Corporate counsel recognized fewer law firms in 2015 for superior client service than 2014. Despite the more demanding environment a few savvy and disciplined law firms buck the trend. These firms climbed the ranks or managed to stay on The BTI Client Service 30 while 11 firms dropped off this elite list.
8 trends stand out among the firms making dramatic jumps or keeping themselves at the top:
1. Planning to Stay Ahead of Client Expectations as a Way of Life
Clients always expect more. Always.
The better your performance the more clients expect from you. You wouldn’t want it any other way. Clients won’t have it any other way. The law firms climbing the client service ranks are both managing client expectations (using strategically designed client feedback to learn client expectations) and delivering more. This is an ongoing effort, not a one-time event.
2. Measuring Themselves 6 Ways to Sunday
Metrics can move mountains and propel law firms to move up the client service rankings. These law firms set goals for the number of key actions and behaviors in which a partner will engage. And track partner activity to make sure it happens on a timely basis.
3. Training and Tools
A cousin to measuring—the top performers provide tools and training to help their partners meet their goals. The training focuses on client service skills and the tools include templates, checklists, and questions to use to ensure each partner knows what superior client service looks like. The very best training programs run mock client discussions and sessions to help prepare for real-life conditions.
4. Always Moving Ahead
Top client service performers don’t rest or stop to admire their shots. While they may relish their top-tier ranking, the immediate question becomes: “What do we do to get better?” The top performers find answers to this question and adopt the answers throughout the firm.
5. Accountability Rules
Partners are accountable for client service actions. As discussed above, partners are fully expected to meet their client service objectives throughout the year. Leadership partners are swift and precise in letting partners know they may have missed a planned commitment and offer help in delivering on this commitment—quickly. Partners are reminded of the importance their commitment has to the firm.
6. Client Feedback Tells Them How They Are Doing so They Can Be the Best
Few tools are more powerful than client feedback. Asked properly, clients will tell you exactly what they want and expect from you. Clients will also tell you about your weaknesses and points of frustration. This feedback is your road map to superior client service. Without feedback you are guessing. The top performers boast some of the most well designed and robust client feedback programs. These firms know the way you ask the question is just as important as asking itself—because it is so easy to get irrelevant answers which don’t help client service and leave attorneys skeptical of client feedback.
7. It’s a Priority
The BTI Client Service 30 give client service top billing. Client service is a discussion point in almost every part of the firm: at partner meetings, at practice meetings, and partners discuss their client service objectives in their annual goals.
8. It Starts with the Partners
The top performers start with the partners. Everyone in a law firm knows the partners influence the rest of the firm in their behaviors—and are on the front line of client service. These firms only introduce client service training and activities to staff and associates after the partners are fully trained and metrics developed. This partner-first system is designed to support partner behavior instead of operating independent of their behavior.