Our Australian VeraSage colleague John Chisholm wrote a thought-provoking piece about customer service (though he used the word client and I’m too lazy to change it).
It’s a great reminder that a firm’s service proposition should be designed around its best customers, not all of its customers.
Here is John’s take on it:
Most firms have client maintenance, client service, and client development programs for their major and most important clients. Most firms understand that the 80/20 Rule applies to them (80% of the revenue comes from 20% of the clients) although I am not sure how many firms understand the more critical 180/20 Rule (180% of the profit comes from 20% of the clients).
But what does it mean to be a major or first class client of a law firm? Or are all clients of your firm first class clients?
I suspect not as the reality is all clients are not created equal and some clients are much more valuable to you than others so to treat them all as equals is not good for your business.
If you agree that all clients are not borne equal and that all clients value different things differently a good place to start might be to actually ask your first class clients what is important to them and how they would like to be treated and served.
What could I expect to receive from my law firm if I was really a first class client (apart from larger invoices) that second or third class clients might not receive (does my law firm tell its other clients they are in fact second or third class clients?).
Assuming a law firm ever thought I was a first class client (unlikely) and asked me those questions, I might respond along the lines that I would expect:
- Everyone in the firm from the Receptionist downwards would know just how important I am;
- Whoever I am dealing with knows my business and that I am not wasting time ( or worse money) over and over again explaining things yet again to another lawyer I am expected to deal with.
- I would expect my law firm to transfer its tacit knowledge freely around the firm.
- I would have access to be best and brightest the firm has to offer.
- I would have preferential treatment such that other clients might be “bumped” for me as I am given priority.
- To be kept up to date with what is happening in the legal and business world that could affect me and my business.
- Some commercial introductions perhaps and invitations to key events.
- The firm might ask my opinion and input on things that affect the firm.
- No surprises—in service, timelines or price.
- To pay first class prices for first class service and advice.
- Real coffee.
It goes without saying that any client—whether first class or third class—is entitled to assume a minimum level of service and technically correct legal advice, but if you have clients paying first class prices and your law firm can’t service their expectations and what they value, I am pretty sure these days they can find another firm that can.