Research finds good service just as important to firms as good advice
The research highlighted the importance of managing online reviews appropriately
Research commissioned by First4Lawyers has found that firms increasingly consider client service to be as important as satisfactorily resolving a legal matter.
First4Lawyers commissioned IRN Research to survey 100 firms – half were personal injury (PI) firms and the other half dealt with general consumer matters.
Almost half (41 per cent) of respondents took the view client service is just as important as satisfactory resolution of a legal matter satisfactorily, just over a third (34 per cent) thought clients simply wanted their legal matter resolved, while the remaining quarter thought client service not as important as resolving a matter satisfactorily.
First4Lawyers managing director, Qamar Anwar said: “The single most important role of the solicitor is, of course, to do the work properly. But that doesn’t mean customer service should take a back seat".
86 per cent of firms surveyed said fee-earners are required to adhere to service standards, yet only two-thirds provide relevant training. Just over half (56 per cent), said their firm had a clear understanding of the client journey and map out all interactions with the client, with a communications plan for each stage.
Interestingly, it was revealed only 46 per cent of general consumer practices agreed costs upfront, compared to 61 per cent of PI firms.
Few firms agreed the format for communication and frequency of contact. Just over half (53 per cent) nominated an agreed point of contact.
PI firms in particular reported an increased demand for out-of-hours support, with 52 per cent offering services in the evenings and at weekend. PI firms also showed more of a propensity to follow up on leads – 48 per cent track how often follow-ups convert into business, compared to just 28 per cent of other firms.
Anwar said this was unsurprising in the current PI climate: “The cost of doing business in PI is already so high and is continuing to rise. You have to fight for every customer as much as possible.”
The survey found review and comparison sites were used by 55 per cent of firms the surveyed, though only 47 per cent of those encourage their clients to post a review.
Anwar commented: “Clients will usually be unable to assess the quality of your legal work, but they can judge the service they receive and are increasingly happy to write about it online. This means customer service needs to be of equal importance. Getting new work without a strong online reputation, which is heavily influenced by service quality, is only going to get harder.”
Fewer than a quarter (24 per cent) of firms respond to every review. 31 per cent of firms said they responded to selected reviews on an ad hoc basis. 13 per cent said they only responded to positive reviews and an equal percentage said they only responded to negative reviews.
Anwar warned: “The issue of customer service and feedback is only going to get bigger – there’s no point closing your eyes and hoping it will go away. Law firm marketing has rapidly become digital first and you need to take control of what is being said about your firm online. There are practical consequences too – not responding to reviews can affect your website’s page rankings”.
He added: “There is a disconnect between firms that say they rely on their reputation to bring in work but are then wary of client reviews. Equally, word of mouth now is going online. In our report, we urge law firms to prioritise customer service and invest in training, and not to be afraid of reviews. You need to create and continually review the customer experience. It is now part and parcel of being a lawyer.”
Neil Bayton, head of partnerships at Trustpilot, commented: “Competition amongst law firms has never been more fierce. Whilst competing on price may not always be an option, providing an excellent customer experience can be a differentiator that really sets a business apart.
“Those who aren’t listening, responding to and using consumer’s feedback to improve, risk being left behind. Independent consumer review sites, like Trustpilot, that allow consumers to share their experiences openly and instantly, are an excellent way for law firms to earn greater trust by showing they truly care about their customers.”