Want to learn new ways to grow your practice and develop new business? Ask your clients.
Ask them what you’re doing right and how you can improve. Ask if there are other ways you can help them. Ask if they have friends or relatives who could use your services.
You can do this through a formal survey or an informal chat. You can do it by email or an online questionnaire. You can even do it the old-fashioned way – face-to-face.
“Every firm needs some form of a client feedback program,” says law firm marketer Jim Jarrell in this article from Attorney at Work. “How your particular program will look depends on your firm’s goals, size, resources and budget.”
Want a Pro Practice Playbook to guide you on everything from client relations to cloud computing? Join the Alta Pro Lawyers RPG and get free access. Learn how to join here.
One important point: don’t wait until the case is over to ask how you’re doing. By then it’s too late to make a course correction, and you might well have lost a great client.
Instead, start on day one. Ask how they learned about you. Was it easy to schedule an appointment? Were they greeted appropriately? Then keep the dialogue going.
Keep the Survey Simple
The best client surveys are short and sweet. If they’re too long and complicated – or require more than a few minutes to complete – you won’t get many responses.
Use email – it’s free and fast. Some lawyers send weekly or twice-monthly “checking in” emails to keep a finger on their client’s pulse. These messages ask if the client is satisfied with how their case is being handled. The client can reply with three possible answers (example 1, 2 or 3):
- 1 means “I’m completely satisfied with your services, everything is going great.” What you do: Keep on keeping on.
- 2 means “I’m sort of satisfied, things are so-so.” What you do: Call the client promptly. Find out what’s wrong. Do what’s needed to earn a 1 score.
- 3 means “I’m unhappy, things are terrible.” What you do: See that gigantic red flag? Take action now, or suffer the consequences later.
“There is no one-size-fits-all methodology,” says Stacy Smith, director of marketing for a New York firm and a client survey expert. “Focus on what is and will be important to your clients.”
8 Tips for Client Surveys
Here are some other suggestions for designing an effective client feedback program:
- Don’t take it personally. You can’t please all clients all the time. Some will enter your office unhappy and leave the same way.
- Learn from negative comments. What you want is honest feedback, not false flattery. Constructive criticism – on everything from your fees to the selection of magazines in the lobby – is infinitely more valuable than an offhand compliment.
- Take positive feedback and run with it. When a client thinks you are awesome, ask them to share that opinion with others.
- Use feedback to improve your technology. Ask your client if it was easy to use your web portal. Get their opinion on your email service and social media platforms. “Use the feedback to enhance your services, become knowledgeable on how to better your practices, and improve the details,” writes consultant Christophe Pin on Small Business Bonfire.
- Become more inclusive. As you study your feedback, look for ways to expand your target market. Could your messaging be improved? Are you speaking to some people while excluding others – perhaps in subtle ways you haven’t even considered?
- Look for new business. “In many instances, the actual outcome of [a client survey] is to learn far more about a client’s broader needs, opening the door for yet more work across more practice areas, says Ian Turvill, regional chair of the Legal Marketing Association. “So, the first consideration for any ‘doubters’ in your firm is to acknowledge that this exercise supports revenue growth.”
- Survey former clients. Just because the file is closed doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stay in touch. Contact the client to see if all is well. Let them know you’re there if needed.
- Follow up. “Otherwise, your clients may assume that their feedback was meaningless,” writes Pin. “That assumption could hurt your relationship.”
Do you use client surveys? What works and doesn’t work for you?
When you’re a member of the Alta Pro Lawyers RPG, you have a Pro Practice Partner on call when you need help. Learn how to join here.