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 has become.
Mary Taylor Lokensgard, a former practicing attorney, has an interesting post on Attorney at Work today. She delves into the realm of asking for feedback, her take on what it is and isn’t, how to get it, the reason you ask for it, who to ask, what to ask, and finally, how to ask. It is worth a read.
I have my own take on some of her thoughts on feedback, and as usual include them often in parentheses.
- What it is, what it is. It isn’t a blaming or defensive effort, nor intended to merely gain praise. Lokensgard prefers to call it “corrective feedback.” (In my personal experience feedback has been more positive than negative, and particularly helpful if done by someone other than the responsible/billing attorney. It is better done by the managing partner, the firm’s marketing director, or an outside consultant). She also talks about neutral feedback, which I had not thought about previously and I like it because, as she puts it, it might spark “a new idea that never would have occurred to you if left to your own devices”; and
- How to get feedback. Start by asking yourself what you want to improve, and who, when and how you should be asking. (I’m not sure that many lawyers would know what needs improvement until they ask the feedback questions, quite frankly. So let’s go directly to the who, when and how);
- Who should be asked? Obviously that would be clients and former clients. I’ve gained valuable information from asking past law firm clients, more good than you would think. Lokensgard also suggests asking the clients’ non-lawyer staff (not without clearing it of course), and other outside people you may come into contact with in your practice. That may include courthouse personnel, and judges and jurors (not without their permission);
- When to ask? During and after an engagement. Also, one could seek feedback (more accurately input) at the beginning of the matter which could elicit good information about how matter should be handled. (Here’s Telephone Interview Questions) I often ask); and
- How should you ask? I have argued for some time the best feedback is obtained in-person, next by telephone interviews, and last, IMHO, in written form. If in written form, I’d like Lokensgard’s suggestion of making the questions VERY specific and detailed enough to obtain a yes or no answer. Clients are busy people too, and often the reason they don’t respond well to written surveys.
The important thing to remember regarding any feedback or client satisfaction program, is that if you don’t do it and there are problems (minor or otherwise), your clients may leave for another law firm in this most competitive market. And you may not even know it until it’s too late.