Thought Leadership

Blog: "Great customer service is nothing if you're not able to close the deal" - Part 2

Reading time: 6 mins

Andy Cullwick, head of marketing, October 12, 2018

Know your subject

Next in our mystery shopping research we looked at knowledge.

This was one area that particularly grated on me when in the process of buying a new house. They insisted that you go on a couple of viewings with negotiators and yet most of the time the negotiators that turned up didn’t know anything about anything, even when asked a simple question.

What I really liked about the Ryder and Dutton estate agents was the negotiator knew everything about the properties. He was telling me things that hadn’t even occurred to me to ask about.

In other examples with other estate agents, I’d ask a simple question, for example “would the shed come in with the property?”, only to be told they did not know and that I would need to call on Monday to speak to the office – who incidentally, didn't know either and needed to ask the vendor.

Do people inside your businesses, at every customer touch point, have the answers to help the client with their questions?

Can they make the right decisions there and then?

Well encouragingly, two out of three people got through to a fee earner or appropriate expert straight away when making their enquiry. However, 30% of the people that were helped couldn’t get a decision there and then from the law firm as to whether they had a case or not.

This could be down to processes within individual organisations where a case manager reviews and assesses them later on, but the feedback from our mystery shoppers was that this wasn’t explained to them, which left them feeling rather frustrated, resulting in then feeling like the firm didn’t value them as a customer.

Engagement and empathy

This brings me on to engagement and empathy. At your firm do you focus on building a relationship with potential clients?

Do you aim to build rapport and trust with them?

Are you listening to your clients in terms of what they want and what they need?

Historically when we look back at other customer service reports that have been published across the industry, we see that lawyers aren’t particularly good at showing empathy at times.

"Oh you’ve broken your leg, that’s marvellous," isn’t exactly what a client wants to hear. They want to understand that you’re going to look after them.

However, our research shows that we’ve seen a real change in the landscape – lawyers are much more engaged and are much more empathetic with customers.

This is the polar opposite of what I saw of estate agents that treat you like a sausage factory completely focusing on selling their services to you, such as financial services. Even when I made it very clear that I had my finances in place, these add-on services were being pushed onto me and they wouldn’t take no for an answer.

I don’t go down to my bank and expect to see the latest houses for sale, nor did I expect this of the estate agents I was dealing with.

Closing the deal

As part of our research, all mystery shoppers were briefed not to commit to a decision because we wanted to see how well law firms responded to them.

We wanted to see what law firms would do in terms of phoning potential clients back, and how they would approach the client and try to win their business.

What we found was that 80% of law firms didn’t follow up clients after they initially spoke to them about their claim. So, only 1 in 5 mystery shoppers received a follow-up call within 5 working days, to ask if they would like to be represented by the law firm.

In addition, over half of the law firms that spoke to customers didn’t try to sell their firm or any of the benefits of why the potential client should choose their firm. This means business is just walking out the door.  

So what’s changed?

Two or three years ago research suggested that law firms were showing very little empathy and very few sales skills when it came to customer service and converting clients.

From my own personal experience, it seems that estate agents are demonstrating strong sales skills but little empathy.

So, what can we learn from this and how can law firms improve?

Our research shows that law firms have made big improvements in terms of showing potential clients empathy but that they need to be demonstrating a bit more of a ‘sales’ mentality - perhaps not to the degree that estate agents are, but certainly firms should be talking to potential clients about the benefits of choosing their firm and following-up initial enquiries.

Have a plan

So, what does this mean for you and your law firm?

It means you need to be absolutely sure that you are picking up that phone and answering that email like you really want that business.

Many firms believe they are offering good customer service, but what are they basing this on?

When was the last time you reviewed your customer service strategy? When was the last time you stress tested it?

Things change – the time to review your customer service practises is now.

Our recommendations from our research are as follows:

  • Do an internal audit of your customer service processes
  • Identify 4 or 5 areas for improvement
  • Create an action plan and get your teams involved in implementing the plan
  • Review on a regular basis

So, at the start I asked the question: ‘why do we need to offer great customer service?’.

Well, the reality is that if you’re buying a house, it comes down to the property in question. It doesn’t actually matter how good or bad the customer service is, if they have the house you want that’s what matters.

In fact, the house that I have bought was from the estate agent who provided particularly bad customer service. So, based on this, some would argue there’s no benefit to offering great customer service.

However, should I come to sell my new house in the future I know now which estate agent I will definitely not be using and which estate agent I’m most likely to use.

In our industry we too provide a service and it’s becoming increasingly competitive.

Differentiating your firm by offering exceptional customer service will give you a competitive advantage.

So again, I ask you, do you put customers first?

How ready are you for your customers?

Are you flexible? Are you adapting to individual needs?

More importantly are you selling yourself? Are you ready for that enquiry?

Staggeringly when we crunch the numbers back down and look at all the enquiries, discounting the firms that didn’t call back, as well as the firms that didn’t then try and sell themselves when the mystery shopper said that they weren’t interested, 98% of enquiries that were generated as part of this exercise were ignored.

So, if law firms can afford to operate on only 2% of the business enquiries they receive they’re doing very well, but I don’t believe this to be true.

When it comes down to it, great customer service is nothing if you’re not able to close the deal.

Download the research whitepaper (pdf): 'Converting clients - clicks, calls and cash'

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