The Value of PlanningDecember 14, 2020
BULLETPROOF YOUR FIRM’S STRATEGIC BUSINESS PLANDecember 16, 2020
A law firm’s most priced assets are its clients, which are the source of both today’s business and tomorrow’s referrals. It would be safe to say that firms should strive to integrate the voice of their clients into all they do ie Client-centric.
Well, I hate to disappoint you that many law firms fail to adopt a client-centric mindset as they engage with their clients and prospects.
The pivotal and critical elements of business development success include forming a strong online and in-person relationship and providing exceptional client service at all times. Clients want to hire lawyers who make them feel good about themselves and who make them look good, both within and outside their organizations.
As we all know, this is the age of the customer or should I say the client? In the digital age, buyers can access a wealth of information in real-time. They have more choices, can make better-informed decisions based on data and peer reviews, and “get to yes” faster and more conveniently than ever before.
Digitally-mature organizations are focused on customers; they know brand loyalty is earned by providing easy access, transparency, a pleasurable experience, products and/or services that meet and exceed customer expectations, helpful service tools, outstanding customer service, and a personal touch.
No man is an island and today, the Amazons, the Apples are among a cadre of digitally prescient companies that helped to forge this gospel. They have etched into their businesses the core customer perspective— harnessing the power of technology, recognizing that data is the new currency, elevating the customer experience, and creating customer-centric cultures and agile workforces.
To accomplish this, these visionary companies reimagined, then reverse-engineered, favorable customer outcomes and experience. Traditional models, workflow processes, hiring criteria, and workplace paradigms were reimagined with the customer in mind. Jeff Bezos described customers as “invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts.”
Today, Amazon has become a standard the world over. From its acute customer-centricity, platform, data mastery, agility, employee up-skilling investment, patience, and warp-speed ability to scale, all these have contributed to its unique status as a serial disruptor.
Client-centric companies have built technology platforms with the customer in mind. Steve Jobs said that “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology—not the other way around.” These digital pioneers assiduously mined, analyzed, and applied data; invested in infrastructure; up-skilled their workforces; aggressively pursued strategic partnerships; and encouraged innovation, collaboration, and ideation that enhance customer access, experience, and outcomes. For them, everything about their culture was—and remains— geared to the customer.
The digital transformation journeys continue for these and other industry disruptors. They have scaled, refined, and reinforced market advantage by a relentless focus on the customer and a culture of constant improvement and customer feedback.
Digitally advanced companies—those that most effectively achieve and sustain customer satisfaction, positive net promoter scores, and brand loyalty— have widened the performance gap separating them from less digitally-mature peers. Digital leaders are constantly re-designing a transformation roadmap that rejuvenates customer journeys, orchestrates a cross-functional team, and enables scale. Their digital journeys may not be identical but customer-focus is.
As lawyers or as players in the legal space, we must ask ourselves why is the legal industry out-of-sync with its own customers for whom customer-centricity is an existential imperative? Your guess is as good as mine: lawyers.
Today, the legal profession is struggling to keep pace with the speed of business as well as to satisfy clients. A key reason to this is that there are too many lawyers involved in managing and providing legal delivery and too few senior executives with business, technology, digital transformation, and change management experience. The legal sector also has a dearth of logistics, supply chain, project and process design, customer-experience, data analyst, and risk management experts among its ranks.
Many legal providers conflict acquiescence to client demand with client-centricity. Hell no. They are two different things; the former is reactive and tactical while the latter is proactive and strategic. Reducing invoices, offering fixed-price billing, and outsourcing eDiscovery is not client-centricity. Multidisciplinary, data-backed solutions to business challenges, services and products tailored to meet customer needs, and legal processes that streamline and accelerate business should be our guiding principle.
Let me quickly inject something from Forbes that perfectly dovetails to this.
The legal sector has two parts: profession and industry. The profession is comprised exclusively of lawyers. The industry is a trinity of legal, technological, and business management expertise. There is a cultural divide between the two; the profession is precedent bound and inward-facing. It is rooted in “how things have always been done” and is generally resistant to change. The industry is driven by a growing market void for reimagined legal delivery and customer demand for delivery models with the capability and scale to provide bundled professional skillsets proactively, competently, efficiently, predictably, and cost-effectively.
The trillion-dollar global legal industry has fast-talked change even as it has slow-walked it from the customer perspective. Law touts customer-centricity, hands out countless “innovation” awards, and gives itself high customer satisfaction marks notwithstanding client data that indicates otherwise. The legal profession should reduce its level of self-congratulation and increase its commitment to customer alignment, value, and service. This is not accomplished by proclamation.
Law’s shift to customer-focus is a process that requires hard work. It starts with cultural evolution and involves challenging the continued efficacy of its sacred cows— delivery structures, models, customs, processes, mindsets, metrics, reward systems, and workforces. They are reimagined and refined or replaced by new ones that better align with and respond to customers. The legal profession was built to serve lawyers. The legal industry, of which lawyers are a part, must be built to serve customers and society.
Client-centric legal services can be delivered from a variety of sources—in-house legal departments, law companies (a/k/a “alternative legal service providers”), law firms—or even Amazon. The provider source(s) may vary, but their core characteristics do not. Such values include:
- A culture built upon a customer-first commitment.
- Investment in technology, human resources, and training to meet the changing needs and expectations of customers.
- The workflow design is dictated by matching the “right” resources—human and machine— to achieve the optimal efficiency, cost-effectiveness, value, results, ease of access, transparency, scale, results, and customer experience.
- A focus on what the customer needs, not what the provider sells.
- Success metrics that benefit customers, not internal stakeholders.
- Outcomes/results are what’s valued, not inputs.
- Transparency, customer-access, and customer feedback.
- Effective customer service tools (service centers, bots, self-help information, thought leadership, etc.) that are constantly upgraded/augmented.
- Investment in workforce up-skilling to anticipate/meet client needs.
- Elevating diversity, agility, “people skills,” humanity, and passion as hiring criteria.
- Metrics and reward systems focused on customers, not stakeholders.
- Create a culture and hire a workforce of learners for life.
In conclusion, Bill Gates observed that “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” The legal establishment’s willingness to learn from its unhappy customers will determine its standing in a rapidly changing industry where the customer is king. The time to get Client centric is now. Tomorrow may be too late.