If there is one silver lining to this incredibly challenging year, it’s that client service has become one of the most important aspects of a firm’s operations.
Lawyers, advisors and accountants worked day and night to ensure their clients were informed and prepared to endure this difficult period. Going above and beyond to ensure clients felt supported and understood became the norm, not the exception.
These efforts have been reflected in the overall FirmChecker ratings of firms listed on our platform. The average FirmChecker score, which is a weighted average of several service attributes that FirmChecker measures, between 2017 and 2019 was 9.1.
In 2020 it increased to 9.4.
While this should be celebrated, it’s also a chance to reflect.
I have outlined below the four key questions to guide your team’s end-of-year client-service review.
1. What did the team do well?
Start with the good. There will be plenty of it, and client-feedback is as much about motivating your team and setting benchmarks as it is about finding flaws.
Look at where your firm is performing best on FirmChecker – it should be a point of pride for your team.
Feedback is scary! So it’s important to begin positively, so your team can be confident in 2021.
2. Where can it improve?
Start with the big picture. Are there any recurring themes?
If you are using FirmChecker, the best place to start is looking at your Firm’s ratings for communication, understanding client needs and reliability.
This will set the strategic direction for your enquiry. You can then drill-down into suggestions for improvement.
When consulting with firms about their performance, one of the key issues we discuss is their communication and reliability. This is commonly a weak point for firms, especially in law. It’s easy for professionals to fall into the trap of thinking their output and expertise is all that matters. It’s not. ‘Bedside manner’ matters a lot, and if you want to grow your firm profitably, it will be the driving force behind word-of-mouth recommendation.
Identify where your firm needs the most improvement. Is it around communication? Is it associated with a particular team? For a particular fee-structure? For clients of a certain industry?
These insights will help you direct your efforts to where it really matters – saving you precious time and money, and stimulating word-of-mouth growth.
3. Which are the at-risk clients?
Identify reviews where a client has detailed negative experiences.
Look for ratings of six or below in key performance areas. Sometimes this will just be a happy client who marks harshly, but it will often denote a disappointed client. These are at-risk clients that require immediate attention.
One of the best ways to unearth the key issue is by conducting a ‘spot check’ on the client’s file. Go over old emails, notes from meetings or calls.
Were the client’s calls or emails being attended to within a reasonable period of time? Was the firm being proactive about the challenges that may be coming up for the client and providing them with solutions from the outset?
Look at the language of the client in their communications. Were there signs of frustration, and if so, what was it in response to? Was it acknowledged by the relationship manager?
It is important to do this preliminary research prior to team meetings to discuss client service. We often see team members get defensive, try and excuse issues with client service and even blame the client.
Source clear examples of when and how the system broke down.
The key to using these insights and making actionable change is being proactive. Contact the client who has been frustrated by your client service. Your team needs to see this as an opportunity to sympathise and empathise with the client’s personal situation and concerns. Outline to clients why this issue emerged and why it won’t occur again. Using NPS language (which you can read more about here), transform the client from being a detractor who spreads negative word of moth, to one of your promoters.
4. How are we going to improve?
You should now have a comprehensive understanding of the cracks in your client service program.
Your natural inclination may be to lecture the team on what they need to do. However, you are better served by taking a positive approach. Frame it in terms of an opportunity to fix issues and brainstorm solutions collectively. The more input your team has creatively, the more likely they will be motivated to take action.
Feel free to reach out to a member of the FirmChecker team for strategies on how to best take action on client feedback. We have analysed over 10,000 reviews, and understand what firms are doing right, and where the issues likely are.
Email us at [email protected]
About the Author
James Hampel is a Client Experience Specialist and Marketing and Growth Consultant at FirmChecker – Australia’s number 1 review site for lawyers and accountants.
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