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Client Interviews: Take It Up a Notch?

Posted in Client Communications

Since we have had a pretty good discussion on client interviews over the last month or so (click here to revisit) by Patrick Lamb, Jim Hassett, Michelle Golden, Dan Hull and myself, some might say we’ve beaten this puppy up pretty good.
Possibly, but when I saw the article about taking client feedback to the next level by Donald Aronson and Bruce Heintz in Small Firm Business this month, I just had to see whether they have lived up to their promise and have taken the client interview discussion up a notch as my old friend Emeril would say (actually, he isn’t really a friend, since I’ve never met him, but what the heck, he sure sounds real friendly on his show).
The authors concur that only one-third of law firms even solicit feedback; and that “a recent survey (of general counsel) conducted by The Corporate Legal Times (now InhouseCounsel) and Martindale-Hubbell indicated that “95 percent of outside counsel ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ ask for ‘formal performance feedback.'” But, for those that do, the authors suggest taking feedback to the next level.
I’m still not sure what that means. They identify three primary goals of client interviews as:
*Client retention (identify problems that might endanger relationship),
*More work from clients (turn “good clients into great” ones), and
*Competitive advantage (determine and enhance “future competitive positioning”).
Nothing new there. Then they identify subjects covered in typical client interviews. I guess the difference must be their preferred “unscripted in-person interviews” (or open-ended) vs. “scripted” approach (or prescribed questions).
So,I guess I’ll stick with scripted interviews that include my typical open-ended questions such as:
*How are we doing?
*What is the firm doing well?
*What could we do better or differently to improve our services?
*Would you recommend the firm to others? Why (yes or no)?
*Anything I haven’t asked that I should have?
*Are there any other issues you would like to discuss?
Of course, you could still ask specific questions about the firm’s responsiveness, quality of legal product, knowledge of industry, reasonableness of fees, overall improvement of their situation, etc.
But, I keep thinking I must have missed something. Can anyone help me here?
In any event, the most important lesson to come out of any discussion on client interviews is that law firms NEED TO SEEK client feedback – with or without Emeril’s help. Bam!