Category Archives: Client Listening

GC Insight: Lawyers need to push more to understand the business

David Eveleigh, GC at Serco

David Eveleigh, GC at Serco

David Eveleigh GC at Serco with a frank assessment of where lawyers – in-house and private practice – need to improve and develop.  More focused on process; better understanding and focus on what needs to be delivered for the business.  His interesting take on lawyer “pull” and not enough “push” to get to know the business feels about right.

Good insight too on how to remunerate to motivate to develop people and culture with the right priorities going forwards.

Making effective changes and innovations here should start by listening to clients … afresh – aiming to innovate and add value to the customer journey.

Read the full interview here >>

Your business will suffer if your practice doesn’t get started on this … but your competitors do?

Unlock Cash4 “Lean” tools to radically improve your legal practice, but few lawyers in the UK have applied them … yet.

Given the current economic climate there has never been a better time to be leaner, more resilient and operationally agile, but what do these approaches actually mean in the context of running a lean legal practice? In this article, I will introduce you to “Lean”, its five core principles and some of the lean tools that you can apply to make your business more resilient, agile and profitable; also reducing WIP and improving cashflow.

What is Lean?

“Lean” has five ways of thinking at the core of five basic principles, enabling a business to ensure customer/client satisfaction, driving up profits and creating business processes that are efficient, effective and agile. To live by these principles, I can help lawyers to understand and apply a number of Lean tools and techniques to support its adoption that most are unlikely to have considered before (outlined below), adding a completely new perspective to how a law firm and lawyers could operate more effectively.

Without this Toolbox of lean techniques, it is very difficult for lawyers to envisage how they can work (often very) differently, to constantly improve the business and value of services to clients. Lean thinking should introduce radical improvements by enabling lawyers to capitalise fully on their expert knowledge but also release them to think afresh and “out of the box” about what best practice can be.

The five core principles of Lean are:

Customer Value – companies compete by consistently delivering greater value to customers than their competitors, and the first principle of Lean is the identification of what customers value, or more specifically, what they expect. To do this you need to engage with your customers and ask them! It may appear obvious that a legal client may want to win a case or mitigate risk, but how they do this and the processes they go through may be very different. Some may value an online process that is quick and simple; others may prefer the personal touch. Some want to maximise use of technology; others aren’t equipped to do that. You need to know that and to respond to their situation. A Voice of the Customer (VoC) study is a great way to elicit what your customers actually value.

Value Streams – all customers measure value through experiences. Your customers’ experience when engaging with you and other companies they deal with has a profound effect on how they perceive your value and set their expectations of you. The way you interact with customers to create value are “value streams”; interlinked processes that describe how you create value or – when they fail – how you destroy value. An example of a value stream within legal practice can be the process of completing a residential or a commercial conveyancing transaction. Both are made up of a set of basic building blocks. However, the value created at each stage for one customer can be very different for another. A “Value Stream Mapping” (VSM) exercise helps you to describe and understand how you create value … so you can then modify your approach to add more.

Flow – once you have described the way in which value can “stream” to your customers, it is essential to understand the efficiency and effectiveness of the streams. We call this flow and it describes how efficient and effective your “streams” are in actually delivering value to customers. An optimised stream will have zero waste, zero defects and deliver 100% on customer expectations. i.e. the “experience value” equals the “expectation value”, but this is rare. Examples of how “flow” is visualised in a legal practice can be:

  • The number of backwards and forwards communications between the various parties; and,
  • The amount of time spent waiting between each activity.

Based on experience, I’d estimate that the total time spent on a transaction is less than 10% of the total elapsed time. This level of inefficiency has a cost and an impact to the customer and your business. A “Waste and Defect Analysis” (WADA) helps to understand flow capability.

Pull – this principle focuses on the laws of supply and demand. It is generally easier to create supply than to stimulate demand and so there is often an imbalance. “Pull” centres on having the right level of resources/services available to meet demand as it materialises; often described as “Just in Time”. We see pull failures everyday in stockpiles and traffic jams where we experience the value destruction effects when we have to wait for things to happen before we can take the next step. Pull is a way of optimising delivery of value by ensuring supply is delivered to the ‘drum beat’ of demand rather than creating supply and hoping that customers will fall in line!

The new smart motorways are a way of controlling the supply of road space in order to meet customer demand. In legal practices this can mean the alignment of marketing and business development activity to ensure that all departments are working to capacity and not over burdened with work; or where a flexible and agile workforce or processes enable the practice to adapt to changing customer demand. To understand pull you need to complete a “Customer Demand Analysis” (CDA).

Perfection – imagine a world where everything you do is perfect; nothing goes wrong, everything works and there is no waste. You win every case you get or every contract is immediately accepted by a third party and never challenged. Perfecting a process is best achieved by internal teams focused on creating Zero waste/Zero defects. When your teams are embracing the other four principles of Lean, the focus on “perfection” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. An example of how “perfection” can be built into a process would be the use of checklists or “field-required notifications” to ensure that you gather all the data you need at the right time; otherwise some effort would be wasted or reworking might be needed.

