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Finding the fault lines in customer experience

by Helen Hamilton-Shaw | September 13, 2016

By Helen Hamilton-Shaw, member engagement & strategy director with LawNet.

In a regular series, she reflects on the key findings of the mystery shopping undertaken as part of the network’s Mark of Excellence, an audited client care programme that’s backed by the network’s ISO 9001 standard.

Failure is a part of life, it can affect even the most reliable and experienced organisations. Think of VW: its whole brand image has been developed around the reliability and longevity of its cars; every Golf buyer was buying a small part of VW’s solid German integrity of build and purpose. Now think of the emissions scandal and how VW has handled the problem with its customer base.

We’re often encouraged to embrace failure, whether personally or in business, as a route to insight and toughening up against life’s hard knocks. If you don’t fail, you don’t learn, it’s said, but surely it’s better to avoid failure in the first place, if possible. And when it comes to customer experience fails, there are often common themes that lie behind the problem.

Lack of leadership

Too often customer experience programmes are launched with much fanfare, but without clear ownership. Without commitment from the top, and customer experience set at the heart of the firm’s culture, it’s too easy for the programme to slip off the radar. An effective customer-centric strategy involves the entire business, with an identifiable leader who ensures that everyone understands the objectives and the part they play in meeting customer needs. When projects fail it’s often because such leadership is absent.

Insufficient resources

It sounds obvious, but do you have enough phone lines and enough people to answer calls? Is your technology fit for purpose? Do you have the capacity, now and for any future expansion?

There’s nowhere to hide if you are set on great customer experience, but don’t have the resources to match your ambitions. When staff are struggling to manage their current workload or slowed down by out-dated technology, it will impact directly on your customers.  

Run an audit of your internal resources, assess your capacity and identify if you need more people, more sub-contracted services, or more technology.  

Training issues

It’s vital that staff who have regular contact with clients receive training on customer care. If the front-line staff are not a reflection of your brand values, then you’ve failed at the first. Technical delivery accounts for the bulk of your costs, but it’s the way in which that expertise is delivered that will make the difference. Many LawNet members have undertaken front-line skills development after a need was highlighted through our customer surveying and mystery shopping programmes, with great results.  

Poor processes

The pursuit of great customer satisfaction means coming up with efficient and effective solutions that make things easy for your clients. For example, one of our LawNet members has created a dedicated compliance team which removes much of the burden from fee-earning staff and drives a better result for clients. Can you change the way clients interact with staff on a day-to-day basis, can tasks be better delivered in a different way? Analyse past problems and see if there’s a pattern that relates back to a process that needs overhauling.

We are in the age of the customer according to management experts Forrester, where traditional sources of differentiation no longer apply. Sector boundaries have disappeared and customers have more power than ever. In this environment, an effective customer experience programme has the power to differentiate your firm and set you apart. And if it isn’t working properly, there may be a high price to pay in terms of reputational damage and loss of business. So, stand back, take a look at your customer experience, look for any potential fault lines, and take steps to strengthen the foundations before they fail.

This article was originally published in Solicitors Journal on the 19th July 2016 and can be viewed here.

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