As the legal profession becomes more competitive and client demands drive innovation in legal practice management, maintaining and enhancing customer relations become more critical. Emphasizing client service doesn’t just apply to law firms; corporate legal teams also offer legal counsel to numerous “customers” within a company. To provide superior service, consider conducting a client survey to obtain additional insight and improve legal practice management strategies.
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.
Your survey 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:
- Ask the most important questions first around core competencies:
Competence: Did we understand your needs, and did you feel well represented? What were our strengths and weaknesses?
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: What services do you anticipate needing in the near future?
- 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 team is to inquiries. But did you mean routine questions — about court dates, for example — that are fielded by legal support, or substantive queries about specific case matters? Clarify the questions to avoid misinterpretation and ambiguities.
- 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. A mix of the two approaches gives you a wide and deep look at how your team is faring.
- 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 department 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 team’s position and reputation.
Charles A. Volkert is executive director of Robert Half Legal, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of attorneys, paralegals, legal administrators and other legal professionals with law firms and corporate legal departments. Based in Menlo Park, Calif., Robert Half Legal has offices in major cities throughout the United States and Canada.