There is no wrong time to seek client feedback about your firm’s performance. Not only should law firms ask how they are doing on current matters, but how they have done in the past, and how they can provide better service in the future. Although nobody likes to get bad news, it is better to learn if a client has an issue or problem prior to their walking away and never using the firm again.
Ed Poll in a recent post on his LawBiz Blog recommends that a law firm send a short survey with the first bill to a client rather than at the end of the matter. He has a point. I would agree that if a matter was handled poorly, requesting feedback after the damage is done and matter concluded, may be too late.
So, I would say that asking for feedback during matter is a good idea. But it is also a good idea at the end of the matter as well. The damage, if there is any at all, may not be serious enough that the client won’t use the firm again. Further, it would show the firm’s interest in how it did, and increase its credibility with the client for the next matter it might send to the law firm.
Moreover, in a recent roundtable discussion Ed tells us that the attending firms "concluded that it is very beneficial for the managing partner to periodically visit the top 10 clients of the firm."I agree. However, I would suggest that it is not enough. I would go further and interview all important clients. Further, I would suggest that it be done by someone other than the managing partner, who by definition has way too much on his or her plate.
In furtherance of that point, I would suggest setting up of an ongoing in-house client interview program, specifically for feedback. A few firms have started hiring full time in-house staff for that purpose, as I have mentioned. In this way, the program becomes institutionalized, and is not looked upon by clients as merely another law firm project.The important thing in all of this is that a law firm should be doing all it can to determine client satisfaction with its services, and how they can do things better in the future.
As Ed points out: "bottom line, we don’t exist in a vacuum. We must understand and know the needs and wants of our clients… And what better way to find (out) than to ask, directly." He summed up his post by saying "this concept caused the managing partners (at the Roundtable) to vow to make changes in their firms."
For the sake of their firms. I hope that is true. Law firms should seek client feedback at all times.