Listen and learn to elevate experiences
by Helen Hamilton-Shaw, LawNet's Member Engagement & Strategy Director
Originally published in Solicitors Journal, January 2021
Exceptional client experience is more vital than ever to sustain loyalty
This year, more than ever, many of us will be looking for insights to guide us in the months ahead. When it comes to client experience, as well as listening to international experts and brand leaders, I have been canvassing our member firms and reviewing the latest statistics from our audited Excellence Mark programme to help identify where to focus attention.
Strategically, it would be hard to disagree with international research and advisory firm Forrester , who say prioritisation of client experience to create and sustain loyalty will be more vital than ever. Forrester also point to the vital role research can play - both quantitative and qualitative – to understand behaviour and guide future responses.
After eight years of independent monitoring our firms have a huge bank of such data to draw on. As part of our mandatory ISO LawNet quality standard, around 80,000 client satisfaction surveys have been completed and almost 6,000 customer experience (CX) reviews, where independent researchers pose as potential clients. From the early days of walk-in and telephone reviews, firms are now tested on everything from live chat to their appearances at business events, and we have integrated the client survey benchmarking process of our Excellence Mark with the ReviewSolicitors site.
Firms receive one-to-one feedback and in-house training to help them respond to findings and develop sector-leading experiences. And evidence shows this approach generates significant performance improvements, with client satisfaction in our member firms standing at 97% , compared with the sector overall, where 84% of consumers are satisfied . At the heart of this is listening to clients and learning from them, skills which are paramount in the months ahead.
1) Put empathy centre stage
Public concern around the ongoing pandemic means we must keep empathy with clients centre stage while creating a seamless client experience that balances user-friendly online interactions with meaningful offline connections that win trust. Last year’s shift to agile working focused attention on the importance of digital, with new technology introduced at speed. Many firms are seeing the benefits, but clients are having to learn new online behaviours. Alongside, the risk of infection fuels client concerns about returning to face-to-face interactions, making it vital to understand the overall journey and what may affect customer confidence.
Our members are using their survey feedback and CX researcher reviews to understand the client perspective, but if you don’t have mystery shopping in place, try asking a group of clients to gain that insight. And don’t lose the human touch; nurturing relationships by speaking directly is more important than ever in client engagement, whether a phone call or a video catch up over a virtual coffee.
2) Learn from experience
Many of our firms find audio recordings of CX reviews between a researcher and fee earner hugely useful when placed in a culture that supports learning from the customer experience. Standing in the shoes of the potential client helps identify areas for individual skills development. We have seen members develop a bank of support resources or crib sheets to help prompt fee earners when engaging with clients, which can be a useful way of helping everyone deliver a consistently great experience. Equally, some may benefit from structured learning to tackle specific skills.
3) Build those soft sell skills
One area in which lawyers can sometimes feel uncomfortable is in ‘selling’ the benefits of their firms or explaining value, rather than cost, in terms of expertise or service delivery; or they may be resistant to following up potential business. The pandemic is no reason to take sales skills off the agenda and is an important aspect of our training and development. Potential clients are still exactly that, they need your services, and you need to bring the business in. By giving them an added value experience and spelling out the benefits of using your firm, they can more easily make up their mind and that supports empathetic engagement.
While the last year has disrupted every aspect of our business and personal lives, if there is a silver lining to be found in all this, it is that disorder can open the door to new and better ways of doing things and we must be open to that opportunity, if we listen and learn from our clients.
 LawNet Excellence Mark research 2013-2020: https://www.lawnet.co.uk/membership-benefits/practice-support/client-experience-white-paper-2019/
 Legal Services Consumer Panel, March 2020: https://www.legalservicesconsumerpanel.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/2020-03-19-Consumer-Impact-report-Working-FINAL-DRAFT.pdf