“How could we have changed? We have done so much.”
“Our score dropped and we haven’t changed a single thing in our program.”
“What made our score drop, we have made client service a real priority?”
2017 saw 53% of The BTI Client Service 30 drop off the list and be replaced by other firms who are on the rise. This change—the biggest in 10 years—prompted a wave of questions from law firms (see the samples above) to BTI when we released The 2017 BTI Client Service 30 along with the BTI Client Service A-Team 2017. These firms want to know how their performance, or any client service performance, can change when they have been working so hard to develop a client service culture at their firms. The answers come in 4 major categories:
Changing Client Needs
Your clients’ needs change every 18 to 24 months—like clockwork. Law firms fall in and out of alignment with client goals on a regular basis. The law firms who align themselves with and support client goals will see client service improve. Law firms who don’t align themselves see their client service performance decline when client goals change and the law firm becomes out of step. The only tool available to learn clients’ ever-changing goals is to ask once and confirm often.
Competitor law firms have a large impact on your client service ranking and performance. Numerous law firms serving your clients will initiate and invest in client service programs. These investments tend to boost scores and rankings for the firm making the changes and push rankings of competitors down. However, many law firms will not maintain this investment and will see their scores drop when the client service program loses steam—therefore leading a new round of competitors to rank higher.
Sporadic versus Enduring Client Service Initiatives
A select number of law firms start client service initiatives every year. They treat these programs as annual initiatives instead of an ongoing part of the business. This temporary investment results in surges in client service which garner high rankings in the year implemented and much lower rankings when the program ends and firm partners no longer show the same enthusiasm for client service.
Rising Client Expectations—The Better You Get the More Clients Expect
Clients have high expectations for law firm client service. And, they only get higher. Once a client experiences their law firm’s improved client service they expect improvement to accelerate. Law firms who do not continually improve their client service delivery will see their rankings drop as they no longer meet client expectations. This makes you look like your performance has dropped and makes competitors look better by comparison.
You can increase your client service strength through well-designed client feedback. “Feel good” client feedback where firms ask how they are doing won’t give you a clue. The feedback which probes performance against competitors—both quantitatively and qualitatively—will tell you exactly where you stand, what you need to do, and brings the added benefit of motivating the daylights out of attorneys. You will also be using the same type of feedback used by the long-term best-performing firms.
We discussed how and why client service changes and what the long-term leaders do differently during our annual webinar—BTI’s Market Outlook and Client Service Review 2017—which you can view here: https://youtu.be/GLFliIZhGtk. If you would like to discuss how to integrate this kind of high-powered client feedback into your firm to drive new business and improve client service contact me here.