Darren Francis and Allan Carton have been working for a wide variety of firms on “client listening” exercises over the years and both agree that they are producing better results now than ever before. It is enabling our clients to respond quickly and confidently to changes in attitudes, expectations and the wider range of legal options now available. Lawyers need to be listening harder now than ever before to keep up, but taking this seriously will take most firms ahead of the bulk of their competitors very quickly. We’ve produced a few case studies on recent projects that you can obtain by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
In return for taking the time to listen to your clients, you will:
- Retain clients you would otherwise have lost – we find this on virtually every project
- Sell more services to your client from different areas of your practice – more cross selling
- Generate new clients and business from existing introducers and referrers
- Develop your lawyers’ personal skills – so they understand the value of key account management and develop a better understanding of the client/lawyer relationship
On the negative side – if you are not getting closer to your clients and your competitors are, you will lose business and clients to them.
Responses to questions asked in a positive, constructive and objective environment that most lawyers won’t ask, can be very revealing; probably the best market research you can do to retain clients and cross-sell services. For example, how often do your lawyers ask, share responses and agree a plan of action to respond and capitalise on the feedback to questions that go beyond the basics of websites, newsletters and phone responses (which are all important too)? Questions like: How many opportunities has the firm missed to work with you in the past 12 months? Why?; What are your current key business drivers? What keeps you awake at night?; Are you seeing any interesting or creative pricing models in the market? What do you like about them?; What changes are you expecting in your industry over the next 12 to 24 months
Fairly typical examples of specific key findings, which influenced recommendations (and then future actions in the firm) include the following:
- A client (a FTSE 100 company) revealed that they were not aware that our client firm were capable of providing a range of regulatory services. At the time of interview that client was using a top 10 City law firm for these services and indicated that they would be prepared to discuss instructing our client firm on a range of regulatory matters (not lease because of the potential price difference). This process has since commenced and our client firm have received initial tranches of instructions.
- An interviewee indicated that – while he was happy that the firm was capable of providing the technical legal services that they required – he felt that there was not sufficient ‘beneath the skin’ understanding of the sector in which they operated. Recommendations following this interview have resulted in the commencement of a secondment programme which is designed to both strengthen the relationship and demonstrate that the firm is taking necessary and visible steps to better understand the client’s sector. This idea of developing more thorough understanding of (and therefore provision of services to) individual sectors, forms a key part of the second project that we are currently undertaking for this firm.
- While relationships with individual partners were strong, clients raised concerns that they didn’t know other people at the firm. There was a clear desire to widen relationships. This was flagged up to the firm as a significant risk, not least because individual partners are likely to see these clients as a portable part of their own CV. The firm agreed also that development of client skills should form a greater part in the personal development of non-partner lawyers, including trainees.
Feedback from these independently conducted interviews – structured to achieve specific objectives for each client – is also a powerful tool to help lead increasingly essential improvements in partners’ personal skills in client management and communication. For more information on how we work with our clients on these independent and objective interviews, please call Allan Carton on 07779 653105 or contact by email at email@example.com