Greater Than Zero: Client Experience Redefines Value
By Jill Huse
October 27, 2022 | 5-minute read
Client Services Internal Client Communications and Feedback External Client Communications and Feedback Content Type Article
Do you know what WTG – WTP = PV > 0 means? It is a simple equation and one that all law firms should be addressing as it relates to the value of client relationships.
The equation is defined as What They Get – What They Paid = Perceived Value.
If the value your client perceives is not greater than zero, where it should always be, you are at risk of losing the relationship. That begs the question: Is your firm just meeting client expectations or is it exceeding them?
With firms continuing to identify ways to differentiate themselves, providing a stellar client experience has become a competitive endeavor. There are also several major factors at play that will influence the overall direction of industry growth and retraction. For the purpose of this article, let’s focus on three of the most prevalent and hear what industry leaders have to say about these key points.
Arguably, the most pressing issue currently facing the legal industry is retention and workplace culture. In most cases, these are internally focused efforts that have had a significant impact on client relations. Over the last two-plus years, law firm culture has been noticeably dissolving and most have not figured out how to rebuild it. This is a disservice to clients who are not reaping the benefits that come with having strong teams in place working on their behalf.
“Corporate legal departments are struggling with the same workforce issues as everyone else — an exhausted workforce and a highly competitive labor market,” Kristen Leis, chief marketing and business development officer at Parker Poe, says. “Hiring, training and retaining is requiring a lot of time and attention from our clients. They need their outside law firms to focus on what they do best — keep their legal department’s eye on the horizon for legal risks that could have a significant impact on their company.”
This is an insightful observation given the talent crunch that all businesses are facing right now. It is not just about internal retention, but also understanding how these issues affect clients.
How we deliver on the client experience is related to successfully creating and implementing processes and efficiencies. With in-house legal departments and buyers of legal services now savvier and more demanding of new and improved solutions, firms must find ways to keep costs low while maximizing impact.
“There is a continued, and perhaps heightened, expectation for efficiency in operations,” Justin Portaz, chief marketing and business development officer at Jenner & Block, says. “Throughout the pandemic the pace of work quickened, as responsiveness was critical in an ever-changing landscape, and those same expectations remain. An increased reliance on and comfort with technology will drive law firms toward faster adoption in an effort to create a more efficient and cost-effective work environment, with more selective business travel, as just one example.”
The talent shortage is helping compound this issue, while also providing businesses with an opportunity to think differently and put the systems in place that will improve the collective experience.
The client experience is based in communication, asking for and acting on feedback, and providing the counsel and judgement that clients want and need to prosper. Think about what your firm is currently doing to engage clients in a meaningful way that helps their respective businesses grow. Becoming a true partner to your clients is the fastest and most authentic way to enhance client loyalty.
Leis shared one way Parker Poe has been successful through investing in client success.
“More quality communication is wanted as firms and clients continue to demand efficiency,” Leis says. “Investing in learning the client’s business and genuinely caring about their long-term success is key.”
Understandably, coming out of a global pandemic has changed the way we think and behave. Some positive and unexpected outcomes have helped attorneys build this trusted partnership with their clients.
“A beneficial outcome of the pandemic is the way our lawyers are reaching beyond their legal skills to support their clients,” Erin Meszaros, chief client service officer of Eversheds, says. “They are really getting to know their clients and understand all that may be facing them both professionally and personally. Getting involved in charities that their clients may support, helping connect the needs of their children and families to those who can assist and offering to take some of the load off so that our clients can focus on their own mental well-being are just a few ways we are seeing this. Being a great lawyer is still at the top of their list, but the empathy they have developed to truly understand their clients’ needs and become that trusted advisor has never been more prominent.”
What can be put into practice today to help strengthen these partnerships and exceed expectations? Here are a few recommendations:
- Provide connectivity, training and networking to help develop strong teams, increase attorney and employee retention, and improve client satisfaction. But, be sure to not neglect your internal corporate culture.
- Engage your clients in the conversation. Ask for their opinions, preferences and feedback while building efficiencies to meet their needs.
- Be open to new ideas and solutions. Ask everyone who works with clients and your clients for their input. Invest in your client’s comprehensive experience.
How does your firm measure up? Remember, client experience is not just a buzzword — it is the lifeblood of your firm and requires consistent focus and attention. When in doubt, always go back to WTG – WTP = PV > 0. The firms that thrive the most in the coming years will be the ones that develop true partnerships with their clients and achieve a perceived value greater than zero.