If it wasn’t so darn important, I wouldn’t harp on the topic so much. As I mentioned in my last post, I got to wondering how many posts I have made on this blog over the past 10 years that touched on the subject. As said there, I went to my trusty search box above and entered “client feedback.” Having preached over and over on the topic, I can’t really say whether I was surprised there were over 90 posts that referred to it.
Many of my readers may not have seen or been following my blog in those days, I thought it might be beneficial to revisit some of them. Seeking feedback has always been No. 3 on my list of Top 10 Marketing Tips from the beginning. So, here are three more posts on seeking feedback:
In-House Counsel Want Their Law Firms To Seek Feedback
More and more it seems that in-house counsel are expecting their law firms to ask for their feedback. Even though “most general counsel and consultants say those law firms (seeking client feedback) are still in the minority and there isn’t nearly enough of this type of dialogue going on” according to an article on Law.com’s…Continue Reading
Now, More Than Ever, Talk With Your Clients
Two recent surveys really point out how important it is for law firms to stay very close to their existing clients. Not only by communicating constantly, but seeking feedback on how the firm is doing. Why? Because clients, especially in-house counsel, continue to be concerned about the costs of outside legal services. As a result, both…Continue Reading
Why Some Client Feedback Programs Don’t Work
The good news is that some firms are doing client feedback programs; the bad news is that they aren’t really getting the feedback they need. That is, the feedback questions are superficial, and don’t really offer the kinds of return that will actually benefit the firm in retaining the client over the long haul. An…Continue Reading
Hopefully, these revisited posts will encourage you and your firm to seek feedback from your clients.
P.S. My apologies for some broken links in some of these posts. I wasn’t able to repair them, but still believe they are worth sharing.
After seeing a couple of post in the last few days about client satisfaction, I got to wondering how many posts I have made on this blog over the past 10 years that touched on the subject. So I went to my trusty search box above and entered “client feedback.” Having preached over and over on the topic, I can’t really say whether I was surprised there were over 90 posts that referred to it.
Many of my readers may not have seen or been following my blog in those days, I thought it might be beneficial to revisit some of them. Seeking feedback has always been number three on my list of Top 10 Marketing Tips from the beginning. Here are a few:
Seeking Client Feedback: More Critical Than Ever
It’s been awhile since I harped on how important client satisfaction with their legal service provider is. Since starting this blog in January 2005, I have preached many, many times on how important feedback is for firms to retain existing clients or obtain referrals from them (See a few posts below on the subject). It…Continue Reading
How to Seek Client Feedback
Well, 2015 is almost here. Time to plan your business development strategies for the coming year. One simple one (albeit a feared one by some lawyers), involves seeking feedback from clients to ensure (or improve) the quality of legal services provided. No one needs to be reminded of how tough and competitive the legal marketplace…Continue Reading
Client Feedback Pointer
Seeking client feedback is not only important for every law firm, but it needs to be done right. Following a recent post of mine on the topic, my friend Stacy West Clark raised some issues that got me to thinking about the Who, What, When, Why’s and How’s of getting client feedback: Who should conduct…Continue Reading
Seek Client Feedback For The Right Reasons
Although I believe that law firms will gain more work from clients because they seek feedback on how they are doing, that cannot be the reason for undertaking such a program. The honest reason for seeking client feedback must be based on caring for the client and the relationship. All else will take care of itself….Continue Reading
There was a time, in the early days of legal marketing (mid-80’s) that hiring PR firms was what BigLaw management thought solved this “marketing thing.”
At that time law firm’s PR efforts were NOT very successful. Reason: Whether they were just bashful or afraid of repercussions from the state bar, some lawyers wouldn’t even cooperate with their own PR folks. Talking with reporters was out of the question.
Things have changed of course, but not for some lawyers. They still have failed to utilize the power of being quoted in the press.
No. 8 among my Top 10 Marketing Tips first published in 2005 still works; to wit: “Take a Reporter to Lunch.” The purpose is simple. When you get to know reporters and editors who cover the businesses and clients you would like, it can pay dividends. You could become a valuable source in your field or on general legal topics. If reporters/editors get to know and like you, your name could turn up in the trade and local press. That’s a good thing.
