7 Lessons from the Client Service A-Team

Corporate counsel have identified the 30 law firms delivering the absolute best client service. The BTI Client Service 30 outperforms more than 650 other firms by a factor of 6 to land among the client service elite.

It’s easy to dismiss client service as a nice-to-have soft skill. However, research shows the firms performing at best-in-class levels of service enjoy:

  • 30% higher profits
  • 7% rate premiums across all staffing levels
  • Double the fees from a single client
  • 35% higher client retention

The BTI Client Service 30 all manage and think about client service differently than other firms. We found 7 profound differences:

1. More Change for the Buck
Changing attorney behavior is the single biggest hurdle BTI hears about when discussing how to boost client service performance. Few attorneys are willing (or more likely know how) to make the specific changes necessary to drive a best-in-class performance. 

The BTI Client Service 30 practice the “more change for the buck” approach. Instead of starting with a pilot program; testing an initiative with a single practice; or hand-picking partners for a trial, these firms fund their programs with the expectation of rolling out new approaches to the entire firm at once. New behaviors are institutionalized only when the entire firm is committed to an initiative.

2. Client Feedback is For All
Feedback is the lifeblood of learning. You can’t unquestionably know how your clients perceive your performance unless you ask. This means asking the easy—and hard—questions. The goal is to find out how expectations are changing—and your clients’ expectations of your firm are changing all the time.
 
The majority of the BTI Client Service 30 have established formal,  systematic client feedback programs to stay one step ahead of client expectations. 

3. Client Service Metrics are Built into the Strategic Plan
The leaders in client service excellence include client service metrics directly in the firm’s strategic plan. Every partner knows the metrics and most have a similar metric in their partner goals.
 
Too frequently, client service initiatives are launched from a stand-alone committee where participation is optional and eventually good intentions fade into old bad habits. Not so for the BTI Client Service 30. The dual purpose of metrics in the strategic plan is to communicate the firm’s unequivocal intent to everyone while establishing a clear path for how client service will play in the firm’s path to success. 

4. All is Lost without Accountability
Changing behavior requires motivation- and benefit. Most attorneys work tirelessly to reach the goals outlined in their annual plans. Client service leaders have been reworking these individual partner goals to include clear-cut client service metrics. These leaders hold the partners accountable (and provide training to get help partners get there—see #6).
 
5. Being Good is Yesterday’s News
Leaders know clients’ expectations are constantly on the rise. Leaders set new and higher goals after delivering each strong performance. Their mantra: the current state of excellence is the new minimum standard. (As a side note: this trait is why more than half of this year’s BTI Client Service 30 is making a repeat appearance on the list. These firms consistently improve performance each year.)

6. Training is the Unsung—and Boring—Tool of Choice
It’s not glamorous and rarely exciting, but few tactics drive change as effectively as high-impact training. Passable client service is common sense. Exceptional client service is harder to reach—particularly when dealing with highly sophisticated corporate counsel.
 
From learning how to talk so your clients will listen to successfully cross-selling services in a client-focused manner, client service leaders train their entire firm in the tactics and techniques to drive a significant boost in performance.

7. Benchmark against Client-chosen (not Firm-chosen) Peers
It’s hard to be the best if someone else serving your client is doing it better. The client service leaders have learned to compare their client service performance to the law firms operating in their client base—which are usually different from the firms the law firm has tagged as a peer. The leaders have learned to gain new business by outperforming the law firms with whom they compete daily.

The good news—no law firm engages in all 7 lessons. You will benefit from focusing on even a single one. Jump in, pick one, start today. 

We discussed the client service leaders and more in our annual BTI Market Outlook and Client Service Review. You can view the full webinar here: http://youtu.be/wRPnpEUi65s.