Amazon. Starbucks. Disneyland. What do an online retail behemoth, a global coffee chain, and a theme park have in common? These companies are all known for providing a seamless – and stellar – customer experience.
Some attorneys may think that while they too enjoy a breve latte, the legal industry is a different environment: they are in the business of providing knowledge and insight, not crafting a “legal experience.” While it’s indisputable that attorneys are sought after for their training, the reality is that client expectations have changed drastically over the last ten years. Companies like Amazon, Starbucks, and Disney have set the tone for the level of service people expect across industries, the legal world included.
What is client experience and why does it matter?
To begin with, it’s important to distinguish “client experience” from “client service.” While some may use these terms interchangeably, making the distinction will help you more precisely determine your goals.
- Client Service: The individual client experience for each individual interaction with them. Client service is specific to time and place.
- Client Experience: The experience of all clients at your firm. Client experience encompasses every interaction, both in-person and digital.
Excellent client service should always be a goal, but to create a truly exceptional client experience, you must think beyond the specifics. You have to consider the entirety of how clients interact with your firm. Lawyers become so involved in the day-to-day that it can be hard to imagine how someone with no legal experience and feels about the process.
Perform a client experience audit
Before you can overhaul your client experience, articulate what your goals are. Look at other firms and businesses, even if they are in different industries.
Next, perform a client experience audit. This means asking yourself and other stakeholders at your firm what it’s like to do business with you. One helpful tool to draw from in this process is client personas. If you’ve developed these as part of a branding exercise, now is a great time to dust them off.
Client personas are useful in this regard because they allow you to map out what your clients’ process through doing business with you looks like. How is business initiated? What are the points of communication? Transfer of information? Payments? How does business conclude?
Once you’ve established what the client journeys look like now, you’ll be in a position to decide what you want them to look like – and how to get there.
Ultimately, client experience depends on the staff at your firm to deliver. That means you need a deep level of buy-in and organization to pull it off. To deliver for your clients, thoroughly document policies and procedures. Chart out your workflow so everyone knows where they are within the client journey.
Lastly, make sure you’ve invested in a solid CRM so you can efficiently manage client data.
Identify points where you need to increase communication
Communication is one of the biggest pain points for clients in any industry and no wonder – there are so many places where it can go wrong. Lack of communication specifically is one of the biggest struggles for clients, who feel in the dark about the legal process: fees, court procedures, mediation processes, judgments. Take a close look at how and when your firm sends out communications to clients and analyze them for consistency and comprehensiveness.
Technology can be your friend when it comes to increasing rates of client communication. Automated emails through your CRM, calendar reminders about upcoming meetings and payments, and text-based communications can help your client feel less lost in the woods when it comes to their case.
Make it all digital
It’s been said before, but it always bears repeating: to be viable in 2020 and beyond, you need to have a fully-realized digital presence. However, this doesn’t mean just having a website and a Facebook page. It means finding ways to offer value-added services online. Remote consultations. Website calendaring. Document signing. Digital bill pay.
Keep in mind, it’s easy to get bogged down in all the flashy tools out there. However, you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew. A big part of client experience is successfully meeting expectations. If you integrate a digital tool but don’t manage it effectively, you’ll do more harm to client experience than you would have without it.
Moving forward, client experience will be an increasing area of focus for law firms. According to a Gartner survey, 88% of brands now invest in a specific focus on customer experience. Great client experience influences your referral rates, client retention, and your overall reputation. Firms that provide exceptional client experience put themselves in a position to experience significant growth.