Can Your Firm Offer Better Customer Service?

Aderant Think Tank

Can Your Firm Offer Better Customer Service?

How good is your firm’s customer service? Frankly, that’s not a question that most lawyers spend a lot of time thinking about. Customer service tends to be an administrative issue handled by someone else. However, in today’s highly competitive legal market, a firm’s customer service level is fast becoming a differentiator between successful firms and all the rest.

The notion that great customer service drives business success isn’t new, of course. But only recently has this correlation been acknowledged by the legal industry. Just two years ago, the ABA’s Law Practice Today wrote that “Excellent client service is not just a nice idea anymore. It is a necessity. If firms do not make it a high priority, clients will eventually go elsewhere.”

But what constitutes great customer service for a law firm? Above the Law argued that customer service includes transparency in policies and fees. As an example, the article argued that “Nothing annoys a client more, after they have made the commitment to pay a premium for your services, than to see numerous expenses on a bill. In fact, many clients are quicker to comment on a string of late dinners charged to their file than they are to challenge an additional timekeeper billing for pitching in on a brief—even though the dollar amount of the latter would dwarf the former.”

A recent survey of European law firms by Managing Partner Magazine revealed another customer service issue for law firms relating to written client correspondence. The survey found that 70% of firms reported not having a process for dealing with incoming correspondence from clients. In addition, 69% don’t use any sort of software or client relationship management (CRM) system to organize their client information. As a result, 34% of surveyed firms reported having to deal with angry clients due to lost correspondence.

The Solo Practice University site put things more bluntly in a post discussing customer service. They claimed that having poor customer service can ruin your firm’s reputation. On the other hand, giving your clients an exceptional customer experience can earn you what are known as “raving fans”. Raving fans ultimately become clients that are willing to pay more for services rendered with excellent customer service.

So, acknowledging the importance of customer service, and knowing what clients consider as key components to law firm customer service, the question becomes how can your firm begin improving? First, customer service must be a priority that senior management communicates to everyone in the firm. Every employee from partner to admin must believe that customer service is important and a key strategic priority of the firm. Creating this understanding amongst everyone requires more than an email or newsletter. It often requires a culture shift from staff and a significant investment from the firm.

Second, new technology can be the starting point in terms of that investment. Many products are available today that help firms improve transparency with clients and secure client correspondence. The firms that are winning in the customer service arena are working hard at it, and often have various client management systems in place to accompany their people skills.

Improving customer service is certainly “easier said than done”. But I can assure you, as someone whose job revolves around providing customer service, the investment will pay off in client satisfaction, client retention and ultimately business profitability.

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