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15 Jan 2020

Client Experience is THE Big Differentiator for Law Firms in 2020

Carl White

At last count there were 76,303 lawyers in Australia. All with extensive education, impressive resumes and razor sharp legal skills. However, with no quick-view star rating for lawyers (not just anyway) how do consumers even begin to navigate such a crowded marketplace?

In many cases, the deciding factor comes down to the experience people have.

How quickly were they able to speak to someone that could help them?

Were they kept updated about the progress of their matter?

Were they treated with empathy?

How easy was the bill to understand?

In this buyers’ market, more and more firms are beginning to realise that client experience (CX) is a significant differentiator when it comes to choosing a law firm to engage.

It's about how you do what you do, not just what you do.

As an industry, we’ve seen a massive shift in the last 12-18 months towards improving CX. However, it seems the legal industry has a long way to go in this space.

We know from our research at CXinLaw that about 88% of law firms fail the first impression test.

This startling statistic highlights that there are serious opportunities for growth slipping away before you’ve even had a chance to wow them with your legal aptitude.

Good CX is Good Business

In a world of competing priorities, the commercial imperative to invest in client service excellence can seem elusive. But the numbers don’t lie. Firms that invest in a strong service culture (as part of their marketing spend, not in addition to) have seen average results of:

  • 20% decrease in client acquisition costs

  • 27% increase in file openings

  • 22% gain in production delivered at lower cost

  • 50% decrease in debtor days

  • Significantly higher staff morale, client focus and retention

  • 20% increase in revenue following 12 month development

The old adage, “clients are your best referrers”, has definitely held true. In fact, a study by Altman Weil found that when selecting a law firm, a referral or reference has the second-largest influence (beaten only by a demonstrated understanding of the relevant business or industry).

How to Infuse Client Experience into Your Firm’s DNA

The first thing to understand that improving CX is an “all-round mandate”. It’s not a marketing strategy.

Client experience is any moment where an impression of service is perceived by users. In that sense we’re all “games makers” with a responsibility for bringing the service performance to life at every  touchpoint.

It’s about everyone within the organisation having the client within their line of sight.

CX needs to be reinforced and championed at every level, with everyone passionate about delivery. It must be embedded into the DNA of your firm.

Although changing the DNA of your organisation sounds monumental, it can begin with small changes. Here are four steps to help lay the foundation for a client-focused firm.

Step 1. Lead

The first step is building a clear business case for the need to focus on client experience. Outline the initial benefits and the more intangible benefits of good CX to highlight why it's important for your organisation to focus on its clients.

One of the keys to success I’ve seen when working with law firms has been finding the champions within your organisation. We like to call them “green dots”, those enthusiasts that really understand the value of CX and are primed to take action.

Step 2. Learn

Client experience excellence requires new skills that many people in law firms have never been taught. Skills like customer service, as well as innovation, collaboration and creativity.

Provide staff with templates and documented service standards that can become part of your new staff induction program. But don’t let dust settle on these documents. Allow your internal champions to review and revise them in line with changing client expectations.

Step 3. Innovate

Innovation is a bit of a misconstrued term but for me, innovation is a change that makes a positive difference. That doesn’t necessarily mean changing your business model completely, it could be small things that make marginal gains.

Engage everyone in how to improve your firm’s client service. It isn’t just greeting clients at your reception. It extends to every touchpoint, including correspondence (formal, informal and regulatory) and processes. Is every touchpoint showing ease, empathy and effectiveness?

Step 4. Insights

It’s essential that the voice of the customer is being heard loud and clear within the walls of your firm. Make sure you’re having feedback conversations systematically with clients, and invest in a good research tool to gain insights about who they are and what they want from you.

Your Clients are Just Like You

Everyone knows what it's like to have an outstanding service experience as a consumer. We know exactly what it looks like and how it feels.

It’s important for lawyers to take a step back and realise that all your clients, no matter how sophisticated they are, are just like you. Treat them as such.

The reality is that time is running short for law firms that fail to focus on client experience. In a buyers’ market providers simply cannot afford to underwhelm and those that improve will increasingly outperform the rest.

About the Author

Carl White 

Carl White is Chief Experience Officer at CXinLaw. Passionate about the impact of Client Experience Excellence in professional services. Carl is a Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for Legal Innovation, College of Law. He co-authored the highly-regarded ‘Customer Experience in Law’ report in 2012 and led the market-leading Australian research in 2015 and 2018 that examines the Client Experience Advantage for law firms, in association with ALPMA.

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