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SURVEYING CLIENTS

How one NY firm uses surveys to get repeat clients

Like many firms, an Albany, NY, firm surveys its clients each year.

But it takes a different approach.

It focuses on whether the clients feel the firm has their interests at heart. And in the end, it sends the clients the results of the study and what the firm has done in response.

“We began it because we wanted to make sure we were providing clients what they needed,” says Stacy Smith, administrator and marketing director for Carter Conboy. The firm wanted to be sure it covered the entire picture of its legal services and was truly client centric.

And for good reason. About 85% of the annual revenue is repeat business.

A half dozen question areas

Each year, Smith runs marketing reports that focus on the firm’s top 20 revenue-producing clients

She looks for trends such as clients who are sending more business, clients who are sending less business, clients who aren’t sending any new business, first-time clients, and so on.

Of those, she selects several clients representing each category and sends them a survey that covers six basic topics.

  • First is expertise. There are two questions here.

One is “do you think we understand your business and objectives?” And the other is “Do you think we have expertise in the practice area?”

Clients need to feel the firm has a good understanding of their operations and goals, she says. They expect the firm to help them avoid legal issues, particularly litigation.

And, of course, they want to know the firm has the ability to handle their legal matters.

  • From there she asks if the firm provides creative ideas and solutions to the legal problems.

To keep the clients satisfied, a firm has to come up with proactive solutions such as researching issues before they become serious. It needs to help the clients prevent problems.

Many clients think their firms want them to have legal problems and therefore produce more business, she says. Her firm wants its client to know it is preventing the problems.

  • Next are questions about the quality of the legal work and also the value of it. Value is just as important as quality, Smith says. If clients think the firm is charging too much, they don’t see much value in the work.
  • Staff are also included—whether they are responsive, prompt, friendly, and helpful.

Staff are the icing on the cake. Any firm can provide good legal work, but it’s the staff services that often keep the clients happy.

A good staff can set the firm apart from the competition.

  • Then come the attorneys. And here the questions focus on whether they keep the clients up-to-date on what’s going on.

For insurance companies, she also asks if the firm meets the required reporting deadlines and billing guidelines.

In addition, she asks if the bills are timely. That’s important to the firm as well as to the clients, because if the company pays quarterly, a late bill doesn’t get paid until the next quarter.

  • And finally, the survey asks “do we have overall concern for you as a client?” That’s the real bottom line. “If they don’t think that, we have a huge problem.”

Here’s what you told us, clients

After the results are in, Smith shares them with the clients. The firm sends a letter telling them “this is what we’re doing right, and this is what we need to do based on your feedback.”

Anything that gets a rating less than an A is an area of concern to the firm, she says. “We want to be an A firm.”

Thus, where a client shows any dissatisfaction, the firm takes steps to find out what’s going on and how to improve it. If there’s an issue with the billing, for example, the attorneys meet with the billing department and discuss the issue.

Clients need to see objectively that the firm cares what they think and takes action on what they say.

The results report is well received, she notes. Many clients call to thank the firm for it. They are pleasantly surprised to get the results and surprised too to see that the firm takes steps to eliminate their points of concern.


Related reading:

How to use client exit surveys to improve service and increase revenue


How and when to ask a client for a referral


Clients cite their top 6 turnoff points with law firms


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