We have often written in this space strategies and best practices for launching a client feedback program, including how to select clients, when to interview your clients, how to follow up and act on feedback, how to start a client feedback program and why clients value these interactions. And whenever we work with lawyers and firms, we advocate for listening to the voice of the client. They will tell you what they want, need and value from their outside counsel relationships.
Despite this, we still get asked a basic question: “Will clients take the time to provide feedback?” This question is often code for: “There are skeptics in the firm, so they raise this as an objection.” It also speaks to lawyers’ fears about what will be uncovered in the feedback and whether the feedback will be “negative.” It’s rarely negative but always constructive.
As we start the new year, we thought it would be helpful to share some comments from clients on their views of the feedback experience. Sometimes we end an interview asking whether other firms have conducted a similar feedback exercise, and most clients say something like, “We do Chambers interviews, but that’s about the lawyer, not about what we need from our outside counsel.” Or sometimes, “We get calls from companies doing surveys where they ask a bunch of questions, but it’s not substantive and seems pretty formulaic.”
Most often, we get comments about the benefit of the feedback conversation, not to the firm but to the client. So, practicing what we preach, here are some recent comments from interviewees—the voice of the client on the value of providing substantive feedback:
- “This is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to provide feedback about a law firm in this type of format. And by that I mean a little more formal than while we are working on something or at a celebratory meal. It can be hard to be frank in a more causal setting, so I really appreciate the opportunity to be able to reflect on things, especially after some time has passed.”
- “[The Partner] might say we are not the easiest clients, which would be fair. Anything we talk about today, I have probably talked with him about, but I love they are doing this. It just sends such an important message that they care.”
- “I must say I am quite impressed with this process. I see the value in a third party because it provides a bit of a safe zone for us and makes it more comfortable for us to share our experience. I hope they understand it is generally a very good relationship and maybe I should be blamed for not reaching out to them for more of a review, but this is a good step.”
- “I think it speaks volumes that you are asking your clients about their experience. You are not resting on your laurels. Sometimes relationships can get a little bit comfortable. I have never felt that way with [Firm], and this is just another way you all show you continue to be invested in us.”
- “[Firm] is the only firm that has formally sought our feedback and engaged a third party in the process. With some of the other firms, senior partners on the account have asked for feedback informally, but I am not sure it is taken very seriously.”
- “They do a lot really well, and good for them for doing this. It’s really important. I haven’t really discussed this stuff directly with them.”
- “I guess the only closing thought is I appreciate the opportunity to do this outside of the [Firm] process. It is very good to share feedback with a third party, and these were really thoughtful questions.”