering lunch breaks within departments so that that the telephones are always manned; or having reception ‘introduce’ all telephone calls to fee earners so they can use the client’s name and don’t need to ask clients to repeat details.
For the future, experts predict that the ability to move swiftly and introduce service innovation will be critical to customer satisfaction and business performance. We all need to listen and consult with customers, and take appropriate action on what we learn.
Satisfied clients will bring repeat business and recommend you to others, and our research has shown that striking a good customer relationship is much more important than price - a mere 4% of respondents said that cost was the main reason for instructing a firm.
“Customer service is not a department, it’s everyone’s job” goes the saying. And to achieve that, there must be top-down commitment to focusing on client care, and a real cultural change that puts the client truly at the heart of the firm.