Jean-Yves Gilg

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Why you need a good punchline

Why you need a good punchline


In a regular series, Helen Hamilton-Shaw reflects on the key findings of the mystery shopping undertaken as part of LawNet's audited client care programme

This year we have said farewell to Victoria Wood and Prince. Their passing elicited much sadness among fans and replays of their best performances. But what has
this got to do with running
your law firm?

What united them, and other great performers, was their ability to leave an audience on a high - whether it was Wood building up with a run of jokes, culminating in the best punchline of the night, or Prince dropping in some all-time favourites and ending with a knock-out guitar solo in the final encore.

According to the so-called 'peak-end rule', the way an experience ends has a strong influence on how we feel about it afterwards. The theory suggests users also draw on the extreme points during any encounter, creating a weighted average of representative snapshots of an experience, rather than an average level of positive or negative feelings.

The idea was developed by psychologists Kahneman and Tversky following a study in 1993. First, they asked participants to submerge one hand in ice-cold water for 60 seconds, then to repeat this with the other hand for 90 seconds. This time, for the last 30 seconds of immersion, the water temperature was raised by one degree. When asked which trial they would prefer to repeat, the participants favoured the second option, despite it lasting longer, because of the marginally warmer ending.

We can use this approach to intervene in the law firm customer journey, turning negative experiences into positive ones, and positive experiences into extraordinary ones, by delivering a strong ending with the power to wash away earlier pain.

Think about how you can make the ending of the matter feel like a real 'red carpet moment' for clients. We can learn from retailers here. At AT&T stores in the US, employees walk customers to the door and shake hands at the end of the interaction; company research has shown this deliberate, positive moment has had a powerful impact on overall experience.

If your client has a poor experience in some way, the moment of misery often defines their evaluation of the whole experience. But if you make follow-up contact, you have an opportunity to uncover the negative feeling and resolve the problem, leaving the customer feeling good about your firm. And with eMarketer's report last year that 75 per cent of consumers find service providers in the small business sector through word of mouth, a positive review is vital.

I am not suggesting putting your clients into ice-cold water, but do look at their overall experience. Rightly, a lot of focus is given to the initial impressions presented to a client, but the concept of peak-end encourages us to pay attention to the finale. How you say thank you and goodbye could be as important as how you welcome clients to your firm.

Every individual in the
firm can play their part in delivering consistently high service and positive experiences. Keeping peak-end theory in mind, combined with a consistent approach to protect against negative peaks, should pay off.

Helen Hamilton-Shaw is director of services at LawNet @LawNetUK