Seismic shifts in customer expectation demand sector change
Helen Hamilton-Shaw, Member Engagement & Strategy Director at LawNet looks at the rapidly changing world of customer experience.
A year may be a long time in politics (a saying which I suspect Mrs May would endorse) but it’s even longer in the field of customer experience. Things are moving so fast and what seemed an interesting possibility is now a must-have.
Being available round the clock to engage with clients is just one of the shifts. Could we have imagined a high street law firm engaging in 24 hour live chat through its website even a couple of years ago?
I was struck by the seismic shifts taking place in this field when we recently reviewed the annual performance statistics for our LawNet Excellence Mark, the client experience element of our ISO 9001 standard which brings together benchmarked online satisfaction surveys with regular telephone, online and client experience reviews undertaken anonymously with firms.
As well as a reminder of the helter-skelter pace of technological change, most importantly the figures demonstrate that our client service audit programme has continued to focus improvements in service levels for many member firms.
The average service level across all Client Experience Reviews has risen from 59% in 2015/16, to 62% in 2016/7, and now to 63% in 2017/8. These may seem small improvements at first sight but are significant increments that place our members’ performance some 30% above firms surveyed from outside the network. In the survey of non-LawNet practices the benchmarked figures show that their average service levels have dropped over the period: the average service level for 2017 was 48%, down on 2016, and 15% less than LawNet firms’ average score.
Add to this that we find our best firms are regularly averaging around the mid to high 70%’s in their service level reports and the divide increases. Better scores are often linked with conversion related activities which are essential in our ever-changing marketplace and increasing competition. While our members are not the only ones to see the importance of great client service and subtle sales skills to convert more enquiries, our members have a head start over much of the competition, and continual improvement is vital to maintain that.
In the first year, our programme simply reviewed service levels by telephone or a walk-in visit from an undercover researcher. That was expanded early on to include web-based enquiries, and now for the coming year we will be checking out our firms’ performance in their use of online chat facilities and where they are appearing at local business exhibitions.
One size does not fit all though and firms are able to tailor the programme to suit their particular make-up and focus. For example, experience has taught us that commercial teams require a different approach to those delivering legal services to individuals. And firms who are further down the client experience track may need a different set of scenarios to test their mettle than one just starting out on that journey.
To satisfy differing needs, we’ve collated a range of scenarios into a ‘LawNet Library’ which can be chosen to best match a firm’s profile and ensure all members get the right insights for their business.
But perhaps most importantly, what the recent review uncovered was a desire for more regular benchmarking and analysis of performance to support the drive for internal improvements in firms. There’s a real hunger to improve, because firms can see the benefits on the bottom line and in staff engagement. If there’s a hunger, it’s important to feed it!