For your law firm to compete in today’s market, you must be progressively customer-centric and priortise your client relationship management. This means more than being responsive and tailoring strategies for individual clients. It’s about ensuring that your firm evolves the operations mentality to focus more on client needs throughout their lifecycle – from intake to matter conclusion.
It may sound obvious, but in order to meet client demands, you must first clearly understand what those demands are. By engaging with your client and asking the right questions at the start, your firm will be better equipped to provide the exceptional service clients expect. Three of the most common things clients want include requests for:
- Flexible fees – but don’t make assumptions around cost and budgeting concerns
- Transparency – clients can have different reasons for demanding more visibility and different ideas of what it looks like
- Project management – be aware that clients increasingly want to feel involved
1. Flexible fees
The mere mention of “fees” might lead one to believe that client concerns revolve purely around cost-cutting and budgeting issues. The reality, however, may be more complex.
Perhaps clients are interested in financial solutions like working within a fixed cost. Or there may be a fee structure they already have in mind. There may also be services that the client is ultimately just unwilling to pay for.
Determining exactly what the client is asking for when they say they want flexible fees comes down to having a detailed conversation. Clients want a firm that both listens to their needs and responds accordingly. If they feel that a firm is eager to understand and collaborate to find mutually agreeable options, that customer-oriented approach may be just as critical to winning the work as the ability to come up with a suitable budgetary solution.
A request for transparency over matter status, progress and activity may feel like a challenge at first. Is it even possible to give a client a glimpse behind the curtain of such complex processes? Rather than dismissing the request or explaining the technological difficulty inherent in acceding to it, try to understand why clients are asking for transparency.
One reason may be a result of a mistake or misstep by a previous firm. This client may have their guard up. By addressing this head-on, you can alleviate those concerns.
Another reason may be that clients want to be a part of an ongoing conversation with you until the task is completed – and beyond that. One solution may be as simple as using legal project management software such as HighQ to give clients access to information and materials specific to their matters.
“Giving clients that transparency so they can see everything in real time for themselves … is really valuable,” says Carol Phillips, Partner at UK law firm Foot Anstey, which uses HighQ to deliver a number of innovative use-cases to better serve its clients. “It’s about demonstrating proactivity on our part, making us more accountable to clients, and delivering services in a different way.”
In the post-lockdown era, hybrid work is now a standard way of doing business. No longer do you and your client need to be in the same physical location for collaboration or for visibility. Regardless of where each party is, you can remain in regular, high-level communication. While transparency can help you demonstrate your value to the client, determining what exactly that means to each of your clients specifically can be the difference between retaining and losing their future work.
3. Project management
Clients today often want to feel involved in every step of the process. They expect to be treated more as a colleague than a client: they don’t want to be considered as end users, and that means having a handle on project management.
Simply being able to access the deal room and see who is working on their file can go a long way towards personalising your firm’s services. Knowing that important documents are also being held there securely is vital. Additionally, clients may want to make a substantial personal investment in the project management plan’s success, and the best way to accomplish this is to give them oversight of their law firm’s progress in real-time.
They may already be familiar with the process and want to be up to speed on details such as who the project manager is, what the budget for the project is, and how the workflow is being directed on a weekly or daily basis. With the right legal project management tool in place, clients will be in a position to know what stage their attorneys are at and be aware of any problems or opportunities that occur – all while having the confidence of knowing that their documents are secure throughout the progress of the project.
Make client intake a positive experience
It’s become trite to say that clients are more demanding than ever. But it’s a truth that deserves more than a knee-jerk reaction from law firms. By asking probing, meaningful questions as part of the intake process, your client will feel respected and heard. It allows you the opportunity to truly understand their needs while managing expectations upfront.
Having these conversations at the outset creates value for all parties: value that can be the key to a long-term, successful business relationship.