Law Practice Management Asked and Answered Blog

Category: Client Service

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Oct 24, 2018


Law Firm Client Surveys – Developing a Client Service Improvement Plan

Question: 

Our firm is a twenty-four attorney litigation firm in Pittsburgh. We represent insurance companies and business firms. We recently conducted a client satisfaction survey of our top tier clients via telephone and face-to-face interviews. We have discovered that we have numerous issues regarding client satisfaction. Where do we go from here?

Response: 

Nothing is more important to your firm’s future than exceptional client service. An effective client service improvement program is one of the most important marketing initiatives that a firm can undertake. National studies demonstrate that approximately 70% of clients who stop using a particular attorney do so because they feel they were treated poorly or indifferently and 30% changed attorneys because their previous attorneys weren’t available. Clearly, from what law firms’ clients are telling us in our telephone interviews with them – attorneys and law firms need to improve client service by integrating a client-first service focus into everyday practice.

Frequently when we mention action plans and implementation to a group of attorneys we get the following reactions and responses:

Moving from debate to action planning and implementation is difficult for attorneys. However, unless a firm can move from debate and ideas to actual accountability and implementation it will remain anchored in the past in a field of dreams, obsolete practices, and unhappy clients.

Here is a road map to help you get started:

  1. Assemble the client service improvement team
  2. Review the issues discovered from the client survey
  3. Identify and write a client service mission statement and client service goals
  4. Brainstorm solutions you can and are willing to implement
  5. Put together the client service improvement plan
  6. Implement the plan
  7. Notify clients, especially the clients that were interviewed, of the changes that the firm will be implementing.

Click here for our article on developing your client service improvement plan

Click here for our blog on client service

Click here for our article on client satisfaction

Click here for our article on client surveys 

Click here for our article on analyzing survey results

John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

 

May 16, 2018


Law Firm Client Surveys – How to Collect and Report the Data

Question:

Our firm is a sixteen attorney firm in Chicago. Our marketing committee has been discussing implementing a client survey program. We are not sure where to start or how best to collect and report the data. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

Response: 

Surveys can be used for a variety of purposes including the following:

I assume that you are planning on doing a client satisfaction survey in order to solicit feedback on how well the firm is meeting client needs, quality of services being provided, and additional needs that the client may have where the firm can provide services.

The type of survey will depend upon whether your clients are individuals or institutional clients such as corporate or governmental. If your clients are institutional I recommend that you conduct telephone structured telephone interviews with these clients using a interview questionnaire consisting of quantitative and qualitative questions. If you have a large number of institutional clients then you may want to consider conducting these interviews with your top fifty, twenty-five, or ten top clients and use a paper mail survey or online survey for the remainder. For individual clients you may want to use a paper survey or online survey for your entire database of individual clients and thereafter a paper mail survey or online survey at the conclusion of a matter. Another option would be to survey a random sample of your clients.

Once the surveys are completed – whether telephone interviews or paper mail or online surveys the questionnaires/surveys will need to be tabulated and provided in some form of a report. Some firms use two Excel spreadsheets – one for the quantitative responses and one for the qualitative/narrative responses for interview and paper mail questionnaires.  Then averages, percentages, and other summary statistics can be calculated for the quantitative responses. If you use an online survey service such as Survey Monkey the tabulation and the statistics will be done already for these surveys. If you have a Survey Monkey account you could also enter your interview questionnaire and paper mail questionnaires responses into Survey Monkey and use it rather than Excel. If you want more sophisticated statistical analysis you might want to look into statistical software such as SPSS which is sold and marketed by IBM.

Once you have summarized analyzed the questionnaires you may want to prepare a summary report document using your word processing software. Include the tabulation, statistical calculations, charts, etc. as attachments to the report.

There are several articles on our website – see links below – that discuss client satisfaction survey programs and how to get started.

Click here for our blog on client service

Click here for our article on client satisfaction

Click here for our article on client surveys 

Click here for our article on analyzing survey results

Click here for our article on developing your client service improvement plan

Click here for our article on tips for rewarding and recognizing employees

John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Apr 12, 2016


Law Firm Client Satisfaction – Exceeding Client Expectations

Question:

I am owner of a four attorney firm in Amarillo, Texas. We represent both individual and institutional clients. Recently, we have had numerous complaints from clients advising us that our services took longer than expected and fees were also higher than expected. I would appreciate your thoughts?

