An admitted failing of the legal industry is a lack of effort on understanding the client’s pain. Previously we have noted on 3 Geeks the need to listen to clients to construct the best AFA. Now that lawyers and firms are becoming aware of the need to understand more about clients beyond “they’ve been served,” lawyers are looking in new places for ideas and resources to get client feedback.
Enter the third party survey provider. These service providers contact clients directly and ask a series of pre-defined questions about how satisfied they are with a law firm’s services and can even inquire as to how that compares against other firms. What can emerge is a relatively complete picture of where a firm stands with its clients.
Before you rush off to hire one of these services, you should considered where you already stand in knowing your clients’ business and pain, a.k.a. what keeps them up a night. Jeff Carr, well-known AFA guru, makes the point in his presentations about the need for a life-cycle of engagement with law firms, ending in a review of each matter. A main point he makes is the need for clients to give feedback to their law firm partners. Historically, clients have not given feedback, but instead would stop sending work to firms that may not always hit the mark on service. Jeff realized this conflict-avoidance approach was not constructive and lead to higher costs every time he had to educate a new firm on his business.
In such a conflict-avoidance atmosphere, a third party provider can too easily be used as yet another avoidance tool. Instead of having a direct conversation with a client about their satisfaction, a firm is side-stepping an importantly opportunity and handing it off to someone else who doesn’t even know the client.
Third party satisfaction surveys can provide a very valuable service. However, lawyers should make sure they have already engaged in service quality conversations with their clients before they introduce an unknown player to the mix. Going straight to a third party, is like tagging third base before you have touched first and second, thinking you are on your way to a home run.
Bottom-line: Take the first steps, first. You should be embracing your own relationship building efforts as the first and most basic step, especially in a relationship driven business like law.