- Return their calls ASAP;
- Ask for their deadline;
- Don’t be afraid to tell them you will need to get back to them, if you have no immediate response;
- Or, refer them to another attorney; and
- Don’t reveal ANYTHING about a client or matter without permission.
I have quoted the August 21 meditation before from 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons for Marketing & Communications Professionals by Larry Smith and Richard Levick of Levick Strategic Communications:
“Don’t snub reporters because you’ve never heard of their publications. They have a funny way of eventually landing at The Wall Street Journal.”
Keep in mind that reporters can help your business development efforts by raising your profile and providing free publicity. So, don’t avoid them.
Start with lunch.
Seventy to 90% of lawyers’ business comes because of referrals from clients and other contacts in your network. You are more likely to get more, if you concentrate on enhancing your network.
Mary Taylor Lokensgard has a post on Attorney at Work that provides good ideas on getting referrals. She suggests 3 steps:
1. Ask for them.
- From people who know, like and trust you, and vica versa. They will come, if you develop meaningful relationships with people who are likely to be in a position to refer the clients you want;
- Make sure your contacts know what you do, not just that you are a lawyer;
- Work up an elevator speech (or two or three) that lets them know that kinds of law you practice and HOW you can help people;
- Let clients know that you can always handle work from other great clients like them.
2. Build up your network of contacts who could be referral sources, including:
- Lawyers who don’t do what you do; or
- Ones who do not want to represent the clients you do; and
- Other professionals, such as financial advisors, bankers, real estate agents/brokers, insurance agents, estate planners, etc.
Keep in touch with potential referral sources at least quarterly by telephone, email, lunch and so forth.
3. How to ask.
- Build relationships first. One way to enhance relationships quickly is “giving to get.” Actively think of, and work at, making referrals to contacts in your network;
- Don’t be bashful, but avoid appearing desperate. Remember you know your contacts and you’re not asking strangers; and
- Remember the line about your welcoming the opportunity to service other good clients like them.
Remember to show appreciation for all referrals with a handwritten note – yes, even in these days of easy emails – even if they do not work out. If they do, then consider sending a small token of your appreciation, such as a bottle of wine, or whatever. Remember the ethical rules against sharing fees with non-lawyers.
Developing a referral network isn’t easy or a short term project. It is a never-ending and critical to the success of your law firm.
P.S. Here’s a link to numerous additional posts of mine about referrals over the past 10 years.
Having covered how crucial staff is to the practice of law numerous times several times over the last 10+ years on this blog, a refresher on some issues may be in order.
- Receptionist. I have argued that the receptionist should be the highest paid marketing person, because of his or her being the initial face and voice of the firm often. He or she should be the best you can hire, which is why you need to pay them more;
- Marketing staff. Beyond the official marketing staff, everyone employed by the law firm is marketing the law firm, one way or another – good or bad. How they treat not only clients, but people in general, how they act in public, how they dress, and so forth all project a brand; and
- And everyone else, including accounting, HR, copy room, etc. for the same reasons. (click here for 21 posts on the importance of the receptionist, empowering your staff, their importance in the marketing effort, and other related topics.)
Beyond the obvious, the critical point to remember is that law firms wouldn’t exist without staff. They should be treated with upmost respect. If they are not appreciated, morale is low, turnover is high, and hiring and training new staff is expensive. Just ask your HR department or administrator, if you have any doubts.
When I was in-house marketer, I remember a lateral hire from a prominent New York law firm, who lasted two years. His demise was in no small measure due to the way he treated staff, especially his shared secretary. His inflated ego and distain for the “peons” led to problems in getting things accomplished. His secretary was often “too busy” with her other lawyers to do his work. His work, apparently, became substandard due to missing deadlines. I expect the attitude toward his secretary and others wasn’t the main reason he was let go, but it hurt his cause. Another example involved a paralegal and “missing” pages from documents because of how the copy room staff was treated. Then, there was the legacy partner who couldn’t keep a secretary for more than a month or two. All either quit or obtained a new assignments.
