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Client survey hits hard on cost satisfaction

Some firms survey their clients in person. Some by phone. Some by mail.

But a Missouri insurance defense firm wastes no time. It sends its evaluation form to the claims adjuster at the same time the last bill goes out. And it’s appropriate timing, because most of the questions cover the company’s satisfaction with the cost of the matter.

The response rate is high, reports the firm administrator. As much as 98% of the clients fill out the form.

The response is also fast. Because the surveys are e-mailed, most come back the day the clients get them, and the longest wait is usually no more than two days.

Was the evaluation accurate?

The survey starts with two questions about the firm’s preliminary evaluation of the matter.

That evaluation is an outline of the strong and weak points of both plaintiff and insurer, and it’s as important as the actual work, because the company relies on it to determine how much it will pay out.

The questions are “how satisfied were you with our initial evaluation of this matter?” and “how useful was it in helping you evaluate your exposure?”

What about the cost estimate?

Next topic is the fee. At the start of the matter, the firm estimates the anticipated expense, and that estimate is quite detailed. It includes the cost of pleadings, motions, depositions, expert witnesses, and so on.

It’s a challenge to anticipate everything that can happen in a matter, she says, but cost is a major determiner in whether the company settles or pursues the matter. The question here is “how satisfied were you with the cost estimate for defending the matter?”

The next question is whether the adjuster got prompt notification of any changes that came up as well as full information on how they could affect the outcome or the cost. Changes happen during the course of a matter and the firm has to get that information to the adjuster immediately so the company has time to determine its response.

Then the survey asks if the fees and expenses were reasonable. With everybody wanting to keep costs down, it’s essential to know that.

And then it asks if the adjuster thought the case was resolved as quickly as possible. That goes to cost as well, because the sooner a matter is settled, the lower the fee.

What about the attorney?

The survey also covers the client’s satisfaction with the individual attorney.

There’s a question about legal competence: “What was your impression of the attorney’s ability to handle this matter?”

And there’s a question about how the work was conducted: “How well did counsel follow the agreed upon litigation plan?”

Next, the survey asks if the client would refer the firm to others. And that’s followed by an open-ended question: “What can we do to be of better service to you?”

No leeway for low scores

The surveys get e-mailed back to the administrator, so she gives them the first review. If there are scores of less than excellent or if a comment says “I was pleased except for X,” she notes on the survey which attorney did the work and gives it to the managing partner for review.

Often the managing partner discusses it with the attorney. And just as often, the firm calls the adjuster to get more information about the problem.

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