For client feedback to be a worthwhile endeavor, law firms need to approach it in a strategic manner. Current scenarios are typically “hit or miss”—dabbling, if you will. Efforts are scattered and occasional—a survey here, an interview there. Consistency is rare and follow-up, sadly, even more rare.
What is the solution? Institutionalizing the process. Law firms can learn how to do so by looking at other industries.
How To Institutionalize
There are a number of ways that a feedback program can be institutionalized:
Written Rules and Guidelines. Don't leave the choices of when and how feedback will be obtained to chance or whim. Have written rules and procedures, and mandate the process. Specify the steps, feedback mechanisms and all details, then implement without exception.
Brand Your Program. Just as you brand a firm, product or service, brand your feedback program. Develop core values for the program, identify specific goals, and then develop a campaign (with collateral materials, logo, tagline, and the like) to communicate this. An excellent example is the Arthur Andersen “ExCeed” program. This branded program is a cycle with four phases: (1) understanding the client's needs and expectations, (2) building the understanding into their plan of service, (3) continually improving the approach towards that service, (4) and measuring performance against the plan.
Involve Everyone in the Effort. Train everyone in the firm to be involved in some aspect of your feedback program. The Ritz-Carlton's “Guest Recognition Program” shows how effectively this can be done. In keeping with the Ritz-Carlton “mystique,” guests are not asked for their preferences. Rather, these are noted as they occur by all employees of the hotel chain. The employee then writes up a “guest preference tab,” and the information is entered into a systemwide database.
For example, a guest checks into a Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco and, upon check-in, requests an “egg crate” to be used under the mattress. Next week this same guest checks into a Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta. Guess what's waiting for them under their bed?
This preference was anticipated in Atlanta because the housekeeper in San Francisco who handled the first request noted the preference and submitted it to the company's database. This type of employee participation is considered a normal, expected part of the job.
Do Something with the Results. You would fail in your client-feedback efforts if you obtained the information but did nothing with it. Yet this is all too often the case with information obtained during client surveys or interviews. This actually does more harm than good because a false expectation of positive change was established in the mind of the client when you did the survey.
Often, follow-up does not occur because the person receiving the results either did not like or did not agree with the feedback. This is very dangerous, and there are ways to prevent this from happening. For example do not solicit feedback from a client unless you've first established hard-and-fast rules about who will see the feedback and what steps will next be taken, no matter what the client says. Also, be sure someone takes responsibility for ensuring that follow-up is handled. Don't let it slip through the cracks.
Determine an “Acceptability” Scale. Before you gather feedback, decide what constitutes acceptable responses. The tolerance level will have to be decided by each firm, but try to be tough. A response of satisfactory should never be enough. Instead, it should serve as a catalyst for a discussion with the client or within the firm about what needs to be done to raise that rating to the next level and beyond.
Types of Feedback
Law firms can also learn a lot about feedback methodologies from other industries. For example:
Point of Purchase. Marriott hotels use point-of-purchase by having feedback cards throughout their hotels—e.g. at the front desk, in guest rooms, and in the restaurant. In Atlanta, Hartsfield Airport has huge sandwich boards throughout each concourse asking travelers to complete a brief satisfaction survey. Law firms can solicit point-of-purchase feedback, too. A few examples include reply cards in the lobby or questionnaires included with bills.
During “Prospecting.” When you're meeting prospective clients, you can also gather feedback. During a conversation, as a prospect reveals things such as service preferences or industry issues, take a moment to write these on the back of their business card. Don't worry about being obvious—you should be. It's a compliment to them that you're considering what they say important enough to write down. Real estate brokers and other sales professionals utilize this prospecting technique.
At the Start of the Engagement. When you go to a doctor's office for the first time, what do they typically ask you to do? Complete a questionnaire that provides information critical to your treatment. Similarly, when your firm has new clients, spend some time—preferably face-to-face—and ask them for their preferences before you begin “treating” them. If they hate voice mail or have a specific format preference for their bills, it's helpful to learn these things up front. Don't wait until they are disgruntled to learn the best way to serve them.
