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Mid-Atlantic Program Recap: Taking Client Experience Initiatives to the Next Level

By Scott Pacheco posted 10-06-2021 08:25

  

By Rebecca Edwards, senior marketing and business development manager at Williams Mullen

On Tuesday, July 27, Michelle Batt, owner of Lead with CX, a customer experience consultancy, Liz Lockett, chief business development and marketing officer at Ice Miller LLP, and Tara Weintritt, partner at Wicker Park Group, led a discussion on all aspects of the client experience journey on behalf of the LMA Mid-Atlantic Region. While many people in the legal marketing sector may have heard the term, “client experience (CX),” this group provided clarification on what that means in legal and how to get started, generate buy-in, implement the concept and more.

Watermark Consulting, a U.S.-based boutique CX consulting firm, generated a study to help business leaders understand the overarching influence of a great customer experience. Reflecting over a decade of performance, their results found that over the long-term a great CX program helps to build business value and loyalty, while poor CX erodes it. We know that loyal clients are those to whom law firms are more likely to cross-sell as well as are most likely to provide the almighty referral and recommendation to other buyers of legal services. So, how can firms get started with a CX program?

Getting Started

“Define success and benchmarks,” Weintritt said. “Utilize the low-hanging fruit like the firm’s current strategic plan, lateral insights and impressions, get feedback from alumni as well as talk to associates about where they see room for improvements, and then put a plan together from there.”

A successful CX program is one that includes all facets of the firm and even client advisors. Per Lockett, “I was fortunate to be at a firm where the leader was an advocate of such a program, but even so, you need designated resources and a multiyear commitment to get this done.”

A unique aspect of Lockett’s program was the use of a client advisory board. The firm gathered 10 clients ahead of the rollout to talk through areas where they would like to see improvements. These benchmarks could include key attributes such as communication, managing expectations, responsiveness, billing and budgeting efficiency, adding value, and team effectiveness and understanding of the client’s business.

To generate buy-in, Lockett’s firm held a day-long retreat to communicate how important the initiative was to the firm’s bottom line, illustrated by a series of videos from the CAB client participants. “The client’s voice and perspective turn a submarine faster than anything,” echoed Weintritt.

Key Players

Lockett recommended creating a client journey working group that includes all facets of the firm.

Batt added, “There’s a lot of money that can be spent on CX, but you can get some amazing data from your own employees.” Consider creating cross-employee panels and incorporate design thinking methods to generate creative solutions.

“CX creates a lot of camaraderie, fun and collaboration. We’ve done retreats where the only materials we’ve used are sticky notes, breaking down a journey and experience into the phases. Firms spend so much time focusing on internal improvements, but once you turn outward – what clients are seeing, feeling, doing – it changes the lens. And, that changes culture,” Weintritt noted.

Lockett advised, “Put yourself in the client’s shoes and think about the touch points. The working group should include everyone if you are doing a comprehensive approach. For example, the intake phase could include conflicts, matter opening, general counsel, a legal assistant and the relationship attorney, while matter management could include the legal assistant, associate and paralegals.”

“It is important to include professionals from across the organization. One of the biggest pain points in legal is receiving and understanding the bill. When you put people in a room from across the firm, including those who manage what the bill says and who sends it out, you’ll see some amazing connections and ideas,” Batt said.

Rollout and Accountability

“Once you get the program in place, training is necessary. Things like active listening, compassion, teambuilding and the art of inquiry. We began each firm meeting with a client service minute to drive this home,” said Lockett. And much like any rollout, internal communications and consistent messaging is important to keep the initiative top of mind.

Lockett praised those who go the extra mile to present CX awards, but noted that in order to keep people accountable, involvement must be tied to employee reviews and partner compensation.

Batt continued, “No matter what, it’s important to have some level of measurement.”

And there is no better measurement than the dollar. Lockett suggested firms measure revenue from clients over a period of time to see if an exceptional client experience correlates to sustained or increased revenue.

Summary

The trio noted that there is no one magical way to build a CX program; you have to build it based on your organization’s culture. But don’t wait until you have everything perfect to get started. Figure out how to tie a CX program to an increase in revenue.

As Batt said in closing, “We are the catalysts that can ignite this really important work and make it a part of a culture. We are the change makers.” Let’s get after it.

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