Nat Slavin is the Partner and Co-Founder of Wicker Park Group. He has been talking to lawyers for over 25 years about how to bring a clear voice to their clients. Nat and his partner started Wicker Park Group in 2007 and for the last 13 years, they have been primarily doing direct client feedback. They have developed training programs and other workshops for lawyers to help them act on the information they receive. The single most important thing in client feedback is if you are going to take the time to ask someone what they want and value, you have to be prepared to act on that.
Reach out to Nat by visiting his website at www.wickerparkgroup.com and if you are interested in learning more, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Connecting with Your Clients In Order to Receive Feedback
For law firms that are trying to make the best possible business decisions, if you don’t know what your customer is going to be doing next, what is top of mind, and what their internal pressures are, then how can you actually deliver service? Law firms still struggle to figure out the right way to do this.
There are many different approaches to connect with your clients to get feedback. One of the biggest challenges if you asked leaders in firms is that there is a difference between asking the client how they are doing on a matter and truly getting into the relationship at multiple levels and understanding what those clients’ needs are. Some people play very important roles in the firm-client relationship, so getting down to that next level is a hard and important piece of feedback. One of the stumbling blocks that firms face is anxiety. Partners that have successful relationships don’t want to hear anything that they are not doing as well as they could be, and while feedback is not about criticism, 95% of the feedback that they usually get is positive. Law firms connect with their clients and do relationship visits, leadership visits, but those are very surface.
Adding Value to Your Client Relationships and What Questions to Ask
There is a great book, called The Ultimate Question, that was written by Fred Reichheld which focuses on the Net Promoter Score. In every interview that Nat and his team have done since 2007, they have asked the question, “How likely are you to recommend your lawyer to a colleague or peer?” Only 9’s and 10’s are promoters; 7’s and 8’s are neutral; 1-6 are detractors. They have a database of thousands of NPS scores and also some measurement scores around themes that they think drive client loyalty – responsiveness, communication, value for the fees, etc. The vast majority of the interviews are around the subjective drivers of the relationship. There are only a few things that matter in most client relationships which is if you understand their problem, if you understand their business and if you will make their life easier along the way. That is what every client truly wants. The more pleasant the relationship and the ability to make their life easier are drivers of the relationships.
It is such a transactional business that every hour spent yields an hour of revenue and the clients are very conscious of that and they want efficiency. Adding value around very specific training, not just legal training but business training, and making it accessible is important. In every communication to your client, address the issue, the communication, and the next step. One of the greatest criticisms that they ever hear of lawyers is not wanting a ‘two-handed lawyer’. That does not help the client to decide how to move forward. Understanding the business, the workshops, and the training score very high on the unprompted asks when they ask the clients what they value. Socialization is what scores low every time.
How to Immediately Increase Client Loyalty
Don’t make assumptions on what your clients need without asking them and confirming and knowing that every individual at the organization is going to have a different set of needs. If you uncover or learn in a conversation with your client their priorities and you have other lawyers working on their matters, make sure that is communicated to the team. Do the small things that drive loyalty. Being honest about the firm’s capabilities and your practice’s capabilities is a hard conversation to have with the client. What drives loyalty is saying “we could do this and figure this out, we’re not the best firm, but there’s a competitor at a different firm that I know can give you that answer and I want to introduce you” even though, theoretically, you are jeopardizing that relationship. Ultimately, those lawyers that are extremely candid are showing tremendous loyalty.
Bad news never gets better with time. Never surprise your client and never anticipate or expect that they understand something until they have told you that they understand it. Make sure that you understand that the relationship is centered around a lot of vulnerability for the client. They have a problem, they have been hurt or harmed, and they need somebody to help them. The absence of information – clear, direct, and succinct information – makes a huge difference. A lot of times, the person generating the business is not the person doing the work, so the sooner that you can define the roles of your team and who to go to, the better. Create points of contact and let your clients know who your number 2 is and give them the information needed to reach that person. You can lower anxiety by over-communicating and setting and managing the expectations and it can be really powerful. The most important thing about getting the strong client feedback process started is sharing the outcomes in the organization. Lawyers want to see something that has worked in the past and then they will buy onto it.