I promise I didn’t spend my honeymoon in Cornwall thinking about the legal sector and business generally. That would be tragic, and may well be the sort of thing that would lead to a very brief marriage.
However, when I got back to my desk and the joys of my working life a few things did occur to me.
We can fall into a trap- looking in very insular ways at the sector we serve, at the methods and processes which are specific to our market. I believe that in doing so we are missing out. I think this may be particularly the case for winning and servicing new business.
Think about client service and parallels with the hospitality industry who must surely have had things tougher than most other sectors.
Booking a table – almost every restaurant we wanted to visit had very slick online booking systems. They were easy to use, and provided a very quick and certain confirmation that we had a table. There was no need for ‘human’ interaction and it made me wonder whether customers might value the ability to book an appointment slot online, when googling legal services in an evening.
Surely firms could use a version of this method to engage with existing clients and potential new customers. The firm would specify slots of available time, and the load could be shared across a number of fee earners. I know that when booking a table, we were far more likely to book at our convenience, rather than having to call during specific hours to speak with someone. I suspect there is a large portion of a firm’s potential market who would think similarly when shopping around law firms to acquire services.
Which brings me onto customer reviews. It’s not so long ago that price transparency on websites was the big new thing for lawyers. But surely more than ever, the ideas from online shopping have relevance for the sector. The parallel with a service industry like hospitality is that service and customer experience play a key part in reputation. Every firm can perform its core legal business. They can write a Will. Or sell a house. Or litigate. However the differentiator is often not about price. What makes a firm stand out is how well they perform those services, what the customer experience is, and what the firm does to capture reviews and publicise them to win work.
When we were looking where to eat we would want to view a clear website, with the detail we needed (menus usually, and lists of cocktails!), and we would always consider some of the recent reviews and star ratings.
Finally, let’s think about that customer experience in more detail.
So we’ve gone online, searched for our restaurant (or lawyer), looked at their website, read their reviews, made a booking. In we go.
The variety of experience from that point on is huge. Someone who has booked a table (or decided to meet a lawyer to discuss a will for example) has only just started their journey. How are they greeted on arrival? The parallel here is the difference between being left standing with a mask on in the foyer for twenty minutes or being shown by a friendly and helpful person straight to your table.
Does your firm have processes to deal with people both remotely and face to face which make the client feel valued, not just on their first encounter, but then onward throughout their dealings? And at the conclusion do they look at the bill and say “the main course was expensive for what we got” or do they wax lyrical online about what incredible service and value for money they experienced?
One thing that law firms don’t need to worry about is the upset caused by eating at loads of these establishments and realising that the major efforts to get fit and lose weight before the wedding were decimated by the wonderful meals and drinks we enjoyed. I guess that’s another story entirely!
Alex Holt, Director of Business Development