As the year winds down and 2020 comes into focus, law firms should think now about sending year-end client satisfaction surveys to their clients. Surveys are a great tool for gathering valuable information about a firm’s performance and for getting a read on clients’ satisfaction levels. They also help identify new opportunities for service expansion, as well as crucial areas for service improvement. This article discusses survey methods and key information law firms should be gathering from their clients, because it’s easier and less expensive to obtain new work from current clients than to prospect and win new clients.
What Information Should Your Firm Gather?
Client satisfaction surveys are used to gather information in a number of key areas which your firm should be measuring regularly, including:
- The individuals involved in serving the client;
- Communications (responsiveness and timeliness);
- Legal services used by the client;
- Matter outcomes;
- Fees and billing practices, including perceived value;
- Other law firms they are using;
- Service areas that are shrinking; and
- Areas of growth and opportunities for service expansion.
Room for Improvement and Referrals
The survey (and follow up) is an opportunity for your firm to send clients a clear message that you care about strengthening your relationships with them by specifically asking about areas where the firm could improve its level of service. Also, you want to know whether they would use the firm again and refer others to the firm. Soliciting clients’ opinions on your firm’s brand identity and the most important factors they consider when selecting a law firm can also provide valuable information for developing future business development and targeted marketing strategies.
Bringing New Opportunities to Light
Your firm’s survey should always inquire about your clients’ upcoming plans for expansion and the potential need for additional services. Many surveys have found that the easiest way to do this is to provide a checklist with all of the services you offer, along with blank space for clients to add services that you did not include. By providing a list of all of your services — in the form of a “services needed/services would consider using” question — you have an opportunity to let your clients know the full capabilities of your firm, as well as helping your teams with cross-selling.
By allowing clients to fill in those blank spaces, you will also be gathering important information that could drive your future strategic or business development plans. If enough clients add a practice area or service your firm does not offer, it may be worth exploring whether to add it to your list of services.
How to Survey Clients
While paper surveys are still employed, the ease of creating and sending an online survey has become more popular. Online surveys make it quick and easy to gather feedback. However, you are not limited to just online surveys. In fact, most law firms who are surveying clients incorporate telephone and in-person interviews for a variety of clients. While some firms reserve in-person interviews for their top clients, others have incorporated an approach that covers not only the top clients, but also up-and-coming clients, clients that they feel may be at risk and clients for whom your services have decreased. A diverse range of clients can present a valuable opportunity to both gather information and immediately follow up with more probing questions.
Focus groups and client panels also provide your firm with an opportunity to collect information in face-to-face settings. However, the results from these methods are less quantifiable, or statistically significant, than other survey methods. They can also be cost prohibitive and are difficult to schedule. Additionally, lawyers are generally more receptive to hard data and metrics developed from other surveys than subjective feedback provided by focus groups and client panels.
Follow Up is Key
The most important thing to understand about client satisfaction surveys is that the survey is not the end; it is the beginning of an ongoing conversation and action plan between you and your clients. You must follow up with your clients. If you are not going to act on the survey results – especially less than favorable feedback, issues brought to your attention and ideas for improvement – you will do more harm to your relationship with your clients if their concerns are ignored.
Before sending any survey, your firm must develop a plan of action to address the feedback received. This should include a plan for continued follow up in three to six months to check your progress. If your firm cannot develop an approved action plan for follow up, don’t waste your clients’ time.
For more information, contact Joy Long at [email protected] or 312.670.7444. Visit ORBA.com to learn more about our Law Firm Group.