Response:

Based upon client satisfaction surveys (telephone interviews) that we do for law firms we find that one of the biggest problems is that the attorneys are doing a poor job of managing client expectations. Your clients get frustrated when you promise one thing (timeline or fees) and the result is very different – especially when the work takes longer than promised or the fees are higher. Even though you don't structure it as a promise your clients take it that way. The key is to under promise and over deliver. I suspect that upon the initial client meeting you are under estimating the timeline and low balling the fee range. Reduce the promise – increase the - timeline and fee range and then shoot to deliver under that range. This will do wonders for improving the client relationship.

Click here for our blog on client service

Click here for our article on the topic

Dec 29, 2015


Law Practice Management – Goals for 2016

Happy New Year and Best Wishes for a Personal and Professional 2016

As 2015 comes to an end we begin with a clean slate for 2016. As with anything new – the uncertain future can be scary and exciting at the same time. Year-end provides an opportune time for reflection on the past year and setting goals for the next year – both personal and professional. Goal setting can improve your personal life and your practice.

Setting and achieving goals is one of the best ways to measure your life's and practice's progress and to create unusual clarity. The alternative is drifting along aimlessly with hope and a prayer.

I am a strong believer in the power of goals. This year I finished writing my book, The Lawyers Guide to Succession Planning published by the ABA which is scheduled to be released in January. I never would have even started, alone completed, such a project without very specific goals and timelines.

I strongly suggest that you established a few SMART goals for both your personal life and your practice for 2015 where each goal is: 

S  = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attainable
R = Realistic
T = Timely (on a timeline with a deadline)

A goal without a number is just a slogan – so it is critical that you develop a system for measuring. For example, if you goal is to improve client satisfaction and loyalty you might administer an end of matter client satisfaction survey with a rating scale from 1-5 for key performance indicators, enter completed surveys into a spreadsheet, and then generate a quarterly report reflecting actual performance scores. If your goal is to meet with ten clients or referral sources during a month – develop a tracking system and generate a monthly report.

While goals can help focus you and your practice in 2016 – too many goals can have the opposite effect. Start with baby steps and identify three to five goals for 2016 and then focus intensively on these goals and their accomplishment. 

Focusing on a few targeted strategic goals could take your practice to the next level.

Click here for articles on other topics
Click here for our archive blog on strategies
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

 

 

 

 

Oct 14, 2014


Law Firm Client Service Standards

Question:

I am the managing partner of a 14 attorney business law firm in Baltimore, Maryland. Our marketing committee has been discussing marketing initiatives and is planning on a client service initiative. Where do you suggest that we start?

Response:

You might want to start by putting in place some basic client service standards. For example:

Look for ways to become your client's trusted advisor rather that their hired gun that they only call on when they are in trouble.

Click here for our blog on marketing 

Click here for articles on other topics

John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

 

 

 

Aug 04, 2014


Law Firm Client Telephone Satisfaction Interviews in Insurance Defense Law Firms

Question:

I am the chair of our firm's marketing committee. We are a 24 attorney insurance defense firm in Houston. While we solicit feedback from some of our larger insurance company clients at lunch and face to face meetings – the sessions are not structured, data is not really tabulated, and only a handful of clients are usually involved. We have been thinking of embarking on a more structured process. I would appreciate your thoughts:

Response:

Our firm recently completed client satisfaction interviews for several of our insurance defense law firm clients. Here are a few quotes and a summary of what these insurance company law firm clients told us:

Much can be learned by talking to your clients. Structured telephone interviews conducted by a neutral in-house law firm marketing employee or outside third party can provide many surprises as well as answers. Client satisfaction interviews can be the best marketing investment that you can make.

Click here for our blog on marketing 

Click here for articles on other topics

John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

 

Oct 15, 2013


Law Firm Client Satisfaction Interviews

Question:

I am the chair of the marketing committee of our 22 attorney insurance defense firm located in the Chicago suburbs. We are considering conducting structured interviews with our top 10 insurance company clients. This would be the first time that we have done this so I would appreciate your thoughts.