It is shameful how ignorant some “educated” people really are. Such behavior is not unique to lawyers, of course, but that is beyond the scope here.
Jared Correia, assistant director and senior law practice advisor at the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program, had a post on Attorney at Work last week that reminds us how important support staff is to any law practice. Because, as he states, they :
- do the majority of the office’s work;
- are better with technology;
- are better with the business/financial aspects;
- often are more involved with client service; and
- particularly with newer lawyers, often “know more … about substantive law, and probably the practice of it, too.”
Bottom line: not only does staff play a vital role in the day-to-day operations of a law firm, but due to their interaction with clients and what that can mean in retaining and attracting clients, they deserve a great deal more respect than some receive.
Lawyers should do the kind to work they enjoy and for the clients they like. Duh, you may say, thinking that that is a simplistic and obvious statement. Not so fast. That may be the ideal, but not often accomplished. According to David Maister in his famous book True Professionalism (pages 23-24) he found in his surveys of lawyers over the years that a majority either merely tolerated or disliked the work they did and the clients they represented.
There are practical reasons that lawyers shouldn’t take all the work that comes their way. If they concentrate in a niche practice and even more so on specific industry(ies), they will be better service providers. With a better understanding of their clients’ business and industry, they will assuredly be more successful both in their technical abilities and business development skills.
A common complaint I’ve heard in surveying law firm clients over three decades is that lawyers do not understand the client’s business. It is one reason that clients will not use a particular lawyer or firm again. Gerry Riskin in a post on Amazing Firms, Amazing Practices points out:
“Clients are hungry to find lawyers who really understand their businesses, but some firms are reluctant to market their services to specific industries.”
Unfortunately, some law firms don’t market to industry segments because they are afraid they’ll miss out on other work. The solution is to list numerous industry segments in a firm’s areas of practice, and provide links to more information about the firm’s experience in each. So, list dozens of industries where the firm has experience.
In today’s competitive legal market, it is logical for lawyers to focus their practices and not try to be all things to all comers. Marketing to industry segments is one way to do that to benefit both the clients and the firm.
We hear a lot today about how law firms must add more value to their client services in light of the competitive nature of our industry. Value-added services might include recognizing the value of a client’s time in reading emails. It may be a simple thing and on first thought not significant in adding value. I would respectfully disagree.
There is too much crud sent in emails, and everyone, no matter what business they’re in, is overwhelmed with emails daily. Clients are no different, and lawyers can be as guilty as anyone in sending emails that could be more succinct.
Patrick Lamb has a post on his In Search of Perfect Client Service blog that struck me as a simple and effective way to get to the point in an email. His three suggestions should help avoid wasting people’s time in reading them:
- Subject line. It should be short and to the point. State “Jones” or “Jones case” instead of Jones vs. ABC international Manufacturing Corporation. As Lamb states, the client knows their name. It should also include the urgency or time sensitivity or “not urgent”, and finally what action is needed;
- Get to the point in the first sentence. Let the client know what needs to be done and when right up front; for example “Signature required by COB 3/31/2015.” Then you can elaborate as necessary; and
- Explain the attachment. Since most people today look at their emails on their smart phone and attachments are not easily opened, let them know what is in the attachment. They can decide whether they need to open it right now.
So, if you want to impress clients with your efficiency and respect for their valuable time, you might take Lamb’s suggestions to heart. It’s a good way to add value to your services. A simple process, and one that could pay marketing dividends.
A post on Attorney at Work by Wendy Werner suggesting ways to share bad news within the office about a member of the firm or about the firm itself, got me thinking about how important it is to share bad news with a client at the earliest opportunity.
It should be self-evident that clients – just like everyone else – hate surprises. Whether it is a setback in the matter being handled, or a financial/billing issue or something overlooked that the client will not be happy about, suck it up and spill the beans as soon as you can.
There are stories about clients forgiving lawyers for a mistake. Rarely is that the case when the firm failed to disclose the error early on, and the client finds out about it later in the game. No one likes to share bad news (well, actually there are some who do, but that’s another story). But, the problem cannot be hidden under a bushel basket hoping that it’ll go away. It won’t!
