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

Don’t close out a matter without measuring the client’s satisfaction.

Do that with a survey that covers everything from the legal services to the freshness of the coffee.

A survey gathers information that can help the firm do a better job. It highlights the areas of excellence. And it reveals the areas of dissatisfaction clients don’t mention—except to other people.

And beyond that, a survey engenders good will. It gives clients a good feeling when they leave.

The art of getting information

There’s an art to effective surveying. Here are some techniques to note:

  • Use a rating scale of at least 1 to 5. Fewer numbers don’t allow for an accurate picture. If the client wants to say there’s a little room for improvement, 4 will be the obvious score. But with only three choices, all the firm gets is an average grade.

It’s possible to survey clients orally instead of in writing. That way gives a wider array of answers while a written survey gives a numeric rating. It is the firm’s choice.

  • Ask the client to complete the survey before leaving the office. Sending the client away with a form to be filled out, or emailing a survey, are methods unlikely to get much in the way of results.

Look at the results while the client is still there, and if any glaring problems have been cited, ask more questions to find out exactly why the client wasn’t satisfied. Then, if possible, address those issues immediately.

If the problem is serious, offer an apology. If it’s severe, offer a discount of free services in some other area.

  • As to who should give the survey, the best choice is someone other than the attorney, perhaps the managing partner or even an outside consultant. The purpose of a survey is to get clients to vent, and venting is more apt to take place with someone other than the attorney who handled the matter.

What about the attorney?

The survey elements can be phrased as statements—I was satisfied with the service—or as questions–Were you satisfied with the service? Again, it’s the firm’s choice.

Start with the attorney performance and cover points such as these:

  • The attorney’s office was organized.

That may seem superfluous but when the office looks like disaster has struck, there’s a loss of confidence. The client’s logical response is, “What if my file gets lost? or “Is this attorney going to keep my work straight?”

  • The attorney was on time for meetings.
  • The attorney returned my calls when he or she was supposed to.
  • The attorney was prepared for meetings.
  • The attorney answered all my questions, or “Every time I left the office, all my questions were answered and I understood the course of my case.”
  • The attorney was “generous with his or her time,” or “spent an appropriate amount of time with me.”
  • The attorney gave me full attention with no interruptions.
  • The attorney reassured me that the matter was always being taken care of. And the basic questions:
  • Did you get a reasonable result?
  • Do you feel you got the value you expected for the money you paid?

What about our staff?

Then turn to the staff’s performance with statements or questions such as these:

  • Staff answered the phone courteously/
  • When you first called the firm, were you transferred to the appropriate attorney quickly?

Clients expect their calls to be sent to the attorney immediately and returned quickly.

  • Staff were courteous and professional.
  • Staff treated me fairly.

Did you get our bills?

Next is the billing:

  • Were you able to understand your bills?
  • Did you receive your bills in a timely manner?
  • Did the bills give you detailed and accurate descriptions of the work?
  • If you contacted the accounting office about a bill, were your questions answered promptly and to your satisfaction?
  • Were the billing staff courteous and professional?

How did you like our office?

Now for the office and the overall facility. Ask whatever pertains, for example:

  • The parking was adequate.
  • The reception area was comfortable. That’s an important but often unrecognized element, because comfortable surroundings soothe the feelings and reduce anxiety.
  • The receptionist validated my parking.
  • The directions to the office were accurate.
  • I was always greeted when I walked in.
  • I never had to wait long.
  • The furnishings were appropriate.
  • The restroom was clean.
  • Evaluate too the website and communications:
  • And for the offices that handle matters such as residential real estate or family law where clients bring their children in, ask child-related questions such as “Did we have enough toys for your child?”

Tell us about our website

  • The website was easy to navigate.
  • It answered all my questions.
  • It was easy to load,
  • My emails were answered promptly.

And just how satisfied were you?

End the survey with a rating of the overall satisfaction level.

  • Overall, how satisfied were you with the firm’s services?
  • Would you recommend the firm to other people?

And then, pick up anything that wasn’t covered with a catch-all question:

What other comments do you have about the firm that will help us better serve you in the future?

Taking advantage of a good thing

Use the survey every way possible. Use it to identify problems in the client relationship so they don’t get repeated. If one issue continues to show up, beef up the questions on that part of the survey to get specific information on what’s happening and why.

Use it as a motivator for office-wide improvement. Share the results with other attorney and staff, and let them see what the clients notice about them. People aren’t always aware of how they act in front of other people.

Use it as a convenient nudge to maintain a positive and professional attitude. Knowing the firm is seeking clients’ opinions, there’s a disincentive to behave poorly.

And use it for marketing. Quote the positive comments in the firm brochure or newsletter or website. Testimonials have long been recognized as a good way to get business.

It’s a golden opportunity to make more money and have a happier client base.

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