Improving client experience is key to a healthier bottom line for your firm
A lot of importance is placed on online reviews these days. Your firm’s Google My Business page, Yelp profile and presence on various other online platforms are often considered the new word-of-mouth. Many experts believe that review factors have influence on local rankings, and certainly they serve as social proof, encouraging would-be clients to click on particular search results as opposed to others.
Many of us feel more comfortable buying a product, or enlisting a service that has been vetted by dozens of others who have shared their experiences (complete with “out-of-five-star” ratings) online. The same holds true for potential law firm clients when considering their options for legal services.
Often, these ratings can make or break your law firm’s likelihood of being contacted by a new prospective client (or at least one that uses the web). There is no denying that gaining positive online reviews should be a goal for every law firm that cares about bringing in new clients. We believe it’s very important. In fact, Consultwebs offers a free online reviews bundle to help law firms strategize about how to gain more reviews, and to help them deal with negative ones as well.
So, earning the business of new clients is often very top-of-mind. After all, you need a steady stream of new clients to keep your firm in business. But what about the clients you already have, or the ones that you served in the past? What, besides paying your bills, can they do for your firm?
Why your client’s experience is at the heart of your success
This is really where it all begins – the client experience. Your firm’s reputation, and long-term success are tied to your ability to make clients both happy, and successful in terms of the results of their legal issues. Your clients’ experiences are the basis for repeat business, referral business (through word-of-mouth), online reviews, and underneath it all, your firm’s financial health.
A client that has had a truly exceptional experience with your firm can be worth as much, if not more, in referral business, than any fees you have been paid to represent them. By telling their friends, family, coworkers, and others about how well they were treated, how much the staff cares, and how successful their outcome was, they are planting the seeds for future, and possibly much bigger, cases to come knocking on your door.
In addition, a client that has such positive feelings about your firm is much more likely to leave a positive online review. Seeing that “social proof” of your ability to provide results and treat clients well may encourage more prospects on the web to contact you, and bring you more cases.
On the other hand, a client who comes away with negative feelings about the work you have done for them can cost your firm dearly. They may be vocal with their unfavorable opinion about you when speaking with others, and they may also take to the web to amplify their critiques.
A negative online review on Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook or one of various other platforms could convince a prospective client with a great case to turn to your competition for help. One or two negative reviews among many might be more understandable, but if there seems to be a theme of dissatisfied clients, it will surely reduce your chances of landing those prospects that see them.
The first step to improving your clients’ experience
Given that your past and present clients are a key to your future success, how do you improve their experience? The first step is to ask questions. Many legal professionals may think they have a good handle on how their clients are feeling about things. However, some don’t make much of an effort to ask.
There are clients that need no help in voicing any displeasure they have with the firm, communication, process, or anything else for that matter. However, there are many others who are fairly quiet about their troubles and will simply keep it to themselves, carrying their negative feelings into conversations with others, and possibly online after the outcome of their case.
So, ask questions. One easy way to do this is with a simple client survey. This can be done in several different ways, and should be done at least once while you are actively working on the client’s legal matter, and again after the matter is resolved. Some methods of surveying include:
- Paper survey (in office or by mail)
- Email survey
- Online surveys (tools like SurveyMonkey and SurveyGizmo, both of which have free options; you can also use Google forms)
- In-person interview
- Phone interview
- Focus group (with multiple clients)
Obviously some of these methods are more time-intensive than others, but often the more time you spend in asking feedback from a client, the better information you’ll get. If your firm doesn’t currently survey clients, or is looking to change your method, we have prepared an example client survey which is contained in our free online reviews bundle that you are free to customize and adapt to your firm’s needs.
What could you find out from client surveys?
The results of your surveys could show that your clients:
- Probably would not recommend you to friends, family or colleagues
- Were displeased with a general lack of communication and were often confused about next steps
- Experienced problems with invoices and had difficulty in resolving them
- Felt they were treated poorly by a particular employee of your firm
- Have another legal need but have retained another firm instead of yours
- Felt the service they received was impersonal or cold
- Don’t believe that the fees they were charged were fair
- Decided to contact you after reading testimonials on your website
- Saw a report of a settlement in a similar case, on your website, and then contacted you
- Believe their experience or outcome would have been better with another firm
These are just a few examples of the type of information you may glean from asking your clients about their experiences. But you will never know what kind of information your clients will share until you ask.
How can you use the information to improve client experiences and boost your firm’s business?
Based on the feedback provided by your clients, you can deal with problems that come to light, and make improvements in other aspects of your firm. You may be able to:
- Address problems with employees, implement training, or replace team members that do not improve their performance
- Establish systems, deadlines, and expectations for communication with clients at various stages of their cases
- Remove confusion and/or problems with your billing system
- Identify possibilities for alternative fee arrangements in certain types of cases
- Find gaps in your firm’s messaging about services that you offer, and drive new business
- Identify needs for new legal services in your market and strategize to meet those needs
- Improve your marketing efforts by investing more heavily in methods that are driving new cases
You may be able to uncover and address serious issues. You may get some great ideas for marketing, team structure, adjusting your practice areas or a multitude of other topics. Nobody can provide better insight about your firm than clients who have used its services.
Additional ideas to improve client satisfaction and increase business
Many firms have found success, in terms of referral and repeat business, by keeping themselves in the minds of past and current clients through various efforts. Once you have established a relationship with a client, and nurture it while you are working on their case, continue to do so, well into the future. Consider activities like:
- Sending out a client newsletter with updates about your firm, your community involvement and charitable efforts, and some entertaining or interesting content that will appeal to your past and present.
- Providing resource guides or other materials to help clients with secondary issues that commonly arise from various legal matters (These can also help with attracting new clients)
- Making a donation from the firm to a client’s favorite charity during the holiday season, or on an important date in their lives (birthday, anniversary of when they became your client, important holiday, etc.)
- Noting information about clients’ family members, hobbies, interests, etc. to bring up during your interactions to make them more personal
- Sending hand-written notes or small gifts to clients and former clients at various stages of their case, or on anniversaries of important dates in their lives or their cases
- Having your client’s favorite softdrink ready, or coffee or tea prepared just the way he or she likes it when hosting a meeting at your office
- Taking an extra five minutes to talk with a client about something other than their case
Most of these activities are fairly inexpensive and not very time consuming but can make a world of difference to a client’s experience. When clients feel as if they connect on both a business and personal level, the relationship gets stronger, and they are more likely to be satisfied and loyal.
How to get started
Often, the biggest hurdle is deciding to take action to maximize your clients’ satisfaction. Then through small improvements and additions, you can significantly increase your clients’ fulfillment with regards to their legal, and emotional needs, making them much more likely to be advocates for your firm, and contributing to your future success.
Since the results and feelings that clients leave your office with are a huge key to positive client reviews, referrals, repeat business and reputation, make sure to actively focus on your client at all stages. From the first phone call, email or form submission on your website, make sure that you do all you can to make your clients feel comfortable, informed, important, and well tended to. Do whatever you can to make those feelings continue throughout their case, their result and beyond. Firms that excel at making their clients both happy and successful are well on their way to a prosperous future. How can you start making your clients feel more satisfied with your firm? Start by asking them.
We invite you to download our updated client reviews bundle that now contains an extended client survey form to help you get more information from your clients.