In my previous blog post, I talked about how law firms have much in common with – of all things – philharmonic orchestras. Both are traditionally revered institutions with roots that are hundreds, if not thousands, of years old. However, because of changing times, both the traditional law firm and the classic municipal orchestra are finding themselves in trouble.
In the old days (i.e., 25 years ago), it was sufficient for law firms to operate pretty much as they always had. The better ones offered quality legal services at a fair price with a commitment to client service Similarly, there was a standard model for a city’s orchestra, and it had worked fairly well throughout the 20th century. While a few orchestras across the country made up the brightest stars that the others could only hope to emulate, most orchestras were able to find a solid, if not stellar, position in their communities in which they had a relatively consistent stream of patrons and revenues.
But newly arrived competitors can wreak havoc on one’s carefully laid plans, and today both orchestras and law firms are finding that just keeping that solid position is not as easy as it once was.
What does the future hold? To quote Nobel laureate Niels Bohr, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” And given all the ongoing change in both the legal profession and the marketing world, it must take a certain level of foolhardiness to attempt to tackle the subject of the future of legal marketing. And yet, there are sufficiently strong indications of where things are going that I felt I was on solid ground in my recent presentation, “The Future of Law Firm Marketing and Business Development.” Of course, I wasn’t predicting the imminent end of the world, or even The End of Lawyers (although I did mention Richard Susskind’s excellent and thought-provoking book of the same name).
The theme for the June 9 presentations at the Denver Bar Association was The Future of the Law, and the format was in the style of the tech-industry’s fast-paced, five-minute Ignite presentations. Obviously, it’s absurd to try to address such a complex topic in such a superficial way. But it did make it fun. And even given the mandated 15-second limit for each slide, and the speaker slip-ups and the lack of time to correct misstatements, some points worth considering can nonetheless emerge within the Ignite format. But don’t just take my word for it; see what you think and share your thoughts.
You may be familiar with the time-honored marketing maxim that it’s eight times more difficult, time-consuming and expensive to find a new client than it is to get additional business out of a current client.
So, given the compelling opportunities waiting to be targeted in and around your current clients and harvested through exceptional client service, why do so many of us, when we’re thinking about biz dev, focus only on those with whom we do not have a current business relationship? That is, why do we spend valuable time in the inefficient pursuit of a 12-point elk that we just know is somewhere out there in the wilderness, even as we refuse to make a priority of returning our current clients’ phone calls in a timely manner or otherwise making their client experience as positive as possible?
This behavior makes even less sense when we consider that by taking for granted our current clients, we increase the probability that they eventually will tire of what seems like a one-sided relationship and decide to look for someone who treats them better.
In fact, that’s exactly what happens all the time in the world of legal services. As Sally Schmidt says in Business Development for Lawyers: Strategies for Getting and Keeping Clients, there’s a big difference between client satisfaction and client loyalty.
Schmidt describes a Harvard Business Review-published study entitled, “The Loyalty Effect: The Hidden Force Behind Growth, Profits and Lasting Value.” Its authors found that between 65% and 85% of customers who had left a particular service provider reported that they did so despite being either ‘very satisfied’ or ‘satisfied’ with the services performed by the firm.
And why should this be important to you? Because it means that you need to focus on more than just satisfying your clients. Your clients are looking for more than simple satisfaction; they are looking to be delighted.
Delighted. That’s a strong word. Or maybe it seems like a weak word, one that perhaps you would never use. How often does anyone use the term ‘delighted’? Yet, isn’t that how you feel when you’ve had an excellent dinner out? Not only was the meal delicious, but there was something else – maybe several things – that together made for a delightful experience. The ambiance, the attention to detail, the customer service that went above and beyond the expected.
So, how would you describe your client service? Better yet, how would your clients describe it? Do you know? We’ll discuss the importance of client audits another time – and in future posts we’ll examine some of the essential steps to building excellent relationships with your clients – but for now, think about the ever-increasing competition in legal services and what that means to the future of your business.
How are you differentiating yourself and your firm from your competitors? Exceptional client service can be a decided advantage to a law firm, because it can mean the difference between clients who are merely satisfied and those who are truly loyal. You want clients who are both. Delight them.