Service, please! by Doug Hargrove, Advanced Legal

This blog post was also featured as a column in the March 2016 issue of Legal Practice Management magazine.

In last month’s edition of LPM, we explored how ‘the modern lawyer’ could adopt the role of business development manager to help the firm uncover new opportunities and grow existing sources of revenue. This month I want to discuss the concept of service delivery and how the modern lawyer plays a pivotal role in delivering a quality service to the client.

‘Service’ is a very broad term and is certainly not just the delivery of the end product from your organisation – be that a house sale, divorce proceeding or the creation of a will. Service is the experience that your clients have throughout the time they spend interacting with you. It’s the fundamental factor in a client’s (or prospect’s) opinion of your firm and the driver in their decision to deliver repeat business to you, or recommend you to others. It covers many aspects, from positive communication (did the client feel the firm was proactive in communicating or did they have to chase for updates?) to the experience they had when they visited your office.

These client engagements are commonly called customer touchpoints, and from a client’s perspective they will be at each and every interaction they have with you, whether it’s a website, phone call, letter, email or meeting. At every touchpoint the client is evaluating their experience with you and that experience will heavily influence their decision to use you in the future. That fact alone should be enough to keep you focused on constantly delivering high-quality service as a competitive differentiator, but it also provides the perfect opportunity to cross-sell/ upsell services. While every touchpoint is an opportunity for the client to evaluate your firm, it is also the opportunity for you to communicate with your client – reinforcing your messaging, brand, products and services.

Given that delivery of a good service experience is key to a customer’s likelihood of placing business with your firm, be it a new engagement or repeat business, you can see how closely connected the concepts of service delivery and business development are. Delivering excellent service naturally leads to a customer satisfaction and improved business opportunity. While it’s always important to remember that a client is using your firm, first and foremost, because of your legal expertise, the reality is that thanks to the evolution of customer service in businesses such as insurance and banking, the client perception of service delivery has changed.

Because service is all about client experience, for the modern lawyer this means adopting a policy of clear client expectation management and delivering on that expectation to ensure the client feels closely connected with their case and, importantly, feels they had a good experience.

Alongside business processes that focus on the customer, technology can help. There are numerous solutions that can help law firms connect quickly and easily to clients – from SMS texting and web portals to collaboration areas to advise on case progress, share documents for signing or update milestone dates. These manage client expectations. There are plenty of tools at the disposal of the modern lawyer to help deliver an improved service.

Ultimately, if the client feels engaged and has regular updates on progress, and if, from the outset, they have an understanding of how the case is going to be handled and the steps being taken, they are far more likely to have a positive experience, irrespective of the outcome.

Having adopted a business development process and worked hard to draw the prospect into using your services, the concept of excellent service delivery should be adopted to ensure you retain them as a client. Repeat business can be a powerful lifeblood for any organisation, and being known for delivering the best service can go a very long way in securing your position in the market – and can significantly help the next area I will be focusing on: marketing. 

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