Being “Agile” Helps Too

A further benefit of being lean is that it also makes your practice agile. By constantly reviewing what customers want/need and the value delivered; then adapting business processes accordingly, you are able to maintain customer satisfaction. A proactive “Voice of the Customer” activity enables firms to stay ahead of the game by starting to adapt processes and develop services that meet the customers’ demands. Agility does however add complexity, so there has to be a balance in how flexible you want to be.

Strategically, every business should be “agile”. Listening to the Voice of the Customer is invaluable in enabling you to achieve this as you develop your business strategy and improve your business.

As you start to adopt lean, your people will increasingly recognise business processes and they will begin to work more closely and collaboratively with your customers. Your business will become more resilient to changing demands and market pressures as you become more efficient and effective in what you do.

The question should not be whether to adopt lean, but “what happens to your business if you don’t adopt lean thinking … and your competitors do?”

If you want to discuss how Lean can help your legal practice, contact our leading consultant in this area, Dr Lee Williams at solutions@inpractice.co.uk or call +44 (0)161 929 8355.

Making CRM work for you. Whether you are starting afresh or re-launching your initiatives, we have the people and support to help you.

Client Needs AnalysisJust a reminder of the team we have available here at Inpractice UK to support your CRM and other business development initiatives:

Strategy, culture change, client research, employee engagement, planning

Cleansing & Managing Data, Implementing Technology

Sales & Key Account Management – hands-on support and training for your people to generate more business from  new prospects and existing clients.

Software tools to support employee engagement and development of new skills

TO FIND OUT MORE about our approach to implementing CRM, contact Allan Carton on 07779 653105 or at solutions@inpractice.co.uk

Conveyancers’ New Year Resolution – Get closer, dig deeper with new prospects and clients to win more business … and enjoy the job more.

Silhouette person jumping over 2015 on the hill at sunsetEvery conveyancing practice that wants to grow their client base by providing more service to existing clients, their family, friends and work colleagues should help their conveyancers take a step back; help them to think and talk between themselves about what they could do to make it easier to help their clients to recommend them. 

This would help … so read on to find out about just some of the opportunities that are currently being lost (there are more that we discuss and address during this workshop).  Something to share with your team to help kick 2016 off in the right direction?

Key conclusions from our review of the results of the most recent research by the Property Academy and TM Group of 4,500 consumers and comparing them against the previous year (which we reported here):

Finding:  Confirming our research over many years, only 13% of the clients chose conveyancers that offered the cheapest price; down from 18% the previous year.

Our Advice: Conveyancers should be investing time now to learn how to sell their service much more effectively on value, not price.  Our mystery shopping of conveyancers confirms that very few firms are getting this right with most of the questions being asked revolving around “how much?”

Finding:  It also no surprise that clients who chose the service primarily for a lower price were significantly less likely to recommend their conveyancers enthusiastically to others.

Our Advice:  The key lesson here is that if you want to keep clients for life and build your business around new business from their friends, family and work colleagues, it is dangerous to cut your prices and service.  If you have little margin to ensure they get a service they really value, the chances are that a good number will not be happy and won’t come back.

Finding:  21% of people chose their conveyancer through a recommendation from a friend; up by a third since the previous year.  However, more than double that number (42%) would be willing to recommend their conveyancers, so opportunities are still being lost here.

Our Advice:  Conveyancers should focus on understanding and delivering what each client values in the service and relationship; then make it easy for existing clients to recommend them.  That involves routine ongoing research and review of what clients want and get; both formal and informal. Always ask clients if they would recommend.  You don’t want any “smiling assassins”, so talk to your clients and show willing to adapt.

Findings:  Choosing from an estate agent recommendation is still the most frequent route, but the 38% of clients who made their choice this way was down by 8% from the previous year.

Our Advice:  Perhaps clients are becoming more cautious, which gives conveyancers more opportunity to win new business directly by selling services better – on value.  However, there are clearly significant benefits in working with estate agents.

Property Academy Research - How did you choose your conveyancer, 2013, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

Findings:  Older clients and owners of higher value properties are more likely to recommend their conveyancers to others.

Our Advice:  Again confirms all our research and experience in practice over the years.  It hasn’t changed but lawyers have failed to be pro-active in developing the opportunities.  If you are going to invest time in developing relationships, focus on them as you are likely to get the best return on your investment.  Few firms segment private clients by age and property values, but should do.  These are also the most likely people to benefit (directly and for their families) in other higher value private client legal services.  Have you done this and initiated relationship-developing initiatives focused on their particular needs?

Findings:  On how and how often to communicate with clients during the transaction …

Property Academy Research - How to contact, 2014

Property Academy Research - How often to contact, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Advice:  When it comes to deciding what a client will see as giving them the value they want, you simply must ask them.  Different people want different things; confirmed in the critical questions about communication (where many firms unintentionally get it very wrong); how and how often clients feel they want to be contacted by their conveyancer?

There is more enlightening information in this Home Moving Trends 2014 report; well worth downloading here to share across your practice.