Response:

There is nothing worse than asking clients for feedback and then doing nothing and not following up. The benefits of gathering feedback can be negated if you do not follow through on the results. Once your firm has taken the initiative to actively invite feedback, you must take actions to correct at least some, if not all, of the problem areas identified. Doing so is vital. You must also act on business opportunities identified as well. Going to the effort of gathering the information and then not doing anything about the problems identified is not only a waste of time and money but can also increase the likelihood that future service improvement efforts will be viewed with skepticism. For this reason, you must close the loop on the surveys you have conducted by getting back to the people who provided you with the feedback. Doing so benefits your relationship with your clients because you not only confirm what they said but that you are making changes accordingly.

Click here for our blog on marketing

Click here for our published articles

John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Aug 29, 2012


Keeping Law Firm Clients Happy

Question:

I am managing partner with a 12 attorney general practice firm in St. Louis. As part of our marketing program we recently completed an informal client survey and were surprised at some of the feedback. The feedback was less positive than expected. Our clients advised us that our services took longer than expected and fees were also higher than expected. We work hard for our clients and I don't see how we can improve turnaround or reduce legal fees. I would appreciate any thoughts that you have.

Response:

Based upon client satisfaction surveys (telephone interviews) that we do for law firms we find that one of the biggest problems is that the attorneys are doing a poor job of managing client expectations. Your clients get frustrated when you promise one thing (timeline or fees) and the result is very different – especially when the work takes longer than promised or the fees are higher. Even though you don't structure it as a promise your clients take it that way. The key is to under promise and over deliver. I suspect that upon the initial client meeting you are under estimating the timeline and low balling the fee range. Reduce the promise – increase the - timeline and fee range and then shoot to deliver under that range. This will do wonders for improving the client relationship.

Click here for our blog on client service

Click here for our article on the topic

John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Apr 03, 2012


Using A Law Firm Key Account Survey to Access Client Satisfaction and Your Competitive Profile

Question:

I am the managing partner of a 16 attorney firm in Santa Monica, California. We represent large energy companies located on the west coast. We are contemplating developing our first strategic plan. We would like to obtain insight from our clients, receive their feedback, and use this information to access our level of client satisfaction and our competitive profile. However, we are not sure whether we should conduct a random survey involving selecting a percentage of our clients or a census involving surveying all clients rather than taking a sample. Please advise as to your thoughts.

Response:

Rather than doing a random survey of your client base, you may want a more targeted and focused survey of a particular client group. For example, if 80 to 90 percent of your business comes from ten clients, you may want to create a survey that is specifically targeted to them. The advantage of a targeted key client survey is that it is limited in scope and precisely focused. Before you commit time and resources to a client survey identify your purpose and establish specific goals and objectives.

Develop a survey plan. Insure that a follow-up strategy is incorporated into the plan.

Click here for our blog on client service

Click here for our article on the topic

John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Mar 15, 2012


Improving Relationship With Insurance Company Clients

Question:

Our firm, a 17 attorney firm in St. Louis, Missouri, is have a major problem with client defections. We practice in the area of insurance defense exclusively. We have lost several insurance company clients and for those that we are working with – our case assignments are dwindling. Any thoughts or suggestions?

Response:

Our firm recently completed client satisfaction interviews for several of our insurance defense law firm clients. Here are a few quotes and a summary of what these insurance company law firm clients told us:

1. We want to work with proactive attorneys that aren’t afraid to try cases.
2. Limit the number of people working on a file. I like consistent assignments.
3. I expect attorneys to get back to me by the next business day.
4. I like one partner and one associate per file.
5. Most of our billing issues with law firms is due to excessive use of associates time.
6. I get upset with attorneys that want to settle right before trial.
7. The primary reason that we terminate our relationship with our outside attorneys is not reporting to us in a timely fashion and poor communications.
8. I find that many lawyers are poor at managing their files and have poor basic communication skills. I work with lawyers that can do both of these things well.
9. I think that it is important that law firms provide value added services such as newsletters, legislative updates, e-alerts, seminars, etc on a “no charge” basis. These services are provided by most law firms these days. Such services help us do our jobs better, improves communications and the overall relationship between our organization and the law firm, keeps us up to date on changes in the law, and helps the law firm stay abreast of emerging needs in our business.
10. I will pay higher fees to lawyers that aren’t afraid to try cases.

I suggest that you start by talking to your clients. Much can be learned by talking to your clients. Structured telephone interviews conducted by a neutral third party can provide many surprises as well as answers. Client satisfaction interviews can be the best marketing investment that you can make.

Good Luck!

Click here for our blog on marketing

Click here for our published articles

John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

 

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