I have previously referenced the excellent McKinsey report COVID-19: Implications for law firms. In a re-read of it this morning, a universal truth regarding client relationships struck me: the stronger firm communication with its clients, the less likely there will be a surprise in decreased work.
During normal times a routine communication between the firm and its clients is helpful to both client retention and relationship growth. During times of turmoil, communication becomes even more critical and can provide solid indicators that assist in cash flow planning.
For those of you without a structured client feedback/communication program, here are ideas you might consider implementing immediately..
Design a listening process
Whether it be a 5-question electronic survey, a 30-minute Zoom meeting, or (when you deem appropriate) a 45-minute in-person visit, create a regular outreach to clients that asks how can we do better. A client feedback initiative will do at least two things: (1) build relationship equity, provided you act on what you hear, and (2) uncover issues-in-the-making, giving you an opportunity to proactively respond to client needs. Note that this is about listening, not pitching. Resist the temptation, and leave a discussion of your capabilities for another conversation. Nothing you do over the next 6-months will have a more positive impact on revenue tied to client relationships.
Institutionalize this listening process as part of firm culture
The best process will include an open dialogue within the firm about what is learned and what should be done in order to perform better. To this end, you should immediately, involve all attorneys with significant client contact in the client feedback process. Regularly reporting to the firm on the number of client interviews and the number of professionals involved will further the activity as an ingrained part of the institution.
The more significant the client relationship, the greater the need for senior management involvement in the client meeting. The inclusion of senior management sends a clear message of importance to the client.
We referenced this above: the failure to respond to concerns or issues raised during client feedback sessions should be a firing-offense. It is essential that any comments related to how the firm can do better be responded to with an action plan to resolve the issue. Those action steps should not only be taken; they should be the subject of on-going communication with the client.
Eric Fletcher, a person with great perspectives on client communications, just posted a terrific piece on this very topic. I encourage you to read it.
For more insights on managing issues related to crisis and COVID-19 click here.