Squaring up to the age of the customer
Delivering the high-value, personalised experience that customers expect demands focus, investment, and operational commitment, advises Helen Hamilton-Shaw
The Law Society’s recent report on the Future of Legal Services identifies a number of drivers influencing the sector. Two of these, buyer behaviour and competition, focus attention on the need for firms to have a mature strategy in place for customer experience.
There is a well-established acceptance of the direct and powerful relationship between customer experience and financial success, as exhibited by the majority of professional services providers. But delivering high-value, personalised experiences across both personal and digital touchpoints demands focus, investment and operational commitment. It’s a big challenge.
According to Forrester, the international research and advisory firm, this is ‘the age of the customer’ and 2016 could be the watershed that determines who wins or loses. Leading companies will have CEOs who drive change and square up to the rapidly changing market, leaving behind old leadership structures.
Forrester identifies key traits for CX leaders; customer-obsessed organisations that will lead the way by differentiating themselves. We see these echoed in our work in the field of customer experience (CX), which is designed to support our network members in building and developing infrastructure, and there are four that should have particular resonance for law firm leaders.
Culture fuels change, rather than the other way round. It demands the right leadership, prepared to invest in culture to effect customer-centric change and accelerate the business pace. And the importance of employee engagement in achieving cultural change can’t be under-estimated. One has only to look at retailer John Lewis to see the results of their strategy of putting employees first.
Certainly, the impact of culture is demonstrated time and again in our network’s agenda for both customer experience and employee engagement. We have firms regularly featuring on the Best Companies to Work For list, thanks to their employee engagement programmes, and others who regularly measure the extent to which employees know where the firm is going and how motivated they are to help achieve business goals.
- Customer-led and loyalty driven:
Traditional customer loyalty is changing, across all sectors. Today’s customer expects to be treated as an individual and legal services have a particular challenge, in that consumers are still apparently ‘confused’ about what a solicitor can offer them. In the past, firms thought they delivered value through their legal expertise, but clients today are looking for value beyond that. They seek personalised service, rather than passively receiving something that suits the provider. Runners want their running shoes tailored to their gait; drivers want their motor insurance customised to include add-ons such as breakdown or legal expenses cover.
Law firms need to understand customers, identify their needs and tailor-make services to suit. Where previously discrete services were delivered at departmental level, now it’s about providing the right package of services for an individual client at different life/business stages.
- Analytics & Data
Data is the golden ticket to communication. Customers expect every interaction to be informed and enriched through accurate information about their history and preferences, which requires existing client data to be analysed and used in an intelligent and creative way. Effective data analytics and cutting edge algorithms will be a major competitive weapon in future, and the key to providing the truly personalised experience client seek.
Our network members have access to the results of some 40,000 customer experience questionnaires completed across the network to date, and over 2,000 mystery shopping experiences, and we see them using that benchmarked knowledge to inform future developments and shape the customer experience.
Data also has the potential to influence legal sector customer behaviour, as data privacy continues its shift to becoming a value proposition in itself. Cyber-crime and the rise of identity theft have changed the dynamic and our learning events on cyber-security have attracted high numbers of delegates over the past year.
- Digital innovation
Digital is proving to be a core driver of business transformation, when embedded at the heart, and extending into all parts of the business. It’s not enough to simply bolt on digital experiences or tools.
Across the network we have seen many firms making huge investment in IT to streamline processes and upskill staff, recording growth in turnover, as well as enhancing workforce agility. Technology has an important role to play in attracting and retaining high quality employees, with younger workers, in particular, viewing the available technology as a key determinant in evaluating employers.
They say that disruption is now the new normal, but traditional firms can fight back against market disruptors and challengers. Market footprint, capital, and massive amounts of customer data can all be turned to advantage, but only if the sector uses these as the springboard for change and to adopt more agile ways of working and interacting with our clients.
Firms who succeed in future will have already faced up to the change and disruption taking place, and are focused on differentiation through innovation, both human and digital. They are able to respond swiftly and are driving through the profound change needed to compete and win.
This article was originally published in Solicitors Journal on the 29th June 2016 and can be viewed here.