♫ I got something that will sure ’nuff set your stuff on fire
Tell me something good (tell me, tell me, tell me)…♫
Lawyers are sensitive souls. No lawyer wants to receive a complaint from a client. However, what you don’t know can, in this case, actually hurt you. The failure to complain by a dissatisfied client may result in the client leaving quietly but then causing maximal damage to the law firm’s reputation by talking to others about their bad experience.
When given a rational choice between hearing from a dissatisfied client 1-1 or having that client go out and speak to many others about their negative experience with a firm or lawyer, virtually everyone would choose to speak to the client and at least try to remedy their feelings. Yet how many lawyers and law firms seek to find those unhappy clients and find out what went wrong before they cause damage? We all know that word of mouth endorsements are worth their weight in gold; similarly negative word of mouth experiences can sink a firm’s reputation.
Yet few lawyers conduct client feedback surveys. According to Joel Rose, a management consultant to law offices:
Information obtained from client surveys may be the most important marketing activity a law firm can undertake. Most firms that initiate client surveys have found their clients to be impressed that the firm cares about their opinions. Also, as the result of surveys, law firms may detect certain misunderstandings which, if not clarified, could fester and result in dissatisfied clients.
There are many ways to conduct a survey. It can be a Word or PDF document mailed or emailed to clients; it can be conducted using an online tool such as SurveyMonkey. It can be a telephone interview with the client by a firm member. It could be done by inviting a small select group of clients one evening to come and talk confidentially with a few of the partners.
The approach used can be reflective of the resources of the firm, the number of clients to be surveyed, the ability of the clients to navigate an online survey, the desire to meet with people face to face and the like. However done, it does have the ability to learn more about how the firm and its services are perceived and more importantly, how you can change to better meet your desired client’s needs.
I once read (unfortunately I can’t find the reference) that there are three essential questions to ask your clients. These are:
- What did we do right?
- What did we do wrong?
- How can we do it better next time?
You can nuance these how you wish but the essence is to find out what clients liked about your services, what didn’t they like and how you can improve on the client experience.
There are many other possible questions such as “How likely is it that you would recommend our services to others?” and “How do you compare the value we provide against other law firms you may have used?” and “How did you find out about our services?”
In terms of general design, I believe a shorter survey is better and more respecting of your client’s time. Many writers state that providing a reward for completing the survey could be useful (but ensure that the cost doesn’t balloon out of control).
However you do it, you are sure to get some very valuable feedback and information. If you can manage it, inviting clients to provide feedback immediately after closing a matter allows you to also repair any possible dissatisfaction before it is too late.
Once you get that information and feedback, the onus then shifts to you to do something with it. Asking clients for feedback and failing to implement change is only going to create an impression that you are going thru the motions without really desiring change.
In fact the survey is an underused tool in most law firms. According to Quantisoft, there are many surveys that law firms can use to identify their strengths, weaknesses and opportunities such as:
- Partner Evaluation Feedback Survey (Associate Attorneys evaluate Partners)
- Associate Attorney Evaluation Feedback Survey (Partners evaluate Associate Attorneys)
- Associate Attorney Development Survey (Associates provide feedback on their career goals and development, and workplace issues)
- Administrative Staff Feedback Surveys (Providing feedback to Administrative Staff)
- Opinion/Engagement/Satisfaction Surveys
- Risk Assessment Surveys
- IT customer satisfaction surveys
- Other surveys designed to meet your Firm’s special needs.
Whether you do surveys of clients or of people internal to the firm, you are sure to learn something that will sure ’nuff set your stuff on fire.
-David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver, BC.