Better client retention through better lawyer-client relationships, Part 2

Part 1 of this post, at Better client retention through better lawyer-client relationships, demonstrated that the right communication with clients is important to preserving the lawyer-client relationship for both small and large firms. While most lawyers believe that they are doing a fine job, too many clients are dissatisfied with the type of communication they receive. While lawyers saw a good explanation of law and of fees to be valued communication, clients wanted more updates, better listening, and less arrogance. Not even positive legal results saved lawyers with poor communication skills from the real possibility of being replaced.

But if lawyers are rather oblivious to their communication shortcomings, as the data suggests, how can they change? There are a few things you can do to analyze whether a problem exists and then to address it.

Start with a look at your objective data. Has revenue from “steady” clients shown a decline? Has it been ages since you’ve heard from certain clients? Have referrals slowed?

What do clients want from their lawyers?

In a study by BMI Consulting reported in the article, “What do clients want from their lawyers?”, it was found that declining revenue too often went unrecognized as a sign of corporate client dissatisfaction.

These clients generally did not tell the demoted primary law firm of the

changes in status; they just spent less and less money with the primary law firm—

and more with another secondary law firm—until the law firms’ roles reversed.

According to BTI, most primary law firms did not recognize dwindling annual

billings as a red flag until it was too late…

The survey results reported by BTI indicate neither outcome nor cost of services were the most frequently mentioned causes of dissatisfaction.

Rather, 53% of corporate counsel expressed dissatisfaction with communication from the previously primary law firms.[1]

Of course, not every client dissatisfied with communication is in the process of jumping ship. Your data may not show much. It could mean that you are already doing a fine job of communicating. But an absence of data is hardly conclusive. So, simply ask your clients.

Open the communication line – ask for client input

The best way to know if there is communication problem is to ask for client input. Email a short survey through a professional service such as Google or Survey Monkey that tallies results. And be sure to provide at least some text boxes for open-ended responses. While multiple-choice answers are easier to tabulate, they restrict replies and can produce misleading results. You might also have clients fill out surveys as they sit waiting to meet with you. There is always the option of stunning clients with a friendly call through which you glean the same information. Or, you might hold a social function and create the opportunity to speak informally. The objective is to open a line of communication that informs you about how well you are communicating. Just showing that you care enough to ask may set your firm apart and, in itself, aid in client retention.

[1] “What Do Clients Want From Their Lawyers?”,  Clark D. Cunningham, Journal of Dispute Resolution, (2013), Volume 1.