Exceptional Client Service In Law Firms


Surveying Your Clients

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

This is the decade of the client. Clients are demanding and getting – both world-class service – and top quality products. Many law firms have spent too much energy on developing new clients and not enough retaining old ones. For many law firms, obtaining new work from existing clients is the most productive type of marketing.

Therefore, more firms are developing and using client satisfaction surveys to obtain feedback about their client’s satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the attorneys and staff who serve them, the timeliness, responsiveness, and value of work performed, the need for additional services, and whether they would use the firm again and refer the firm to friends and associates.

Our firm recently completed client satisfaction telephone 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:

The feedback obtained from these surveys formed the cornerstone of service improvement programs, which are currently being implemented by these law firms.

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

Our law firm clients have found their clients to be impressed that the firm cares about their opinions. It is good business to listen to your clients. Understanding what bugs people about your services and those of your competition can be the most valuable input to strategy development you can get your hands on. Find out what bugs your clients and you will learn to out-think and out-service your competitors.

Before you invest any time, money, or effort in developing an overall strategy for service improvement, you must survey your clients to understand what your clients want and expect from your firm. An initial survey helps you identify the starting point for your service improvement journey.

Planning The Survey

The type of survey that your firm chooses depends on your purpose for doing the survey. Are you looking for some insight into why you’ve lost clients? Are you interested in getting a general idea of how your clients feel about your firm? Following are some of the basic types of surveys that you may want to consider:

Survey Method

Survey methods are simply the different ways that you can use to collect feedback from your clients. The four main methods are:

Action Plan and Follow-Up Strategy

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.

Good luck on your journey.

John W. Olmstead, Jr., MBA, Ph.D., CMC, is a Certified Management Consultant and the President of Olmstead & Associates, Legal Management Consultants, based in St. Louis, Missouri. The firm provides practice management, marketing, and technology consulting services to law and other professional service firms to help change and reinvent their practices. The firm helps law firms implement client service improvement programs consisting of client satisfaction surveys, program development, and training and coaching programs. Their coaching program provides attorneys and staff with one-on-one coaching to help them get “unstuck” and move forward, reinventing both themselves and their law practices.

Founded in 1984, Olmstead & Associates serves clients across the United States ranging in size from 100 professionals to firms with solo practitioners. Dr. Olmstead is the Editor-in-Chief of “The Lawyers Competitive Edge: The Journal of Law Office Economics and Management,” published by West Group. He also serves as a member of the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) Research Committee. Dr. Olmstead may be contacted via email at jolmstead@olmsteadassoc.com. Additional articles and information is available at the firm’s web site: www.olmsteadassoc.com

© Olmstead & Associates, 2005. All rights reserved.

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