At the Conclusion of Matters. Check satisfaction at the conclusion of each matter. This helps ensure that expectations have been met. In the auto industry, when your car is serviced at the dealer, it's common to receive a phone call a few days later to inquire about your satisfaction. Law firms can and should do the exact same thing.
Throughout the Relationship. Throughout the course of the relationship, it's important to assess satisfaction and keep abreast of changes in the client's company and industry. This can be handled by written surveys, but the preferred method is a combination of informal client visits and more formal face-to-face satisfaction assessments.
At Seminars. Keypad technology allows participants to vote using handheld devices. This technology is used at many seminars today. It's relatively easy and inexpensive and provides a chance to assess demographics of an audience, benchmark best practices and be sure the seminar is delivering as promised. Law firms are now using this technology, which is prevalent in many other industries and on game shows.
On-line. One way to make your firm's web site more dynamic and interactive is to have feedback mechanisms—questionnaires or surveys—on the site itself. Besides being a way to gather important information, it publicly affirms your commitment to listening to your audience(s). Visit Microsoft's web site and you'll see many on-line feedback tools.
Delivering exceptional service, meeting the needs of clients and prospects, and developing innovative products and services can all be accomplished more expediently and appropriately by a strategic approach to client feedback.
How to Hire a Legal Recruiter for Your Law Firm: How Law Firms Recruit Attorneys Using Legal Recruiters
About Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is a prominent figure in the legal placement industry, known for his expertise in attorney placements and his extensive knowledge of the legal profession.
With over 25 years of experience, he has established himself as a leading voice in the field and has helped thousands of lawyers and law students find their ideal career paths.
Barnes is a former federal law clerk and associate at Quinn Emanuel and a graduate of the University of Chicago College and the University of Virginia Law School. He was a Rhodes Scholar Finalist at the University of Chicago and a member of the University of Virginia Law Review. Early in his legal career, he enrolled in Stanford Business School but dropped out because he missed legal recruiting too much.
Barnes' approach to the legal industry is rooted in his commitment to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. He believes that the key to success in the legal profession is to be proactive, persistent, and disciplined in one's approach to work and life. He encourages lawyers to take ownership of their careers and to focus on developing their skills and expertise in a way that aligns with their passions and interests.
One of how Barnes provides support to lawyers is through his writing. On his blog, HarrisonBarnes.com, and BCGSearch.com, he regularly shares his insights and advice on a range of topics related to the legal profession. Through his writing, he aims to empower lawyers to control their careers and make informed decisions about their professional development.
One of Barnes's fundamental philosophies in his writing is the importance of networking. He believes that networking is a critical component of career success and that it is essential for lawyers to establish relationships with others in their field. He encourages lawyers to attend events, join organizations, and connect with others in the legal community to build their professional networks.
Another central theme in Barnes' writing is the importance of personal and professional development. He believes that lawyers should continuously strive to improve themselves and develop their skills to succeed in their careers. He encourages lawyers to pursue ongoing education and training actively, read widely, and seek new opportunities for growth and development.
In addition to his work in the legal industry, Barnes is also a fitness and lifestyle enthusiast. He sees fitness and wellness as integral to his personal and professional development and encourages others to adopt a similar mindset. He starts his day at 4:00 am and dedicates several daily hours to running, weightlifting, and pursuing spiritual disciplines.
Finally, Barnes is a strong advocate for community service and giving back. He volunteers for the University of Chicago, where he is the former area chair of Los Angeles for the University of Chicago Admissions Office. He also serves as the President of the Young Presidents Organization's Century City Los Angeles Chapter, where he works to support and connect young business leaders.
In conclusion, Harrison Barnes is a visionary legal industry leader committed to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. Through his work at BCG Attorney Search, writing, and community involvement, he empowers lawyers to take control of their careers, develop their skills continuously, and lead fulfilling and successful lives. His philosophy of being proactive, persistent, and disciplined, combined with his focus on personal and professional development, makes him a valuable resource for anyone looking to succeed in the legal profession.
About BCG Attorney Search
BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive, while achieving results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit www.BCGSearch.com.
Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom
Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom
You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays
You can also listen to Harrison Barnes Podcasts here: Attorney Career Advice Podcasts
You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives
Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.
Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.
To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.