Problems with communication continue to dog solicitors, the results of the largest-ever client research have shown, while the way they follow up potential leads is another area where major improvement is needed.
It said the profession could learn much from the retail sector as clients’ expectations from service providers were being moulded by what is happening there.
LawNet has pulled together two years of research involving nearly 25,000 client experience questionnaires and 1,100 mystery shops across its member community, which are part of the law firm network’s bespoke ISO standard.
Whilst clients were happy with their lawyers’ technical expertise and the outcomes that were delivered, there was demand for better speed of response and more upfront clarity on timescales and fees, along with regular progress reporting and fees updates.
The results showed that the price quoted for a job is one of the least important factors in the decision to appoint a firm – just 4% of respondents said it was the reason – with recommendation or previous contact being the most persuasive reasons, making customer satisfaction key to future growth.
The feedback also showed that advertising alone was not enough to convert customers, with only 3% saying this was an influencing factor. Qualitative feedback from mystery shopping showed that where follow-up processes were not adhered to, clients interpreted it as a lack of interest and firms were unlikely to convert the business.
Andrew McMillan, a consultant who is a former head of customer service at John Lewis, said: “This research is invaluable in providing the big picture to the sector and it underlines the bare truth of what customers are looking for when they buy legal services. It shows that the basics are the same as in any other sector for today’s sophisticated purchaser.
“Without those basics – or so-called ‘hygiene factors’ – in place, it’s impossible to make the leap into developing a real customer-focused personality.”
LawNet chief executive Chris Marston added: “Retailers have always seen customer experience as the key to success and profitability, whereas professionals still tend to focus on the technical.
“But in a world where clients can place an order online, choose a delivery slot and receive an almost instant e-mail despatch confirmation, those expectations are being brought into the legal sector and firms must do all they can to improve the customer journey. It’s about being easy to do business with.
“Some firms within the sector may be unwilling to acknowledge the similarities between themselves and retail operators, but after two years of research we’ve got a huge, robust set of data to learn from. We’ve seen members of the LawNet community implementing changes to respond to the findings, often turning to other sectors for good ideas to improve the client experience in their own businesses, and they are already seeing the benefits. It’s about being brave enough to face the facts.”
The research findings have been collated in a white paper. Click here to download it.