Wicker Park Group is revisiting some of the processes around Client Feedback Interviews in a new series of blog posts called “Back to Basics.” This is the third article in the series. You can find the first article about how to choose clients for feedback here and the second article about the importance of preparation here.
Most experts agree the most effective method of seeking client feedback is through face-to-face conversations at the client’s place of business. However, there are times and circumstances when different methods, like electronic feedback or telephone interviews, can be valuable. The decision of who should interview the client is also an important one to weigh ahead of time.
Who Should Interview the Client?
Managing partners, client relationship attorneys, administrative staff, marketing or business development staff, outside consultants or a combination of any of the above may conduct the interviews. While the client relationship attorney should be seeking informal feedback on an ongoing basis, more formal client interviews are more successful when conducted by someone who does not have a regular working relationship with the client. As the GC of a large auto manufacturer says, “To have someone who is not involved in the day-to-day matters seek our feedback allows for a different perspective and gives us the chance to step away from the day to day and think about the relationship in a different way.”
“To have someone who is not involved in the day-to-day matters seek our feedback allows for a different perspective and gives us the chance to step away from the day to day and think about the relationship in a different way.”
The interview is only as effective as the interviewer. Skilled interviewers listen more than talk, are able to ask probing follow-up questions and quickly build trust and rapport with clients to garner the most productive and candid feedback. In reality, most lawyers and law firm leaders are already doing the jobs of several people. The time and resources necessary to do client feedback interviews well tend to take a backseat to the most urgent and immediate problems of the day. Third-party independent consultants as well as marketing, business development and client service professionals in law firms are extremely adept at conducting client feedback interviews on behalf of law firms and often get more candid input than lawyers.
How Should the Client Be Interviewed?
Most Wicker Park Group clients use face-to-face interviews with their most valued, longstanding and complex client relationships. An in-person meeting demonstrates to the client that the relationship is important to the firm. It also allows the interviewer to observe non-verbal cues, develop rapport more quickly and avoid misunderstandings.
However, there are times when other methods are helpful. Telephone interviews are a very effective way to check in with clients earlier in the relationship, check in at the end of a matter or project, accelerate the process or reach clients in diverse geographies.
Electronic surveys are excellent for mid- and end-of-matter surveys, conducting market research and prioritizing clients for in-person or telephone interviews. Both telephone and electronic methodologies allow firms to reach more clients. While telephone surveys allow for give and take in conversation, the electronic survey is strictly a one-way conversation and should be viewed as a conversation starter, not a substitute. Caution should be taken to keep electronic surveys at a completion time of two to three minutes and to include no more than ten to 12 questions. Most importantly, make sure there is a plan in place to follow up with clients (or respondents).
At the end of the day, however you decide to seek client feedback, there is only one hard and fast rule: Don’t ask unless you are willing to act. It is far more damaging to seek feedback and not address it than not ask at all.