Client reviews and feedback are a vital part of providing high-caliber services to clients in any professional services context, including law. Feedback is a crucial tool for law firms to gauge how they are seen by current clients and whether they are meeting client expectations. It is also important to ensure your clients are satisfied with the services they received, making them more likely to be repeat clients, or to recommend or refer your firm to others.
Despite the importance of client feedback, obtaining it and using it can sometimes be an issue and is something many firms struggle with. This week, in the first of a three-part blog series on client reviews, we will highlight some critical elements of client reviews, including: why they are useful, what the profession is doing with the information they get, and some best practices.
Using Client Reviews to Monitor Effectiveness of Legal Services
Meeting client expectations is a fundamental aspect of any client-facing business. But, as a client-centric organization, how do you determine whether your clients’ expectations are being met?
According to a 2012 survey of law firms by LexisNexis, 87% of respondents felt that getting client feedback was either “important” or “extremely important” to their firm, and 92% believed that clients valued a firm’s willingness to seek input from clients on firm performance. However, despite the apparent importance of running a client feedback program, only 65% of firms surveyed had one.
The firms that did not ask their clients for feedback said it was because they either lacked a formal client feedback program, or lacked the staff and resources to review feedback. There’s clearly a disconnect between the perceived value of a feedback program and having a feedback program in place. But why is that?
Reviewing Incoming Feedback
We often hear our clients say the reason they do not have a formal feedback program in place is due to a lack of resources to review and then implement the feedback.
Obtaining feedback is one thing, acting on it is another. To truly harness the value of client feedback, firms must have internal systems in place to regularly review the feedback and either respond or make changes. If the feedback is received but there is no structure to evaluate it and take it into consideration, it becomes nothing more than an exercise in futility. Clients may also become frustrated that they put time and thought into their reviews, only to have the reviews ignored or cast aside.
Feedback structures do not need to be complicated. We all know that lawyers and law firms are extremely busy, but there are ways to implement a feedback structure that does not take up much time. One way to do this is to consider feedback as part of file management. From the beginning, set the expectation that the client’s feedback is important to the firm and that the client will be asked to provide their opinion. This could be as simple as including the feedback form in the paperwork a client receives. Regardless as to how you implement your feedback program, it is important to contact the client to let them know their feedback is valued and appreciated.
Learning from Feedback: Best Practices
It may be useful to have one designated person at the firm review any feedback that comes in. There may not be feedback for each file, but perhaps once a month or on whatever timeline is best for the firm, the designated individual reviews the feedback and looks for trends.
If feedback is consistently negative, then something needs to be addressed with the firm as a whole. Changes can be implemented across the board to ensure everyone is on the same page.
If the feedback is positive, then it is something that should be shared and celebrated with the rest of the firm. Positive feedback is just as important as negative feedback. If the firm is doing a good job, the people who work there should be aware of it to help with morale. Thank you cards, positive comments, and client testimonials all help the firm understand what they are doing right. Positive feedback can also be used to address negative feedback. The firm can figure out how to use methods that work, and implement them in areas where they may have received negative feedback.
Remember, this does not have to do with the legal outcome of a client’s file, but rather how the firm handled the client’s needs and concerns, and how the firm interacted with the client on a regular basis. The number one complaint from clients about their lawyers is not the quality of their work but rather the lack of or manner of their communication.
How to Improve the Client Feedback Process
One way to simplify the client feedback process is by using client surveys. Surveys are easy to read, can be quickly filled out by clients, and can just as quickly be reviewed by the firm, so long as the questions are the appropriate length, and there aren’t too many of them. Some firms may prefer getting written comments from their clients, because they are more detailed and allow for more information that could be useful to the firm. If that is the case, surveys can include a comment section at the end that allows for the client to expand further on how their expectations have or have not been met.
Surveys are simple to evaluate, making it easy to collect data which can be compiled, tracked, and later used for marketing purposes. At the end of the day, it is important to remember this feedback is meant to help the firm understand where their client relations stand and how it can be improved.
While having a client feedback program is an extremely useful tool for lawyers and law firms to use to improve their client relationships, it is woefully underused. Firms that are on the fence about instituting such a program are encouraged to consider one. The happier clients are with the service they receive, the more likely they are to come back if they have a legal matter in the future, or to refer other potential clients.
At Umbrella Legal Marketing, we are passionate about helping law firms grow their client base. We have the knowledge and experience to assist your firm develop and implement a formal feedback program. To find out how we can help, contact us online or at 416-356-4672.