Some advice includes:
- Visit the client immediately and tell it straight;
- Advise the client what you plan to do next to correct the problem, or otherwise make up for it; and
- Let client know that you will keep them informed about the issue going forward.
Werner calls our attention to Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, a book that covers Gallop research findings that involved asking “10,000 followers what influential leaders provided in their lives. They identified four basic needs of followers” (read clients). They include trust, compassion, stability and hope.
You or your firm could keep or lose clients for some of the same reasons, especially when failing to inform them about a problem ASAP.
In my 30 years in this business, I have found that lawyers are pretty good at planning marketing activities. With guidance, even in the early days, some were enthusiastic about putting a plan together. Maybe it was the challenge, possibly, as time went on, more attorneys recognize the need for developing business, as they realize the marketplace becoming more competitive.
But over the years, I found that even with a simple, straightforward marketing plan, the biggest problem was the failure to implement the plan. Often the excuses range from not having enough time or being overloaded with legal work, or simply procrastination.
Sally Schmidt offered 9 tips relating to marketing organization and discipline last week on Attorney at Work. In a nutshell her tips include:
- Prepare a list of contacts and prioritize the frequency of contact. Set up Google alerts or case filing notifications to help with reasons for contacting them. (Personally I prefer a quarterly contact list using an Excel spreadsheet containing the names of former clients/potential referral sources, and how and when each will be contacted on a quarterly basis. Comments can be added to the spreadsheet to capture the results of each contact);
- Develop a marketing and business development plan for the year that includes specific, measurable goals and objectives to raise your profile, and persons you will contact, preferably in person, and for what purpose;
- Schedule your business development activity like any appointment using whatever technology tools are at your disposal, which should help you set aside a specific amount of time each week for implementing your plan;
- Break your activities into manageable segments (one time management tool I learned years ago was to limit the segments to 15-20 minutes) which will help keep from being overwhelmed or from procrastinating. The shorter periods will also remove guilt for not working on a file during that period; and
- Don’t overlook the resources available in your firm to help with your marketing and business development efforts.
When I begin a one-on-one coaching assignment with lawyers, I mention that my responsibilities include being their CNO (Chief Nagging Officer) during our calls and by email. Several clients have said they find that of great value in getting them to actually implement the plan. So, start nagging yourself today!
There’s a lot of talk these days about lawyers adding more value to their client representation. Particularly because of competition, client demands, and the state of the legal industry, adding value REALLY is important. Just providing a legal product is not enough. But it begs the question what adding value really means.
Jim Calloway, director of the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Management Assistance Program, had a good idea last week which helps in getting to an answer. He said “…the question is whether there is something extra you can provide the client that is related to the legal services and is useful to the client.” It can be done in many ways. One opportunity he mentions at the conclusion of his post states “… if you can surprise the client at the end of the representation with something useful that they didn’t expect, you increase the chances that they will use your firm again, refer others to you and pay their final bill.”
A couple of years ago I wrote a post that included 5 suggestions by John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing for creating more value that are worth repeating:
- Measure. Determine what value you are providing clients already (yeah, the client can help here of course, but that means talking to them about that). You might find that either clients aren’t getting enough value, or that you are not charging enough;
- Lead. Be upfront and offer ways to help clients more effectively with their business or personal issues. Writing articles, making presentations, blogging, creating groups on social media sites are ways to show that leadership capability;
- Teach. The best kind of selling his education-based. Demonstrate how clients can do things well or avoid problem situations via CLE seminars or otherwise;
- Inspire. Here Jantsch is talking about how a great design (in marketing materials, websites, even invoices) can create value. One might think that this suggestion is a bit fuzzy, and I would not disagree. However, design could be a promise of value and that is where something; and
- Listen. Clearly listening to clients adds value. That may seem pretty obvious, but “we rarely do it.” Yet, if you focus, avoid distractions (like your iPhone or blackberry), look them in the eye and really listen, you will add tremendous value.
Then there is the “51 Practical Ways for Law Firms to Add Value,” developed by the Law Firm Value Committee of the Association of Corporate Counsel.
So, if you are trying to come up with ways to add value to your legal services, there should be plenty to consider for implementation by you and your law firm.