The customer service imperative – a wake-up call for law firms

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Qamar Anwar, managing director of First4Lawyers on why claimant law firms need to stay on top of the new realities of customer service in the legal sector

If consumers already expect to be able to compare and contrast price, service and guarantees before buying every day consumer goods, why shouldn’t they expect the same of legal services?

Many legal services providers fail to realise that this phenomenon applies to them – and they are missing out on new business as a result.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) wants to improve transparency of both price and service quality in the legal market so that consumers can more accurately judge what they are buying and from whom they should buy it. But many law firms aren’t able to meet this demand and for them, they are running short of time to get to grips with customer service.

Our recent report, For whom the bell tolls – The customer service imperative, identified several beacons of best practice in the profession that demonstrate the changes that can be made to create a customer journey that delivers results.

In a straw poll we conducted as part of our report, just 26% of law firms surveyed said they used online feedback sites to gain client feedback. In addition, 61% of firms said they try to better understand their customers but recognise they still have some way to go.

We believe that law firms need to:

Offer a fully-automated online capability: Many consumers now expect automation in their dealings with service providers. Even if they value face-to-face contact at the start of the process, they don’t want to have to keep meeting up or calling if they can avoid it.

Further, solicitors need to realise that many transactional parts of the lawyer/client relationship can be done better, quicker and more cost-effectively by taking the lawyer out of the relationship. We don’t believe that robots will completely take over, however; it’s all about offering choice. If a client wants the human touch, then that’s what you give them.

Accept that comparison websites will be the norm: They are in many sectors already and both the CMA and the Legal Services Consumer Panel are very keen on such websites gaining ground in the legal market.

Many law firms view comparison and review websites as the start of a race to the bottom where they will only ever be judged on price. Equally they feel that because they offer a much more subjective service, as opposed to selling a tangible product, clients will simply mark them down on service for the wrong reasons. An obvious example being that a case fails because of the law, not because of bad advice.

We all want positive reviews but the reality is that all reviews benefit a business depending on how you respond to them.

Understand that the client manages the customer journey: In the age of the empowered customer, the interactions your customer makes with your business and the choices they make cannot be managed. A complete change of mind set is required, along with a great deal of flexibility.

Understand that big data will drive everything: While you might not be able to manage the customer journey, you can understand it. Big data – loosely defined as high volume, high velocity, complex data that usually requires highly specialised skills and technology to process – has been harnessed to great effect by retailers and its use is spreading across other sectors.

Here at First4Lawyers, we have embraced it too and it has delivered significant marketing improvements. We began with detailed research and persona building of our claimants to understand the differences and unique characteristics between the types of people that make a compensation claim. In turn, we reviewed our website presence, TV campaigns and digital marketing structure and fundamentally reviewed how and where we go to market.

The lesson here is that you can clearly articulate specialist areas of practice and profile the right people to show how you can help a client. However, appearing in the right place, at the right time, and with the right product, can be the big difference.

Don’t ignore collaboration: Many big brands have made collaboration work – think Costa Coffee and Waterstones or Apple Pay and MasterCard. Law firms need to be alive to the possibilities that collaboration can bring.

If you don’t, you can be sure someone else will.

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