Are Irish law firms losing potential business?

This is a Guest Post from a friend of Evolve Marketing, Leza Nutley from Insight 6, who talks about how only 9% of law firms surveyed followed up on initial enquiries from potential clients.

Are Irish Law Firms Losing Business?


"A study by Customer Experience Specialists, insight6 has revealed that Irish law firms could be missing out on potential clients by failing to follow up on enquiries.


The research conducted in 2018 highlighted several areas where firms could improve the way they handle enquiries. According to David Maister, (Managing the Professional Service Firm, 2003) “every professional firm must satisfy the three goals of service, satisfaction and success if it is to survive”. How you handle the enquiries coming into your firm is vitally important in this day and age when service is key to a client’s decision making. And yet, many law firms don’t invest in helping their people have the right skills, systems and processes they need to effectively handle leads.


The nationwide survey tested the standards of 18 law firms and measured the response to email and phone enquiries. More than 60 interactions were carried out using enquiries based on common issues such as property purchase, business start-up, employee issues, commercial property, wills, family law and personal injury. The researchers made contact via email and telephone to the office and assessed the journey based on a questionnaire that sets the standard for new client engagement.


The Good & The Bad


Although the researchers reported positively about website content and ease of sending an enquiry, only 35% of the enquiries were responded to within four hours. If a potential client has reached out to other firms, (s)he will be more likely to give the business to the one that responds most quickly. In addition to this, only a third of these enquiries resulted in a telephone conversation with a fee earner.


When you consider that potential clients are used to super quick and efficient service from the likes of Amazon, which is now setting the benchmark, this research does show that there are “green shoots” when it comes to client experience within the legal sector. Simple disciplines such as responding quickly and being more personal by picking up the phone are easy ways to drive more conversion and increased turnover.


The phone enquiry programme overall was not much better than the email experience. On contacting the firms’ main switch boards, a polite and enthusiastic response was only noted for 67% of the calls, which is disappointing given that this is the first point of contact for new and sometimes existing clients. Only for 50% of enquiries did the receptionist ask questions to understand the client needs and only 40% of the time was it confirmed who the researcher was being put through to. This made these transactions seem cold and impersonal and that the call was not valued.


Feedback


When the researcher did finally engage with a fee earner, the feedback was that the interaction was professional and informative but there was only an attempt to explain the benefits of the firm and what they could do for the clients during 24% of the transactions. Unfortunately selling skills like this need to improve if a firm is to secure new clients and maximise new revenue.


The most alarming insight from this research though was the rate of follow up with the client after the initial discussion. Where relevant, only 9% of the firms sampled picked up the phone to the researcher after a few days, reminded them who they were and asked if the researcher would like to proceed. This statistic is on par with our UK counterparts according to the insight6 Client Journey Programme in 2018.


Contacting a law firm can be a daunting task, and in reality, most people don’t know what they need. It is the responsibility of the firm to show the client that they want to help them and give them the confidence that they can help. In addition to this, 10 of the interactions offered a business opportunity for another practice area and only one fee earner actually offered to refer a colleague.


CX Strategy


Having a robust CX strategy is not just about the new client experience though. Talking to your existing clients and regularly asking for feedback is a great way to nurture the relationship, identify their requirements in other practice areas and identify potential problems which can be resolved early on. It is also a great way to gather testimonials and motivate your team. Last year I met with the managing partner of an Irish law firm and I asked what feedback he receives from his clients. He explained that they receive a 96% excellent rating from their clients at the end of the matter.


However, when I asked what percentage of clients are asked, he confirmed that 10% of their clients receive a feedback form with the response rate being 3%. I didn’t have the heart to ask him if he thought it would be useful to understand how the other 97.7% feel.

This example highlights the biggest issue facing law firms today.


They are either too scared to ask, don’t know how to or don’t think they need to listen to all their clients all of the time. So why, compared to all other business sectors are law firms so poor at the feedback game? Complacency, too busy, not skilled, can’t find the right partner to help? The truth is, most firms think they are really good at CX when in fact they are getting left behind. However, it is not about getting left behind other firms. It is about the whole sector being left behind society as consumers experience exceptional service experiences elsewhere.


Leaders in firms need to understand that those raising the customer experience bar sit outside their sector and that is the place to look for inspiration. When British Airways introduced the lie flat bed, they looked at the luxury boat industry to find a solution. If they had asked their own engineers, it would never have happened. What is also inevitable is that the internet and the “disruptors” will come more into play and take their market share of enquiries and then start dominating aspects of the legal landscape that have been “commoditised”. Excellent client service delivery and measurement plays a key role here as a differentiator.


On a final note, it would be remiss of me to talk about client experience and not mention your internal client – your team. Ultimately, the client experience will be impacted by how the team feel about their workplace and their job satisfaction levels. Climate surveys can be daunting for individuals in leadership roles as they may receive feedback that they are uncomfortable with, but it is important to give your team a voice in a constructive and confidential manner.


With a decrease in the last 10 years of newly qualified solicitors, an increase in inhouse roles, and arrival of UK firms putting pressure on demand for talent, getting closer to your teams and finding out what will improve their work life has never been more important. However, it is essential that the feedback is shared with the team and that action is taken so that the team see that they are making a difference to the business and they play an important part in the future of the firm."


If you would like to find out if your firm has CX Factor contact leza.nulty@insight6.com

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