Contemporaneous customer feedback has become an integral component of the economic model for many service industries. From restaurants to ride shares, a wide array of companies leverage this feedback to improve their offerings, connecting them more meaningfully to what their customers value most. Why has law not implemented a similar feedback loop between firms and clients? Are there structural impediments to real time feedback? How might we go about constructing a system where such feedback is encouraged and used to improve legal services? Come hear a law department leader, an AmLaw executive, and an itinerant futurist share their thoughts on the availability of feedback in law today, the type of contemporaneous information we should be collecting, how it presents opportunities to firms and clients alike, and how organizations like ILTA can play a pivotal role in fostering the collaboration needed to develop a meaningful feedback system.
- Understand the benefits of meaningful feedback for firms and clients
- Generate ideas regarding the type of feedback valuable to improving the services firms offer
- Identify how organizations such as ILTA can be pivotal in creating feedback standards
- John Alber, ILTA Futurist
- Michael Haven, Senior Director, AGC, and Head of Legal Operations at Gap Inc.
- Jeffrey C. Schwartz, Head of Legal Operations Innovation at Hinshaw & Culbertson
[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2017 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]
- Make sure you are requesting feedback for the right reasons. Initially, some firms undertook client feedback programs because they heard it “made the client relationship stickier.” This is not the best motivation. The better motivation is to elicit information that helps you provide better client service.
- Make sure you are asking for the right kind of feedback. It is tempting to ask for qualitative feedback: How responsive do you find us? How well do you think we understand the critical area of law? Rather, ask for quantitative feedback regarding efficiency. Clients invariably are more interested in the feedback that has a clear positive impact on service delivery.
- Think about how clients prefer to evaluate. Some clients are developing internal tools to measure the service of their various external lawyers. Ask early what they are tracking, what is important to them.
- Frequency. Don’t wait until the end of a matter before requesting feedback. Clients would prefer at least quarterly check-ins.
- At Uber, every single touch with a customer gets rated.
- No firm represented in the audience seeks feedback after every client interaction. There were very few in the audience who did it more frequently than annually.
- As tempting as it might be to ramp up to requesting evaluations after every interaction, keep in mind that this may be more than the client wants or can handle. Ask for the client’s preference.
- How granular should the feedback request be?
- You need to calibrate this depending on (1) what’s important to the client and (2) the quality of service delivery.
- The net effect of fairly granular and regular feedback it that it causes greater accountability and engagement on the part of the lawyers.
- There are data science consequences and human behavior consequences to the type of metrics you track. So check the science as you are designing your system.
- See the comments above about qualitative and quantitative metrics — and what clients care about.
- Unlike your interaction with an Uber driver, this is an ongoing relationship rather than a transactional relationship. Therefore, if you give your lawyer a bad rating, it can be uncomfortable to work with that lawyer again. Does this lead to grade inflation. (Think about grade inflation for personal assistants in law firms.)
- How do you create enough anonymity that allows people to provide bad feedback.
- We need to learn how to have the “courageous conversation” in a professional, constructive way. A key to this is to make obvious that you are invested in the relationship and really want it to work well.
- Increasing the frequency of feedback helps focus on small problems early rather than huge deferred problems. These small conversations are understood as “tweaking” a good relationship rather than upending it.
- What if every member of the team was rated? Bryan Cave had experience with a client feedback system that was connected with a bonus structure.
- Where to begin in your firm?
- Michael Haven — Start by talking to your client. They probably already have an operations group that is measuring various things about your firm. So ask them at the beginning of an engagement what is important for them.
- John Alber — Mine Your Own Data:
- Begin by asking how sticky a client relationship is.
- Then, ask why.
- Then, discern the data that appear to correlate with high and low stickiness.
- Then present these data to your firm in a way that intrigues them.
- Jeffrey Schwartz — Increase transparency within the firm: Give the firm data that helps the lawyers ask productive questions about existing client relationships.
- are we noticing a difference in the rate of bill payments?
- are we noticing an increase/decrease in demand?
- Collaborate with the Marketing group of your firm. They are voracious producers/consumers of data.
- Pay attention to patterns of behavior in your document management system. What does this indicate about efficiency? About approaches by specific client teams?