“Growing evidence reveals that firms define ‘giving value’ very differently from the way clients assess whether they receive it. There are three simple things a firm can do to get – and stay – on the same page as the executives paying their bills.”
Why does this matter?
As an example: Helping lawyers become more effective at “Pricing” to agree and recover higher fees is high on the agenda for most firms at the minute and quite rightly too.
However, most lawyers still bypass the first critical step – listening to the client – which throws this and just about every other initiative that impacts on client experience, out of kilter. Not listening properly is likely to at least substantially dilute the results of many of the new initiatives in which progressive law firms are currently investing.
Listen to clients (and introducers too) at the beginning to make sure you are aiming to implement a solution that gives them what they value most; not what you think they do. The understanding that will develop at this point will establish a sound base for new initiatives, including management of client relationships themselves.
On our pricing example – Lawyers can only agree the “best” price that a client is willing to pay (whatever pricing model they use) if the client feels that a lawyer’s involvement helps or enables them to meet the challenges that matter most to them, in a way that works best for them. Business owners and execs are interested in how it impacts on them personally, on their role in the business and on the business itself – so you need to hear all of this whenever possible.
We say – talk to the owners or execs at the client business first to understand what they value (including what is currently missing), make time to explore new options; how the service could change to deliver more value for the client. Then base your pricing (process or relationship management as discussed below) on the components and value to the client of the new service and relationship; not the old – and the sooner the better if you want to retain good clients.
Lawyers can’t get the relationship or the service right for the client until they know what clients really “value”. Most think they do, but make too many assumptions when options and expectations are changing quickly; and where every client is different and developing at a different speed.
Many firms are introducing big and expensive changes on Process Improvement, CRM, Artificial Intelligence and wider Technology at the minute (again quite rightly), with the aim of reducing costs and improving service … but are these initiatives being developed with a real understanding of what different clients want from them – apart from a reduction in price?
How do you find out?
All 3 solutions proposed in this informative article (well worth reading) – from James Bliwas – involve 1 key step; “listening to clients”. I would take that further to say … listen to clients talking about their business, what is expected of them and their challenges, with an open mind and a clean sheet on what the “legal” service could look like. Be prepared to start again … and price the service that flows from this discussion – not the one you provide today.
Why do it?
Most firms miss the mark because they don’t dig deep enough, so don’t discover what could be done differently that might, for example, involve more or different collaboration, integration or communication … and more. Often “less is more” so there can be opportunities to cut out wasted time and steps on both sides; for the lawyer and the client. New options in these areas have been developing quickly; perhaps even faster and further with some clients than with many law firms.
There is also a tendency in reviewing relationships to look backwards, rather than forwards.
Talk about other aspects of the business that matters to clients … as well as price. There are usually missed opportunities to make the relationship stronger beyond the handling of individual legal transactions. What are they … for each client? Find them. Things that will keep the client coming back and justify a better return for everyone from the relationship. To find out what those opportunities are, take time out to discuss and explore options.
Then find ways to share this with your people to develop their understanding so that you can put meaningful new initiatives into practice. Modify current services, develop new, introduce better communication, collaboration and integration and whatever else it takes to help clients want to keep coming back.
Our Client Listening is NOT about “client satisfaction”. We focus on looking forwards in every relationship to new options and opportunities to do better and do more of what the client wants, willing to challenge established ways of working together; but few firms do this effectively.
Make a start to open up these new opportunities effectively by talking to us first.