Why Partners Should Share Client Relationships

Why partners should share client relationships

A key finding of PWC’s 2017 CEO survey was that 79% of CEO’s are concerned about evolving customer behaviours and went on to highlight that ‘customers want an experience where empathy is the centrepiece and technology is the seamless enabler’.

Reinforcing this finding is the Carnegie Institute of Technology’s researchthat improving people-to-people skills is a more important determinant of financial and personal success.

The link between business success, client service excellence and more engaged employees was evident in Macquarie Bank’s report ‘Innovation in a changing market’, the 2015 Legal Benchmarking Results which found that:

  1. 226 respondents drive higher profits by:• Maintaining and developing relationships with clients – 58%
    • Retaining quality staff 58%
    • Excellent customer service – 44%These factors rated much higher than the fourth and fifth factors ie Strong financial management (24%) and Marketing and business development activities (23%)
  2. For most firms, business improvement is an ongoing activity. But high performance firms (recording profit growth rate averaging 29%) were generally more likely to tackle a wider range of issues with an emphasis on engaging and training staff.

Yet, in many law firms, important client relationships are still ‘owned’ by partners. Meanwhile, their team are seen as just great technicians.

As noted by Hays, ‘We have a generation of young professionals who are highly creative, well-educated and technologically advanced. They want to be challenged and seek opportunities to demonstrate leadership early.’ Meeting these employee needs will retain quality staff and foster future leaders.

In our experience, developing a culture of client service excellence works two-fold. It helps grow new business opportunities and also creates a stimulating firm to work in. Here’s how:

Objectivity is the starting point

Start with an external view of the firm’s client experience. Don’t rely on your own view of the firm’s service levels or on end-of-matter client surveys. Invest in gaining external and objective evidence before embarking on any change program.

Next, inspire! Share these results with your team in a way that engages them so change is driven from within teams rather than from above.

Appoint CX champions who encourage their colleagues to transform the firm to deliver on your service promise. The champions’ can be role models for best-practice client behaviours, and encourage teams to improve systems, processes and documentation. This ongoing role should have accountability to deliver improved levels of new business, staff satisfaction and referrals.

Innovate at all levels within the firm. All staff should be encouraged to identify areas for improved client service. A firm-wide focus on improving client experience builds collaboration and agility across teams, as well as a culture open to change. This ongoing focus on innovation will build on your firm’s strengths, helping differentiate your firm and deliver productivity improvements.

Train. Client experience excellence requires new skills and smarts, so train your teams to boost and sustain performance. Training to improve client interactions should include templates and documented service standards as part of a program – not a one-off session. These should also become part of your new staff induction program.

Communicate. Steve Wingert, an American change-management expert, highlighted that there is no such thing as too much communication when it comes to change. In order to be successful, you should continually communicate your plans, progress, and keep training people for your project. Client experience excellence should evolve with client behaviours and expectations. Don’t allow your programs to gather dust. Regularly recognise best practice and leaders of client experience excellence in your firm.

About Carl White

Carl White co-authored the highly-regarded ‘Customer Experience in Law’ report in 2012 and led the market-leading Australian research in 2015 that examines the Client Experience Advantage for law firms, in association with ALPMA. To find out more about client experience training programs or our free monthly webinars on Client Experience Excellence, please get in touch.