Posted by Komal Joshi of Legal Futures Associate Planned Departure
Engagement – something which brands talk about, consumers want more of and now lawyers are striving to achieve.
However, as most law firms will acknowledge, somewhere between will writing and probate, there is a raft of opportunities when clients require legal advice, yet there is frequently a real disconnect from one such occurrence to the next.
Unlike other service industries that focus their client retention campaigns around maintaining a high level of engagement, law firms are better known for maintaining a low profile.
As a consequence, the typical client-solicitor journey may be quite sporadic, which is why it is worth taking a closer look at how legal practices could shift away from deploying industrial age business models and look to develop greater customer loyalty instead.
Consumer brands, of course, have focused on achieving this for decades. In fact they have refined it down to the art of creating positive customer experiences. What the legal sector now needs to do is place a higher value on their actual brand, on growing and developing that brand and on communicating its values clearly and ethically.
There needs to be a mechanism in place which aligns the corporate brand with the desired client experience, and this should be built into the very fabric of the firm.
In effect this is nothing new. Last year, independent consulting group BTI ran in-depth interviews with 4,000 in-house counsel, 250 law firm partners and 200 business executives in the US. By their own assessment, those law firms they spoke with gave themselves a score of 6.93 on marketing and business development and a 7.82 on client service (on a scale of 1 to 10). BTI noted that most firms probably need to earn a grade of 8 or better to be competitive.
So the big challenge centres around improving investment in marketing and business development.
This will require a change in law firm culture that effectively puts more and more value on business development as a standalone growth strategy. As a consequence there will need to be a shift towards highlighting service and deliverables that allow clients to interact more readily with the firm, rather than give a sense that every interaction with the firm is billable.
For example, partners can uncover new business leads through a combination of client communications, coaching, and strategic selling through to providing clients with templates that they can re-use in the future, and ensuring that engagement is maintained across multiple touchpoints.
It is down to law firms to ensure that they are managing and actually exceeding their clients’ expectations. That will not only create engagement, it will create long-term loyalty and, ultimately, greater differentiation.
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