There are many fine consultants and firms that conduct client satisfaction programs. I have referred work to many of them. However, based on my experience working with clients as a senior marketing director, I have a slightly different approach.
Many law firms are asking the wrong questions. Why ask “are you satisfied?” when you really want to know, “are you happy?” The first step is creating a client interview questionnaire that captures the right information. Avoid the “nice to know” questions—you don’t want to waste your clients’ time. It should have a mix of closed and open-ended questions and allow the interviewer to drill down more deeply in specific areas.
Who conducts the interviews?
This is where my approach might differ from others. You could hire an outside party to conduct this research for you and report the findings. This is pretty effective—we’ve done this for several firms. However, this doesn’t teach your client relationship managers (lawyers) anything more about client management and it doesn’t get them in front of key clients.
Teach your lawyers how to do it.
We coach lawyers how to conduct successful client interviews—they observe, analyze, then get out and do it. This enables your lawyers to own the improvement and the outcome that the firm can make in the delivery of its services. This process also ensures consistency of your data—by teaching the lawyers a consistent interview and report format, you can benchmark where you are today and measure the firm’s improvement in each category over time.
It’s critical that each client interview report be uniform. It can include verbatim comments from the client, an analysis of the closed questions and observations and recommendations of the interviewer. Done well, this report can become a strategic planning roadmap for each client, guiding the client relationship team for the next 12-24 months.
Call to action.
The report will identify areas for improvement that the firm can quickly address. With the interviews, you have established an expectation in the minds of your clients that broken things will be fixed, so it is imperative that a communication and problem-handling schedule be outlined for each client.