If you are interested in developing your conveyancing services and your people to make the most of the opportunities available now, call me on 0161 929 8355 for a free, confidential discussion to explore some options; or complete this form and I will contact you.

INNOVATE like Pinsent Masons. ENGAGE and DEVELOP your people to PRODUCE RESULTS.

business organizationInnovation and new value-added service propositions seem to be the order of the day but where do you start or re-launch new initiatives to generate the best possible returns?

Having been named Innovative Law Firm of the Year 2015, Pinsent Masons launched a microsite showcasing some of the stories and products that won them the award – see the links to their site and some solutions that can help you get there at the end of this article.  All well worth checking out.

What Pinsent Masons are doing is  certainly “innovative” for the legal sector, so full marks for doing it and for spreading the word to challenge others.   Some lawyers in other firms will rightly be frustrated that they are not “doing something” to match this, as clients will increasingly choose the law firms that tangibly offer more value.  Others will of course be dismissive.

Before you stir things up too much at your practice because you want immediate action  on some of this, make sure you start by getting the groundwork right.  To produce successful results, you need to get – and keep – people on board because this can’t happen overnight. Pinsent Masons have been at this for a long time already.

Ask yourself and your senior management team:

  1. Do we know what our clients want that will add value to your services?  Have we asked? Have we started again from a clean sheet in exploring options?  How can we make it more tangible?
  2. Are we equipped to engage our people effectively in developing and delivering something new and maybe quite different from what they do now?  Are people being coached constantly as we go along to develop and harness their thinking?
  3. How does the way we work together need to change to prioritise and manage these new projects and services effectively?  How do we make that happen?

Key challenges to tackle at the outset then are to engage people to deliver in line with the strategy, develop their skills to match and support them in constantly improving performance and developing those propositions.  These are critical stumbling blocks for too many law firms that start with good intentions on innovation.

We have a number of innovative solutions that can help you bring your people on the journey with you, equipping them to make the transition needed for them to be comfortable and capable of dealing with some clients and delivering some legal services differently.

We can help, working with our business partners on:

  • Independent client listening to develop new service propositions
  • Engaging people, supporting collaboration, project and “real time” performance management – adopting Simitive to structure your approach – focused on outcomes, sharing accountability, making more productive use of time.
  • Learning and developing essential new skills for all employees, ensuring that it is effective, affordable and flexible enough to enable you to let you invest in them.

The Pinsent Masons “Bringing Innovation to Life” website is here >>

To find out more about how we at Inpractice UK can help you to develop, implement and deliver innovative services that add tangible value for your clients, contact Allan Carton on 0161 929 8355 or at solutions@inpractice.co.uk

Well done Blacks for making this happen! Listening to Clients & Referrers – the platform for 14% increase in profits.

Blacks Employment TeamOur clients, Blacks solicitors in Leeds have achieved double digit growth with profits up 14% from increased turnover of £10.2m for 2014/15.  There have been 15 new appointments during the year to boost its team and bring numbers up to 193.

Increases in quantity and size of the deals the company is doing, as well as investment in the firm’s infrastructure and workforce is said to be behind the growth; all initiatives developed from our work on client and introducer listening, leading into effective engagement of people in developing and implementing new business plans and initiatives.

Increased revenue, profit and motivation to meet objectives are the key results we look for.

Chris Allen, managing partner at Blacks, who is well known for his innovative approach to the legal sector, and the use of social media, said: “Our growing reputation means that more organisations are turning to us for advice. These year-end figures reflect the exceptional service provided by the staff here at Blacks.”

To find out more about how we at Inpractice UK can help you produce these kind of results for your business, contact Allan Carton on 0161 929 8355 or at solutions@inpractice.co.uk.

Courtesy of TheBusinessDesk

Lawyers fare better if they don’t try to do it all in isolation. Collaborate!

business organizationLawyers are trained to be adversarial, to be cautious, reluctant to disclose information, to keep their cards close to their chest, to protect their knowledge … so being collaborative with other lawyers,  internal support teams, clients does not come easily.   Coaxing them to think and work operate differently is a challenge, where supporting IT tools that make information more visible and tangible can help hugely.

I agree with this thought-provoking post on collaboration in law firms from Mark Cohen, which elaborates on this topic.

All true – and I would extend the value of collaboration further, to working relationships with clients and referrers of work.

That’s where the biggest direct returns can be realised, with some innovative thinking and effective implementation of new collaborative initiatives alongside clients.  There is untapped potential – requiring a collaborative attitude amongst lawyers (that is still rare for the reasons you set out well here) – to deliver new service propositions that involve more engagement with clients and referrers (with IT creating more potential) through a more open approach to doing the legal job. That’s where lawyers can add a lot more value to their service by opening up a different kind of relationship.

And yes, I agree on internal collaboration too – needed to be able to deliver efficient services in a motivating working environment. A major benefit of the work we’ve done on “lean” business process thinking. Works in tandem with developing that different collaborative approach with clients.

All of which should start by listening to clients to understand their business.