Client Experience – how do we make it the best we can?

Well, I wish I could bottle this just like I’d love to bottle time.  They’d both be worthwhile and surely make me a millionaire!

Vernon Hill, founder of Metro Bank, says there are 3 primary elements to creating a great brand in his “Fans not Customers” book.  These are:

  • Differentiated model
  • Pervasive culture
  • Fanatical execution

For my mind, a firm’s (talking law firm specifically as that’s my challenge currently but please don’t let that put you off reading more) ability to deliver excellent client experience is a clear differentiator and should be seen as their “differentiated model” in the above structure.   Delivering on this in light of recent reports would definitely set you apart from others.

Common perceptions of lawyers (still) seem to be along the lines of:

  • Lawyers don’t communicate clearly or concisely – they love speaking the legal language and hearing themselves talk
  • Lawyers don’t keep the client informed. The client doesn’t get to know what is happening through the process
  • Lawyers over-lawyer.  Their incentive is to bill as much as possible
  • Lawyers have poor listening skills – they interrupt clients, play with their phones and take calls in the middle of conversations
  • Lawyer’s fees are through the roof – overheads are simply passed on to their clients
  • Lawyers are unresponsive and don’t seem to care about the client

Bit harsh?  A generalisation yes, but not sure its all that harsh.    If nothing else these perceptions should act as a reference point to remind firms (and individuals) of what they should not be doing.

Perception is everything – we need to see the world from our client’s point of view to truly make a difference to them.  So what can we do to create the right perception?

I suggest there are a number of elements which need to be considered together which will provide a structure by which perception can change.

  • Accessibility
  • Rapport
  • Proactive use of knowledge
  • Process efficiency
  • Responsiveness
  • Positive Attitude
  • Clarity
  • Transparency
  • Outcome focused

So, how can this be done?  By building an overall client experience strategy to help shape the client service vision and plan delivery against the plan.  To do this a number of steps are required to get you to this stage:

  • Assess current service gaps – be honest and objective with assessments including using independent support.
  • Define the service aspiration – and be specific. Think about the quality of the service, the accuracy of service, promptness of response, client satisfaction, people attitude and behaviours.  What do you want the experience to be on every level and in every situation?
  • Design the client journey,  map it out in detail and develop a standards programme.  Involve clients and the team in developing these standards, state the standards clearly,  document them and ensure they are all linked back to the company goals.  Don’t forget to check them off against the gap analysis to ensure all the gaps are filled and give the standards and programme the full support of the management team.  Managers need to take accountability for the achievement of these standards so make sure they are involved.
  • Once the standards are established, design a culture in which deviation from the standards becomes unacceptable.  Easy to say and very hard to deliver, yes but cracking this will make it happen.  And this can only come from your people, how they feel and how they truly believe this will work for them and their clients.
  • Produce standards that are clear, concise, measurable and achievable.  Make sure you then report on these standards and that they become part of the fabric of the way the business is run (KPI’s).

People development along with recruitment goes without saying….

Over the last 12 months or so we seem to have become much more focused on the impact technology for example will have on the way that we work – embracing that change to make our service better, more competitive etc.  Yet at the same time it’s important to remember through all of this that the service we deliver to clients whether through our people or technology has to work for them.  If clients do not feel the benefit of the developments we make as an industry, firm or individual then they will still continue to look for someone who will.    Technology is a part of how we build our perception but its not the be all and end all – a fully formed, structured and planned client experience strategy will create the perception and differentiated model our clients are looking for.