This blog was originally published by LEAP. You can read the original version here.
When it comes to law firms delivering exceptional client service, lawyers often have great ideas as to how they could improve. But for most, time spent on non-billable work is limited. To help you receive the best return on your efforts, we’ve compiled the top seven trends in law firm client service so you can channel your time and effort into areas that will make a real, measurable difference to your client service.
Courtesy of beaton, an Australian research and consultancy firm operating across the professional services markets including law and accounting, we have insight into the biggest seven trends in law firm client service in 2021. beaton, in partnership with FirmChecker, have reviewed the data of client reviews submitted to law and conveyancing practices over the last four years to reveal the key areas where you should be adding value to your firm’s client experience.
Overview of trends
Data from FirmChecker and beaton is encouraging for law and conveyancing practices. Since 2018 there has been a general upward trend in client satisfaction. However, the Executive Chairman of beaton, Dr George Beaton, stressed in the recent Trends in Law Firm Client Service webinar, that if you aren’t constantly improving then you’re in fact going backwards. A key trend also of note is that the perceived value of services has increased between 2019 and 2021 which correlates with a reduced perceived expensiveness of services in the same period.
Recommendations to improve client service
1. Focus on the behavioural components of referrals
In their recent webinar, Ben Farrow, CEO of Firm Checker and Dr Beaton emphasised not only the importance of referrals, but the behavioural components of these. The five key drivers of recommendations are pictured below:
With firms placing more and more of their marketing efforts on referrals, ensuring a firm is providing a level of service that is likely to be the basis of a recommendation is critical. It’s no secret that the legal market is a difficult one to stand out in and it’s not simply because there is extensive competition. Ben and Dr Beaton explain that this is in fact because the clients of law firms do not have strong referral systems for choosing a provider or differentiating between providers – this is why referrals from within their network are such a strong driver of business for firms.
Key takeaways from an analysis of these behavioural drivers include:
- Expensiveness is the weakest driver. While it is true that there is a negative correlation in that firms whose services are perceived to be more expensive are referred less – this correlation is too weak to be used to drive any strategy in differentiating your firm or increasing your clients’ overall satisfaction.
- Reliability should be high priority if your firm is considering differentiation strategies. Ben and Dr Beaton have explained that reliability is about meeting your clients’ expectations, particularly around time, budget and the substance of advices or actual deliverables.
- Understanding client needs is the strongest driver of client referrals and a competitive necessity. That is, understanding what your clients’ expectations are are and listening to their problems or concerns.
2. Allow clients to remain anonymous when providing feedback
When clients are given the option to remain anonymous when providing feedback, you’ll receive more actionable data. Data from FirmChecker has revealed that clients who don’t share their name when leaving a review tend to be less satisfied as it makes it easier to give critical, and often constructive feedback. This is why providing this option is so important – receiving honest feedback is critical for identifying where your firm can improve its client service.
3. Respond to feedback
FirmChecker’s data highlights that responding to feedback received is often an overlooked strategy. During the recent webinar, Ben and Dr Beaton acknowledged that while a correlation does not necessarily equate to causation, firms that do regularly respond to feedback whether positive or negative, tend to perform better overall in terms of client satisfaction.
4. Be consistent with the service you deliver
Data released by FirmChecker highlights that the more consistent a law firm is with their client service, the greater their performance in regards to client satisfaction. Dr Beaton echoes this message, stating that firms deliver excellent client service by being increasingly consistent – “every client, every time, everybody in the firm.” During the webinar he mused that everything needs to be done well with no exceptions. Any process you have that contributes to the delivery of exceptional client service needs to be followed at all times – no shortcuts or dropping the ball for the sake of convenience or a lack of time. Dr Beaton stressed that firms who report high levels of client satisfaction are often the firms who are the most consistent, ensuring that they’re ticking every box for every client – they don’t “forget to send an email”.
5. Offer fixed fees wherever possible
Fixed fee clients perceive the value they receive to be higher while also perceiving the price of services to be lower. FirmChecker data indicates that this correlation holds true across all practice areas.
Insights from Ben and Dr Beaton indicate that there may be a number of reasons for this, including:
- Fixed fees provide certainty meaning clients have a better understanding of what they are paying for (results or deliverables), rather than just paying for “time”.
- Fixed fees creates instils the idea of “what I’m getting exceeds what I’m paying” – also known as value.
For firms hesitant about charging fixed fees, Ben and Dr Beaton explain that the common belief that firms who charge fixed fees earn less doesn’t necessarily hold true. This is because fixed fees actually give you an opportunity to build a premium into your fee. Why? Law firms better understand the scope and risk of particular types of matters and can better envisage potential roadblocks or additional costs that may arise when compared with the client. Put simply, they’re in a better position than their client to understand risk. For this reason, a premium for taking that risk should be embedded into the fixed fee. This is in direct contrast with firms who charge based on time where it is the client and not the firm who takes on the risk.
6. Consider more than fee levels – think about value for money
Relationships are key to referrals and overall client satisfaction. While retainers have a lower value : price ratio than hourly rates, they score higher when it comes to recommendations and client satisfaction. What does this suggest? Retainer arrangements tend to encourage stronger relationships between the lawyer and client. Similarly, fixed fees also have a greater value : price ratio than hourly rates. It is these relationships that make a client more likely to recommend a lawyer or law firm within their network.
7. Start measuring
In such a saturated market where potential clients do not have a solid strategy to differentiate between law firms other than from referrals in their networks, feedback offers a prime opportunity for a firm to stand out. Services like FirmChecker who provide an independent review platform for professional services businesses make receiving feedback easier. Some key benefits of setting up a formal feedback process include:
- Giving your work more meaning by celebrating positive results.
- Giving you the opportunity to follow up with satisfied clients to request referrals.
- Helping you determine gaps in your services.
- Providing an opportunity to remedy client dissatisfaction.
Gain a deeper insight into trends in law firm client service
Want to learn more about what is driving current trends in law firm client service? Take advantage of this complimentary, on-demand webinar hosted by FirmChecker and beaton in partnership with LEAP.