Technology tamed: harmonising firm infrastructure
By Neil Lloyd
Neil Lloyd reflects on how getting your firm’s technology infrastructure right canhelp to grow your business
We are living and working in a world increasingly dominated by technology and the legal sector is no exception. When used correctly, technology can transform our services, make them more efficient and profitable, and improve the client journey.
However, technology also has the power to cause firms a lot of headaches, particularly if you opt for infrastructure which isn’t a good fit for your business or when there isn’t the right support in place to help you get the most out of it.
Whatever technology you implement, it must have a measurable impact and work in harmony with the rest of your infrastructure.
Creating a connected world
In the past, marketing has been very traditional, relying on adverts in local papers and glossy magazines, sponsorship of local business awards and attending key calendar events for sectors where we have a particularly strong skillset. A few years ago, Facebook advertising was thrown into the mix too.
This approach has worked fine for many firms, but it has also proven difficult to measure the return on investment without having the tools to track a client’s journey – from seeing an advert or Facebook post, visiting your website, completing an enquiry form, and becoming a client.
When covid-19 hit, the events many of us would normally have attended were cancelled and many firms pulled their print advertising to save costs in the short term. It was a good opportunity for firms to rethink their marketing strategy and out of those discussions came the realisation smarter, technology-based marketing approach which could deliver more return on investment was needed.
At FBC Manby Bowdler, key to this was the replacement of our website – front and back end. On the surface, the new website is more attractive and functional, but behind it is lots of new technology to help us track leads, which links to our centralised CRM system.
We have used the site’s new functionality to analyse what was working (or not) on our website, rewrote our content to optimise it for search engines, and overhauled rarely visited pages or those with a higher bounce rate.
Our family department page, for example, received the fewest visits even though it was a popular search term bringing people to our website. So, we updated the google links to ensure visitors went straight to the department page and added in new functionality so clients could begin their journey with us there and then by completing their divorce or family case details and submitting them online.
As well as speeding up the process and making it more convenient for clients, the added functionality saves time on gathering information and it’s been very successful in getting new clients in.
The website also provides the technology to track visits which come from our social media activity.
The use of technology can help promote joined-up thinking across marketing channels to help firms understand what’s working, where they can make improvements and smoothing the customer journey.
Running like clockwork
At FBC Manby Bowdler, we have introduced several technology solutions which keep our inhouse activities running smoothly. Each piece of the infrastructure is a cog which makes the whole firm run like clockwork.
Six years ago, we introduced Artesian, a research tool which pulls multiple sources of information about a client – such as their social media feeds and Companies House details – into one, easy-to-digest report.
As well as cutting down on research time for new clients, it can also keep firms updated on what their clients (past and present) are up to and gives an opportunity to prospect or engage with them. For example, the report may notify us that the client’s twitter account says they have won an award. We can then call with our congratulations. Or it may flag a negative story in the media, which we may be able to support them with.
Artesian has proved to be a very valued tool for client retention and increasing a client’s legal spend.
Next is Introhive, which monitors relationships within the firm. It tracks who is talking to who, how many emails they are sending and the quality of those emails. As such, Introhive highlights where we have strong client relationships and where we can make improvements, but it also helps with client migration and highlighting opportunities to cross-sell our services. And it also links to our core system, P4W from Tikit.
One module within P4W is Tikit Connect. This is used primarily for our events management. Data is fed from P4W, and Tikit Connect then selects and sends out invitations and matches invoices to events. This creates the opportunity to see what the campaign spend is for each event and how much clients then spend with its users – giving a more accurate return on investment. We also chose Tikit/P4W because of the market share they have across the top 100 legal firms.
While implementing these new technologies into the firm, we have discovered many learnings and most of them centre on the impact of people on their success or failure.
Firstly, you need a strong IT team to support the rollout of new systems. We have four full time employees and they are essential to getting new software and systems embedded into our existing infrastructure and supporting staff with their technical enquiries.
Within the IT team, we also have a project manager who oversees all of our infrastructure. They play a key role in bringing our different suppliers together and forging solid relationships with them. Our suppliers need to work collaboratively so the different systems work harmoniously.
Next, employees must understand how to use the new systems you are introducing. Most systems are fairly intuitive to use, but that’s no substitute for proper training. Being self-taught will lead to staff using a fraction of what the technology can do. We have an in-house training manager who ensures new staff are given full training and our existing staff are given regular refreshers to ensure maximum competency.
Buy-in from staff is essential too. We recently ran a trial of two different systems for our residential conveyancing team and let them decide which they preferred. This gave them ownership and encouraged engagement.
Our final learning was that building your technology infrastructure is a process. Utilise pilots to test new software and see if it’s a good fit for your team and your business. If it’s not right, look for an alternative. Don’t waste your money.
Technology is changing and evolving all the time. Firms should always be on the lookout for what’s next to make them more efficient or more profitable or enhance the customer journey. We are also keeping an eye on the latest developments in artificial intelligence, particularly in relation to document checking.
Technology is driving the evolution of the legal sector, giving fee earners the tools to become trusted business advisors to clients, enrich their experience and identify new opportunities. With investment in both systems and your people, it is my belief that technology can be the driving force behind your growth and success.
Neil Lloyd is managing director at FBC Manby Bowdler fbcmb.co.uk