Shrewd law firms leverage client satisfaction surveys both to create a conduit for new business and establish a backstop to prevent churn. Although many firms view the value that these surveys deliver with a healthy dose of skepticism, access to timely feedback from clients — while the window of opportunity to take action is still open — can be invaluable. When firms clear the resistance hurdle and decide to take advantage of client satisfaction surveys, they unlock not only the opportunity to evolve their services to align more tightly with client needs, but also the ability to seize opportunities to expand matters that would have otherwise gone undetected without the surveys.


Securing Buy-in from Firm Stakeholders

It’s no secret that the legal industry is generally risk adverse and resistant to change. These factors sit at the crux of why it can be so challenging to achieve partner consensus and buy-in for administering a client satisfaction survey. In my experience, partners default to a negative perception of these surveys because they are afraid of what might surface. They rationalize that clients don’t like to be bothered with surveys, and question the value and efficacy of the data collected. Put simply, many would rather not know what they don’t know. The truth is that most firms that administer client satisfaction surveys end up pleasantly surprised — they learn that their clients are happy and have unsurfaced needs that provide the opportunity for additional work for the firm.

Soliciting feedback from corporate legal departments

At an event I attended last year, there was the usual panel of inside corporate legal department representatives discussing their frustrations with their outside counsel. Having sat in on many similar panels over the years, what struck me about this particular panel was how eager the insiders were for the outsiders to solicit their opinions. To be clear, the panel was not lamenting service deficiencies — in fact, quite the opposite. The insiders wanted to share their ideas and feedback with outside counsel in an effort to help their firms succeed. My key takeaway was that there was a missed opportunity with respect to creating a formalized communication channel — via client satisfaction surveys — between inside legal teams and outside counsel. 

Unlocking the value of customer satisfaction surveys

I recently had a conversation with the CMO of a leading U.S. firm about the value of client satisfaction surveys, and her take was resoundingly positive. In fact, she said that nine times out of ten, client satisfaction surveys identify opportunities for additional work. It makes sense that these surveys are so effective from a business development perspective. When the survey administrator is perceived as neutral and nonthreatening — meaning that this individual is not trying to squeeze more business out of survey takers — clients feel free to offer forthright and honest information because they don’t feel pressured. Surveys are also excellent vehicles to capture insight into client service gaps that don’t get surfaced directly to outside counsel matter teams, either because the client is reluctant to rock the boat with people they work with closely, or because advice on areas for improvement remained dormant until directly solicited.

Staying ahead of client attrition

Client experience data — especially wrapped around other key data points captured in CRM and finance systems — helps firms better understand client churn risk. In my observation, most firms really struggle to get ahead of client attrition. The gap, in this case, ultimately comes down to the technology in place — or, more likely, the lack thereof. Firms that use point solutions for these functions are flying blind because they can’t correlate attrition risk factors housed in separate systems that don’t share data. With the right integrated platform, firms are able to connect the dots to identify at-risk clients and implement remediation measures while the opportunity to positively impact client retention remains.

Getting started with client satisfaction surveys

When initiating a client satisfaction survey program, start with a small pilot. Remember that this is a selling exercise; select target clients handled by partners who are open to the idea, to ensure that there is a receptive audience for your message. Although partners should have visibility into survey data, it must also be secure. As part of the selling motion, it’s critical to instill confidence that the partners are in control of their own data. They should be able to lock down their personal information, providing an important safeguard for protecting their personal brand. As part of the exercise, demonstrate the connection between client feedback and the identification of incremental business opportunities. Use your CRM to associate activities to feedback, and report on outcomes. Finally, present findings — both positive and negative — to the firm partnership on a regular basis.

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