If you’re looking for expert advice on how to take your practice to the next level, a good place to start is by asking your clients.
And these days – with platforms like Survey Monkey just a click away – it’s easier than ever to find out what clients think of the job you’re doing.
Here’s how to get going in four simple steps:
1. Why are client surveys important?
Every business should listen to its customers. This is true whether you’re selling iPhones, avocados or legal services. You want to know if your clients are happy when they leave your office – and, if so, why. That way, you can identify what’s working and keep doing it.
But it is even more important to know if they are unhappy. Otherwise you won’t know your weak spots, and you won’t be able to target specific aspects of your practice that need improvement.
Clients express their satisfaction in lots of ways. They say thank you. They pay their bills on time. They refer their friends to you. Similarly, they communicate their dissatisfaction in different ways. They dump you for another lawyer. They refuse to pay their bills. They sue you for malpractice.
The best – and easiest – way to find out if clients are satisfied is to ask them. Otherwise, you are just guessing.
And it is not enough just to ask. You also have to listen – really listen – to how they respond. Listening is a sign of respect. It shows you care. It builds relationships.
2. What kind of questions to include in your client survey?
This is the fun part. You can ask anything you want! But remember: the goal is to get honest feedback on practical ways to improve your business.
Lawyers whose practices are relatively new should focus on broad, general topics. Were we prompt in returning your call? Was it easy to find our office? Was parking convenient? Was the initial interview long enough (or too long)?
Lawyers who have been practicing awhile probably have some awareness of whether they’ve got the basics down pat. So they should zero in on more specific topics. Have you visited our new website? Do you read our client blog (or newsletter)? Did you get sufficient notice of court dates? How long did you have to wait before meeting with your lawyer? Was the lobby area comfortable?
You always want to know how clients heard about you and, if they were referred, who sent them. It is best to get this information in the initial interview, if not before. But if you don’t already have it, a client survey can do the trick.
Also, consider having two different surveys: one for new clients and another for return clients. Questions that are relevant for first-timers might be redundant for repeat business.
Don’t overwhelm the client with too many questions. Ten or twelve is probably the maximum. The fewer the better.
Click here for a list of 27 questions you might consider including in your survey.
3. How do you respond to criticism?
By not taking it personally, for starters. This is not about you. It is not an exercise in building self-esteem. It’s about your clients, and creating an awesome law practice that delivers consistent, top-quality service.
Don’t even use the word criticism. Call it constructive feedback.
Even so, it can be scary to open yourself up. You never know what people might say. You become vulnerable. That’s not easy – especially for lawyers who like being in charge. And if you’re worried about being judged by the case outcome – which may be out of your control – deal with that early on by adjusting client expectations and discussing possible results.
And here’s the thing: if you did a good job, tried your best and charged a fair fee, you will likely get mostly positive comments. When a client does offer a bit of constructive feedback, it will be worth considering.
4. What to do with survey results?
Let the client know in advance who will see the survey and how it will be used. Anonymous surveys will yield more honest – and therefore more useful - answers.
Keep the survey results in-house. Share them with everyone involved in the chain of client service, from receptionist to managing attorney. Use the data to tweak procedures and improve performance, not to admonish staff.
Compile and track the survey suggestions. This doesn’t have to be scientific. The idea is to spot trends and make changes as needed. For instance, if a dozen different clients complain about the coffee, you should consider switching brands.
Surveying clients – and paying attention to what they say – is a sure way to make your practice boom.