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 the interviews? Best if feedback is sought by a third party; i.e., the managing partner, other senior attorney or staff person, or an outside consultant. It should not be done by the attorney who has day-to-day contact with the client;
- What the interviewer should do? Ask probing, meaningful questions to get the client to open up and do most of the talking. Most importantly, the firm’s representative should LISTEN at least 50% of the time. This can be accomplished by asking open-ended questions that avoid one or two-word answers. And WAIT three to five seconds (admittedly a long time) for the client to respond. Don’t rush it. Finally, ask about specifics, including responsiveness, meeting deadlines, billing, knowledge of their business and industry, how they were treated, value added to their business, quality of legal product, effectiveness of communications, and what the firm could do better the next time;
- When should be feedback be sought? All the time! During and at the conclusion of a matter, as well as annually or bi-annually at least;
- How should feedback be sought? Whether done internally or externally, set up the process by sending a letter announcing the program, and who and how it will be conducted. Preferably, by in-person interviews (the best method), or by telephone, or by questionnaire (the least effective in my view). I even send sample questions to the client so they can ponder them in advance. After obtaining feedback, thank the client and tell them what, if anything, the firm will do about any issues raised. Oh, did I mention listening more than 50% of the time? it’s worth repeating; and
- Why seek client feedback? The why’s should be obvious (a DUH moment if you will), and why I put it last. In today’s competitive marketplace, it should be done for defensive marketing purposes, if nothing else. Of course, the main reasons are to stave off the competition, uncover any possible concerns the client may have, and build on existing relationships.
By not seeking client feedback, you may never really know how solid your client base is, or isn’t, until key clients leave for another law firm.