Andy Cullwick, head of marketing at First4Lawyers, reveals the results of the Making Your Customers Happy whitepaper, a look at how personal injury and other law firms are working to improve service satisfaction
Good customer service has been the lynchpin of any good business since… well, since business began. The well-used phrase, ‘the customer is always right’—coined by sales pioneer and Earl of Oxford Street, Harry Selfridge—dates back more than a century.
But if the customer is always right, that implies there is something wrong, something that needs changing. Wouldn’t it be better if the customer was just happy all along?
Our seventh annual whitepaper, Making Your Customers Happy, looks at that very subject. Five years on from our 2016 report, For Whom The Bell Tolls: The Customer Service Imperative, we decided to revisit the topic and see how things have changed.
In an age where consumers are increasingly likely to go online and see what others are saying about a product or service before committing their business, one of the things we looked at was whether law firms are placing the emphasis they should on delivering a good customer experience.
We commissioned IRN Research to gather the views of 100 firms, a mix of personal injury and general consumer practice. Although there was no clear trend, 41% said they did consider customer service to be as important as satisfactorily resolving their case.
Compare that to five years ago and it’s clear firms have really upped their game.
Even more encouraging is the fact that more than half (56%) say they understand the customer journey and have mapped out all their interactions. A majority of 86% require fee earners to adhere to service standards, with 66% providing them with customer training, and 82% also have standards for speed.
When shopping around for any service, what are the main selling points? Alongside quality and speed, I’d say cost. Thanks to pressure put on firms by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to fulfil regulatory requirements for price and service transparency, the last three years have seen a major shift. Research, jointly commissioned last year by the CMA, the Legal Services Board and the Ministry of Justice, found the number of providers that put pricing information online had jumped from 11 to 73%.
In addition, 61% of the personal injury firms we spoke to and 46% of those in general practice said they made agreeing costs at the outset a priority. It’s common sense. Think about the other things you spend money on—houses, cars, holidays, groceries. You wouldn’t buy them without knowing the cost upfront, so why should legal services be any different?
Many lawyers may yearn for the days when they were judged on their legal work alone, but times are changing—and customers’ behaviour with it. Word of mouth recommendations still exist, but that’s now done on sites such as Trustpilot and ReviewSolicitors.
That said, one of the most surprising findings from our research was firms’ attitudes to online reviews, which many of us set so much store by when buying other products or services. Less than a quarter (24%) of those surveyed said they respond to every review and 13% only to positive ones.
It’s a competitive market and people are now much more likely to shop around, especially when that can be done from the comfort of their sofa. In fact, research by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) last year revealed that 59% of people would now consider using a lawyer anywhere in the country, recognising that they no longer needed to see them in person.
There is still something to be said for being able to discuss matters face-to-face, especially those of a personal nature, but there is work that can be done here too. In a world where so many of us are time-poor, lots of law firms—more than half (52%) of those in personal injury—are now offering evening and weekend opening so customers don’t have to factor the time into their own working day.
Given the obvious progress made, it will be interesting to see how the third of firms (34%) that are still more focused on getting work in and matters completed than on the customer experience will respond.
Both are intrinsically linked and, in the long term, those who fail to realise that will suffer.