Most law firms would say, if asked, that they provide excellent client service, or at least very good service. Unfortunately, this self-assessment is not based on fact in most cases. As my friend Stacy West Clark reports, when clients were asked how their law firms were doing "most gave their firms a ‘C’ grade."
Her article "10 Ways To Improve Law Firm Client Service" that appeared in The Legal Intelligencer and on Law.com’s Small Firm Business, is a very good read for two reasons. First, she identifies five factors that I would totally agree make for outstanding service, to wit:
“incredible responsiveness; accessibility; excellent communication in the manner the client has pre-selected; a thorough understanding of the clients’ world, goals and business; and the personalization of the service (which she refers to as ‘value added services’).”
Secondly, having identified what comprises truly excellent service, she goes on to identify how a firm can assess what its grade should be and how to improve it. (Here are my favorites from her 10 ways):
- Ask your clients before as to their service preferences, and after a matter as to how your services could be improved (critically important in my mind);
- Ask everyone (from the mailroom to corner office) how the firm could take its services up a notch;
- Experience your firm as a client would (from the appearance of your reception area, conference rooms to how the phone is answered and clients are treated (even using a "secret shopper" approach to test responsiveness);
- hire great people and praise them in public, both attorneys and staff, for their attention to clients (I love Stacy’s story about the online shoe company, Zappos, that gives $1000 to applicants if they turn down a job with the company because they cannot abide by “the company’s expectations and service creed” – pretty unbelievable); and
- Create a culture and environment of client service using something like the Ritz Carlton WOW stories method, and look for other stories outside the legal industry to use in teaching lawyers and staff more about client service.
As I said, I commend Stacy’s article to your reading, if you want to pick up ideas on improving your firm’s client service.