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LOMA : Articles
Cost-Effective Marketing Tools:
ASK YOUR CLIENTS WHAT THEY THINK
By Patricia Yevics
Director, Law Office Management
Maryland State Bar Association, Inc.
Very often solo and small firm practitioners attend
conferences on marketing hoping that someone has invented some
type of tool that will help them "market" the way the
large firms do so that they can compete more effectively. Well,
there is a very effective tool that solo and small firm practitioners
can and should use regularly. It is a tool that many larger firms
are not using and this alone gives you an advantage.
That tool is a client survey. I know what you're thinking, "That's
it. A Survey. Tell me something new, something high tech, something
glitzy ." Sorry, but there is no better marketing tool to
improve client retention and increase client referrals than a
Anywhere from 50% to 80% of your new clients will come from referral
from current and former clients and most of your work will come
from additional matters from existing clients. If this is true
then you should be absolutely certain how you are perceived by
your current clients. Many national law firm marketing gurus believe,
as do I, that it is absolutely critical to determine what your
clients think of the service they have received from you. This
includes clients for whom you are currently providing service
and those whose cases or matters have been closed.
Some insights that can be determined from a client survey are:
- the level of satisfaction the client has with the work that
has been performed
- the client's perception of you and all of the employees he/she
- Whether the client would refer you other clients
- Whether the client would use your services again
- what suggestions would the client give to improve the level
- what criteria the client used in selecting you
- their needs for future legal services
- whether the client is aware of all the types of legal services
WAYS SURVEYS CAN IMPROVE YOUR PRACTICE
- It shows that you are interested in what your clients think.
Too often clients complain that we are not interested in their
opinions or that we do not take the time to find out what they
think. A survey will show that you are indeed interested in
their suggestions for improvement. One of the advantages we
give for using solo or small firms is because of more personalized
and individual attention. Soliciting clients' opinions proves
that you are serious about this.
- You can determine the level of client satisfaction with
Most of the matters we handle for clients are fairly routine
and we assume that simple because we performed the service that
the client was delighted with the service. Often that may be
true but unfortunately it is those times when the client was
not satisfied that causes a problem later. Most clients who
are satisfied with your service will not pass that information
on to others while those clients who are dissatisfied will tell
as many as ten other people even if they do not tell you.
Most people do not ask for an evaluation of their performance
because they are afraid to hear negative comments. Unfortunately
your ignoring the bad news will not keep unhappy clients from
telling other people who will then tell other people.
Consider the story of the disgruntled client who stood on a
busy intersection during rush hour traffic with a sign that
had his attorney's name and all of the client's complaints about
the lawyer. Even if the complaints were not true, the damage
had been done.
- You can uncover client interest in specific kinds of new
or additional services.
Unless you only practice one area of law there may additional
services that you clients may need which they may be unaware
that you provide. Very often a client will go to another attorney
for a different service because they were not aware that their
current attorney performed those services. Do not assume that
your clients are aware of all the services you provide.
Even if you only practice one area of law, it is still important
to ask clients about additional legal needs. This could give
you an opportunity to recommend another practitioner who will
return the favor when a client needs the services you provide.
- Motivating your staff to improve client service.
It is very important that your staff, no matter how small,
have the same commitment to quality service that you do. If
this is not true then you have the wrong people on your staff.
Since your staff will have as much, if not more, contact with
your clients as you do it is important that you share the information,
both positive and negative, received from the surveys with them
in order to improve the service. The surveys can also tell you
whether or not your staff has the same level of commitment to
quality service. The surveys will also give you the opportunity
to discuss areas for improvement with your staff.
METHODS FOR CONDUCTING SURVEYS
There are many ways to conduct client surveys. The methods can
be elaborate or simple. They can be performed by a third party
or by your office. For solo and small firm practitioners, it is
best to keep it simple. The method selected will be determined
on the scope of the information that the practitioner is requesting
and the time and resources available.
- Written questionnaires The written questionnaire is
the easiest, least time consuming and most cost-effective type
of survey. Depending on the number of clients or the type of
information being solicited, the practitioner may choose to
send it only to certain clients about a particular type of matter,
or to all clients to assess the overall performance of the firms
or just a random sample. The anonymity of the client completing
the questionnaire can be optional.
If the type of matter has a definite conclusion then you should
consider doing it at the end of the matter. If you are performing
recurring work, they can be sent at any time during the engagement.
- Telephone Surveys These are obviously more time consuming
and must be handled by some one who has excellent phone skills
and understands the importance of getting accurate information.
These should only be done for a few clients because of the time
involved. Each individual survey should take no longer than
fifteen minutes and should be limited in scope.
- Personal Interviews This is the most time-consuming
method and should be used for only small numbers of clients
to obtain in-depth information. The practitioner should conduct
the survey at the client's place of business at a convenient
time for the client. It is also necessary to make certain that
the client understands that he/she will not be billed for the
time. Although you may use written and telephone questionnaires
to inform the client of all the services provide, the personal
interview is to only be used to obtain the client's perceptions
and opinions about the firm. The client is to do all of the
talking. It is the practitioner's role simply to listen, something
that is not always easy to do. Since this is for information
gathering only, you should not defend or respond to any comments
made by the client.
Why if there are so many good reasons to conduct client surveys
do so few firms, both small and large, use them. Fear and arrogance.
We are afraid of hearing criticism and we are arrogant enough
to believe that we already know exactly what our clients think
or even worse, that we do not care what our clients think.
If you do choose to solicit you clients' opinions you must take
their perceptions very seriously and make every effort to act
on any suggestions they may give. Otherwise, it will simply
be a waste of valuable time.
USING CLIENT SURVEYS
Enclosed is a sample which you can use to customize your own survey
for your own client base.
The survey can be used for two main purposes. The first will be
to determine how well you meet the needs of your clients from
the moment your phone is answered until a matter is closed. Your
questions can be a specific as "Was the phone answered courteously?"
or as general as "Were you satisfied with our services?"
The second purpose will be for you to determine whether or not
your clients are aware of all the types of services you provide
and whether or not they have additional needs for which you can
be of assistance. Very often clients go to an attorney or firm
for one particular type of matter and have no idea that the firm
can assist them in other areas.
The first step in creating a survey is to decide exactly what
information you want from your clients, what type of information
you would like to give your clients (list of all your services)
and how you plan to use that information. Once these issues are
considered you can create a simple but effective client survey.
- Is the phone answered courteously?
- Is the phone answered promptly?
- Are you greeted courteously when you come to the office?
- Are you made to wait when you visit the office?
- Are you made to wait on hold when you call the office?
- Did you completely understand the fee arrangement at the beginning
of the matter/case/engagement?
- Were you made to feel comfortable to ask questions about your
- Were your questions answered to your complete satisfaction?
- Do you feel you were kept sufficiently informed about the
progress of your case?
- Were your phone calls returned promptly?
- Do you feel that you were charged fairly?
- Were you satisfied with the outcome of your case/matter/engagement?
- Would you choose our firm again for other matters?
- Would you recommend our firm to others for similar or other
- Please list any suggestions you have to improve our service
to our clients.
- How could we be better prepared to meet your needs in the
- For which other solutions to your legal , business or personal
problems would you consider using our help? Please check all
(List ALL of the services you provide)