The Value of Being Open to Feedback

It seems that, as lawyers, we have to consider that some of our clients may be looking for something other than what lawyers have historically provided. Having had conversations with those experienced in marketing, some might argue the customer that is poached by a documents-only service provider is not the client a quality-driven lawyer is seeking.

The legal profession has experienced changes because of the recent economic downturn; this may mean lawyers cannot afford to be as selective in the business they take on. There may be truth in the quality argument, as well as the idea that comparing big-box legal service providers and lawyers is like comparing apples and oranges. A court in North Carolina recently found that one well-known document legal service provider was engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. While this development is something to watch, in the meantime lawyers should listen to client feedback to help keep current business and grow new business.

There are many important uses for client feedback. It can inform a lawyer from any size practice what services clients are seeking and the way clients want those services delivered. In some ways, ethical rules inform how client services are delivered, but there is space within those parameters for a lawyer to tailor the way clients experience their service.

Retain and Grow

Client feedback can help retain existing clients and earn new clients. Not only will satisfied clients return but they are also more likely to give the name of the attorney to a family member, friend or colleague. As the director of Legal Support at Fisher & Phillips LLP, Terri Pepper Gavulic, noted, “When a client is completely satisfied, it’s natural that he or she will become more loyal and willing to use the lawyer or firm on more assignments. This has a direct effect on the firm’s bottom line — not only because of revenue created by this new business, but also because the firm has to expend fewer marketing dollars to find new clients.”

I have discussed it before but it is important to identify and target opinion leaders that a lawyer’s clients, and potential clients, may be listening to. Client-to-client word of mouth is important but opinion leaders can also drive new business to an attorney through their influence. As Gavulic noted, “Another example of how client satisfaction positively affects a law firm is by the word-of-mouth referrals and references given by satisfied clients to others. This happens client to client, and most law firms are unaware of the extent to which their clients are speaking well of them — until they learn that information by specifically asking in a client feedback session.” Through feedback, and feedback sessions, lawyers may be able to identify opinion leaders that may direct multiple clients at once to a particular attorney.

Focus Marketing Resources

Targeted client feedback can also help a lawyer or firm efficiently allocate marketing dollars, know what is working and better understand what may not be working. New business opportunities may be uncovered, greater understanding of an industry area may be gained, and a more thorough understanding of the lawyer’s competitors may also be obtained. Gavulic also notes that marketing plans can be informed by client feedback.  Publications, associations, groups, or conferences to target may also be identified.

Finally, Gavulic also points to strategic business uses for client feedback such as “gathering intelligence to inform strategic decisions, such as expansion, practice area growth, industry penetration, geographic expansion, areas of focus, and ancillary businesses or services to consider.”

While client feedback may be intimidating at times, attorneys are receiving it one way or another all of the time. The client that decides not to enlist the services of an individual attorney is providing feedback of a certain fashion. With the opportunity for feedback to inform the lawyer of satisfaction with the lawyer’s services, and what types of marketing are working effectively, in this case, it may be better to know than not to know.