Part 2 - Influencing the Client Experience - Takeaways from the LMA Capital Half Day Program
On October 29th, a record number of legal marketers attended LMA Capital’s half day program to discuss how to best influence the client experience. Part one discussed how marketers can address a few major concerns of clients: how the firm can add value to the representation, how a firm can build a strong client team to address issues like credit and succession planning, and how to grow client relationships through better scoping and budgeting. This part will wrap up the final three TED-style talks for the program.
Communication and Managing Expectations – Exceed Their Expectations Every Time: How to Communicate with Clients in Good Times and Bad
Mary Panetta, of Blank Rome LLP, took to the podium in her talk about managing client expectations. Understanding the goal of why you are at the table is crucial to understanding client’s expectations. Sometimes the goal of litigation isn’t always to win, sometimes it’s to acquire the client, or to settle. Ms. Panetta emphasized that it’s important to make no assumptions about what the clients goals are; always ask. If partners are not involved in connecting on a daily basis with the clients to find out what is going on at the company, the client is not going to feel like the firm understands their needs and they are not going to come back with return business. Another key point Ms. Panetta hit on is that it’s important to tell the truth about everything, including budgets. For the firm, it’s important to monitor the budget aggressively and if there is an issue or potential overage on the horizon, share the information with the client early and without alarm. Marketers can help the firm’s lawyers in the process as well by understanding what’s at stake and helping deliver the news to the client either by scripting a dialogue or being present when the call needs to be made. Clients are much more amenable to scope changes when they are appropriately notified and walked through what happened. Also, in this market, there is potential for the client to seek out other services that may cut into the work that the law firm does. Ms. Panetta advises firms to embrace these inevitable market disruptors and present them to your client as a collaborative process. This may be counterintuitive to the firm’s bottom line, however, partnering with a disruptor is a way the firm can bring value to the client and builds vast amounts of goodwill.
Affinity Group Initiatives – Developing Client Relationships Through Affinity Groups
When it comes to working with affinity groups in the firm, Dawn Afanador, of Gibbons P.C., reminded the audience that the groups are still client focused. The Women’s Initiative at her firm is focused on educating women and their clients, give back to the community and their client’s causes, mentor their women and their clients, and provide networking opportunities for women and their clients. Ms. Afanador has found that their women’s initiative to be one of their best client relationship building programs. Rather than focus on having bigger events with high attendance, her firm scaled back the size of the events and narrowly focused on areas of law that address their key client’s needs. The intimacy of the smaller programs, such as focused roundtables, succeeded in helping client engagement and presented opportunities for cross marketing. Firm groups also have an opportunity to help their clients with initiatives they may not be able to achieve on their own. For example, a company might want to get more involved in meaningful pro bono work, but has a small legal department and limited resources. The firm’s pro bono group would be able to collaborate with the client to help them further their pro bono initiative by providing them with support and training. Affinity groups can also add value to networking opportunities: people don’t have time to simply network anymore, so providing programs where your in-house team can learn something and network with others is invaluable. When starting an initiative, it’s important to have some small wins to generate excitement about the initiative. As the initiative grows, don’t be afraid to evolve the program based on client’s needs and feedback from folks internally.
Complacency and Responsiveness – Using Innovation to Motivate and Empower Attorneys and Connect with Clients
To round-out the TED-talks, Jennifer Castleberry of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, discussed how her firm uses innovation to motivate and empower attorneys and connect with clients. Her firm has created an innovation initiative, DWT De Novo, that focuses on technology, process improvement and people. When they began the program in 2013, they started by first listening to the client’s pain points, which eventually led to the appointment of a chief innovation partner that promoted the initiative at all of their offices. On this roadshow, they worked with people in the firm to solicit their pain points so they can figure out how best to create an initiative that is focused on addressing everyone’s concerns. In response to these concerns, the firm was able to create several tools that are designed to help placate client concerns. For example, their team developed a template for attorneys to summarize, for the client, how the firm has added value, in some ways that aren’t apparent to them. Attorney’s customize this to their clients so they get a clear picture of their relationship with the firm. They also spent a lot of time listening to what client’s wanted in a client dashboard, and used their input to create a “dashboard of the future”. Their dashboard includes realtime matter tracking, financials, as well as curated pieces that are specific to the client using the dashboard. These tools were designed specifically to provide efficient, transparent, and cost-effective legal services for their clients.
Following the TED talks, the audience broke-out into discussion tables where each table was tasked with coming up with five action items specific to a particular TED talk, and we all came together in the end to share the action items. Firms should rally their teams to create their own action items so that they are able to better address the myriad of client concerns. Considering these major areas of concern, adding value, credit, succession planning, billing and budgets, communication, managing expectations, and responsiveness, is crucial to creating a positive client experience.