I have been thinking a lot about why law firms seem to struggle with Client Service. The ‘LexisNexis Bellwether Report 2015’ highlighted the gap in perceptions: 80% of lawyers think they’re good at client service whilst only 40% of clients feel that they get good service from their lawyers.
When I talk to lawyers about what makes good client service I often get the strong impression that many instinctively talk first about their legal input – the quality of the legal advice they provide, their understanding of the law and its relevance to the matter in question. Lawyers are trained and conditioned to value this element of their work above pretty much everything else – it’s what being a lawyer is, all about.
Clients, on the other hand, are frequently only really interested in the output they receive from their lawyers. Clients are conditioned to judge service on the quality on how well their lawyer managed to affect the output. Did the house get bought on time? Was the litigation concluded in a way that made the client happy? Did the employment dispute get resolved in a way that protected the client from further claims? Clients don’t value the quality of the legal input – they take this for granted (this is what a lawyer is paid to provide). Clients value resolution and moving on.
I feel, strongly, that whilst lawyers and clients continue to measure ‘success’ using two such radically different metrics that the gulf will continue to exist. Indeed, in a world where other providers can, increasingly, offer legal solutions outside of the constraints of a recognised law firm the gulf may get bigger. Digitally enabled clients show ever-increasing levels of promiscuity, the modern consumer is conditioned to assume that professional service providers do what they say on the tin and then focus their energies on providing tailored, value-added delivery. This is what clients already get elsewhere. Are law firms keeping up with a changing set of customer expectations and increasing client intolerance to legal service providers who do not treat the client as king?
In my latest report ‘Bridging The Service Gap’ I encourage lawyers and law firms to look really closely at the client and then to shift focus. To win client trust and retain more client business it is imperative to take the perspective of your client and then evaluate the quality of the interactions you have. Be robust in this and measure your success primarily on how well you helped your client address the business or personal issue that compelled them to engage you in the first place.