Thinking of your clients in everything you do is the first critical step towards running a more client-centred practice. The next time your law firm makes a new decision or tries a new process, think about how this may impact your clients. Always be on the look-out for opportunities to improve the experience your clients have with your firm.
Isn’t that just good customer service?
Having a client-centred approach can be very different to just good customer service. It typically does not have much to do with the legal side of your practice. Instead, you will have to focus on the little details that most lawyers simply ignore. However, you will find it is those details that will set your firm apart from the pack. In fact, we as a legal software provider came to this realisation a few years ago where an initial hire of a Marketing Manager proved that what we needed at the time was a more client-centred approach. To fix that, the Marketing Manager role at the time morphed into a Client Success role and has been tweaked quite a bit since then. We noticed the landscape changed and we had to move with it. That is what I feel is happening with Law Firms at the moment – those who move with this change will be the most resilient to competition and future economic hurdles. Referrals are not talked about as often these days in marketing, but there is much to be said about them in my view. The most effective and cheapest form of marketing. That is what a client-centred approach can do for you.
The second step to a client-centred approach is making sure your back-office processes are as efficient as possible. By automating activities such as matter management, document generation, invoicing, online payments and more through Legal Practice Management Software it allows you more time to focus on the client. In addition, integrations through that software with solutions such as InfoTrack, and Xero all allow you to reduce admin time.
To give you an example, we all know clients are impatient and expect you to be able to start work for them at the drop of a hat – not exactly possible. However, when utilising document generation software correctly you can get the ball rolling in a matter of minutes by quickly creating a matter for that client and, using an existing template, sending out a cost agreement with an estimate of the amount of work to be done. The software can email it directly to the client and file it away for you at the same time. Hasn’t taken much time out of your day, but what you have really done is shown the client that you do care about their work and you want to start the ball rolling as quick as possible – the ball is then in their court to get that signed and sent back to you.
Similarly, there is one area of practice management that we believe is simple yet often overlooked.
Having a client centred approach is about making sure that every area of the firm is working efficiently. Making sure that support tasks are assigned to support staff and not Solicitors or higher cost employees means two things:
- It makes the most financial sense
- It has a positive impact on client responsiveness and satisfaction as Solicitors are not bogged down with things others can do – they can bill out their time more appropriately which clients appreciate. Arguably more importantly though, they have more time to get back to clients and can more than likely take on a few more clients.
SLA’s or Service Level Agreements have existed in many customer service industries for decades, but we are starting to hear it ever so slightly more and more in the legal industry these days.
But how do you manage this effectively?
The key principle for law firms is being able to assign tasks not just to a user, but specifically to a matter.
Why does this make you more client-centred?
Legal work is often time sensitive. Clients will call/come in unexpectedly or a resolution you believed would be easy to reach drags out. If you do not have a process in place that breaks down each of the at least most obvious tasks involved in a matter it makes it very hard for someone like the Practice Manager to be able to re-assign tasks when the person assigned is either ill or taken up with other more pressing work. By simply having the tasks assigned and knowing what is complete, not started, in progress etc. for a particular matter means that whoever is managing the client experience side of things knows exactly what is outstanding and can keep matters moving along.
The quicker matters move along, the better experience the client will have.
There are so many other examples to give, but I think you get the point. The little things like this mean that your conversations with the client do not drag on, they are fast and efficient which isn’t just a good thing for your law firm. Clients want their interactions with you to be quick, rather than long and drawn out. The easier it is for them to interact with you, the more confident they feel in your abilities but also the more likely they are to return with their next matter and almost more importantly refer you to family and friends. That’s the foundation of a client centred approach.