By Suki Sahansara, Senior Director, Client Success, Wilson Allen

In a recent survey by The Legal Intelligencer, law firm managing partners ranked client surveys as one of the most effective marketing tools, yet 66.6% of respondents don’t use them regularly. Why this disconnect? It appears firms see value in soliciting client feedback but have not prioritized their use. But by not deploying a client feedback program and using the results as a tool for business improvements, firms are at risk of losing market share to competitors that do.

In this post, I’ll share lessons learned from implementing a client feedback program at Wilson Allen and how we’re using the findings to enhance performance and, ultimately, support growth.

Why embark upon a client feedback program?

Even though the legal industry has steadily rebounded from the impacts of the recession over a decade ago, firms are still operating in a challenging marketplace. New market entrants, higher client demands for transparency, and alternative service providers, among other factors, means firms need to be more proactive in nurturing client relationships and smarter about where they invest their time and talent.

Firms have systems in place to support CRM and financial management, but many lack processes for capturing feedback from clients to determine what drives loyalty, retention, and referenceability. Just because you have strong relationships and provided service successfully in the past, that doesn’t mean clients will continue to engage you. An effective client feedback program coupled with a definitive plan on how to use the findings can yield better outcomes.

Practicing what we preach

As a result of our merger with Stanton Allen last year, Wilson Allen now provides services to more fully manage the entire client engagement life cycle – securing new business, successfully delivering the work, and then capturing client feedback. We applied this expertise to strengthen our internal processes. We were not capturing enough relevant data to gauge if we were meeting client expectations of value, nor did we have a platform in place so clients could give feedback or offer to be a referral for additional business.

To support our efforts, we partnered with ClearlyRated, a company that specializes in a Net Promotor® Score (NPS®) survey feedback program to capture actionable and marketable feedback from clients, as well as providing peer/industry benchmarking. ClearlyRated’s market research has shown that:

  • Clients chose services for the overall experience; not just as a result of the last engagement
  • Referrals are a key resource for in-house buyers, with an increasing trend towards researching on-line data for potential services partners
  • Quality of service and industry expertise often outweigh the cost

Implementing a simple on-line survey program has allowed our clients to easily provide candid feedback, with the added benefits of capturing marketable testimonials and individual employee shout-outs.

Getting buy-in from leadership

Our leadership team endorsed the NPS survey program from the outset, as we wanted to put client experience at the heart of our growth strategy – not just utilization, pricing, or staffing, but as a means for capturing the client satisfaction value related to our strengths and weaknesses. As we focus more of our resources on product development, we needed systems in place to ensure that we’re “crossing the chasm” and progressing from an early-adopter user base to the large majority for our product lines while retaining our commitment to service.

Using the resulting data to support performance improvements and growth

Through our client feedback program, we’re finding out what we’re doing well and what needs to be improved. We’re pleased that we achieved an “exceptional” ranking (an NPS score above 50%) firm-wide, and “world-class” ranking (an NPS score above 70%) for some of our lines of business.

We are also in the process of integrating survey results with our internal experience management software to keep colleagues updated and prepared for client interactions. This approach helps us avoid siloed client conversations and allows us to better share client feedback on a firmwide basis. In addition, as a tool for motivation, we immediately share any positive feedback about employees companywide on receipt, which is another area we’re looking to automate.

Ultimately, we’re committed to acting on the feedback receive – both positive and negative. For example, based on client feedback, we have:

  • Improved our responsiveness
  • Leveraged our promoters for referrals
  • Turned detractors into promotors by listening to their concerns and ensuring we align project expectations, then deliver to them
  • Aligned our teams to ensure clients have a better understanding of who their “go-to” resources are, which is particularly relevant for projects that have numerous people on the team
  • Established a process to make project managers aware of client feedback to better match resources to client preferences
  • Launched a user group with the first area of focus on Wilson Proforma Tracker software
  • Embarked on a formal support program for all our product lines

What can your firm do?

How we implemented the results of our client feedback program no doubt look very different than what your firm may do with the results of its efforts – but isn’t that the point? Capturing feedback and using it as a source of inspiration for business planning is how your firm can differentiate and sustain a competitive advantage.

Please contact us if you have any questions about how your firm can make use of a client feedback program most effectively. In the interim, please read this article by Michael Warren to explore the concept of client value management: The client quid pro quo: To derive value from clients, make sure you’re first delivering it.