Client culture in law firms has changed significantly over the past 10 years and client satisfaction is a priority for the majority of firms. At SAS Daniels, clients are demanding more information on progress, greater visibility on price, faster turnaround times, and flexibility on access to legal advice. And why not? Technology is fuelling this, but it is not the only driver of change. We have become a more mature, responsible, open and democratic society. The legal sector is behind others in facing this challenge.
How are law firms responding to new demands in client satisfaction?
Modern clients are tech-savvy and are used to a very high degree of customer satisfaction from all other sectors. Law firms can no longer ignore this change and will lose clients if they cannot offer the level of customer experience demanded, regardless of their ability to practise the law.
Clients and the general public are more informed, more critical and less patient. Information is available to people simply by “Googling” the question, such that when they talk to us, they feel they may know the solution and how to act. This can lead to questions of how we are qualified to know more, how we will be conducting a matter and as the matter progresses, what we have done so far. Such questions challenge the traditional approach to fees that law firms have enjoyed in the past, to the extent that at SAS Daniels we now actively think about value to the client in pricing each engagement. We consider the benefits of what we can provide and the value of this to the client. We then measure our performance in how effective and time-efficient we have been in conducting the work.
Strengths and weaknesses to the fore
It is not that clients are now more used to a high degree of customer satisfaction – it is that they are more liable to analyse and consider this. I don’t think our clients in the past, pre-dating the influence of technology, were any less satisfied, probably the opposite. It is that these days they are asked to analyse every little bit of the service, all these elements are compared to every legal service provider in the market – and that focus is on the weaknesses rather than the strengths.
At SAS Daniels, our strengths have always been:
- Our people: the quality of their technical and personal skills;
- Our pricing: we look at the value to the client;
- Our specialisms: we ensure our staff are trained as experts in their chosen fields.
These principles have enabled us to build and maintain excellent client relationships. It is this area and that of loyalty that today’s technology-driven culture is impacting.
What are the challenges in meeting client satisfaction demands?
Technology has changed one of the basic concepts of life – communication. Business and personal interaction is now conducted through mobile devices such as email, text and social media sites. Many businesses are also ‘open’ night and day in our 24 hour open community. Technology has also opened the door to the concept of Client Self Service. Where clients are able to do more of the work themselves at a time that suits them.
But we are in a transition in our society, with greater choice and increased client segmentation. There are clients who still want the traditional law firm service of a face to face meeting and are prepared to pay more for this. Others prefer a totally online solution. And there are different reasons why clients choose certain routes. It is a question of service quality not just the price of the entire customer experience that influences client satisfaction. Solicitors need to re-think the whole interface with the client – why are they coming into the office to see us? What can we offer as a service to them for doing so?
How can technology help?
It is clear that technology can help us and we need to evolve. Technology will help us provide a better service, be more efficient and provide a greater value to the client. For example Client Self Service via our SAS Protect Online system. An online HR administration system that enables us to drive efficiency, minimise administration through automation. It also increases the efficiency of communication by hosting documents on secure portals that are accessible only by the client.
With reference to the potential power of IBM’s ‘Watson’ taking over the roles currently performed by the solicitor, we would give three responses to this. Firstly, as mentioned above we are in a transitional and multi-segmented state of the client market. Secondly, this is about our own evolution and how we can use technology to improve administrative and analytical processes. Thirdly, there is still significant value in the senses we have as humans to see and understand client emotions, to comfort clients and to design and to argue for something better in the future. It could be said that Watson can make the most rational decisions based on history and data. However it cannot look at clients, understand their needs and interpret the information in a way that suits the client.
There is something about working in a team and having personal interactions that provides assurance. What we are doing now is expanding that team across society.
How are client relationships going to change and what can clients expect?
- Legal advisers need to listen to and understand each individual client. As well as their business, their personal situation, their challenges, how they work and the way they want to work.
- Law firms need to respond positively by developing operating models and communication solutions that enable both personal contact and remote, 24 hour interaction.
- Law firms need to research and target client sectors actively and ensure that legal advisers are the experts in their field. This will enable them to use their experience to help clients plan the value, price and timescale of a solution that is tailored their needs.
- Legal advisers need to be clear with the client from the start with regards to what needs to be done and how the relationship will work. Today’s technology driven and open society has changed the rules of engagement – and the client is aware of this.
- Maintain contact during and after the matter in a manner agreed with the client in advance. Offer the client support in other aspects of their business and personal challenges. (Where the firm or its additional relationships can help.)
Client relationship management is critical and the success of adopting new technology can only be as good as the process it supports.
For more information on why SAS Daniels are “No ordrinary law firm” and how we go the extra mile to help our clients, visit our page on “who we are“.
Or contact Russell Oseman, Chief Operating Officer for details of client satisfaction and service delivery across the firm.