Discovering Client Service

Why do law firms struggle with client satisfaction? Perhaps it is because often times the work a lawyer does has such terribly high stakes—results can make or break businesses, personal lives, or financial well-being—and thus make or break client satisfaction? Or, it probably doesn’t help much that the profession’s reputation precedes them—as a whole they are known for over-priced services and low client satisfaction. (Value is in the eye of the beholder!)

But law firms have tried to fix things. To satisfy clients they create new offerings, concoct unique features, switch up billing practices (AFAs), add more lawyers, more locations, and even spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in branding and advertising—as if seeing is believing. Lately, law firms have jumped into the social media, hoping to reach generational audiences where they are most likely to hang out, under some guise to develop clients who “like” them.

It is a problem.

The good news is that the solution is cheaper than cost of doing nothing. You don’t need to manufacture anything—it’s already there within your reach. You know what clients really want? They want you to do the basics, better.

Essentially, we find that what law firm clients really want is for their law firm to be better at delivering on “category benefits.”  Category benefits are those things that summarize the basic offerings—what people expect—of a particular service, industry, or product. So for example, you expect a gas station to have gas. You expect a hospital to have doctors. You expect a consultant to have discrete knowledge. You expect a car dealership to have cars. And, you expect a law firm to have licensed lawyers. Of course there are a number of category benefits in each of those named enterprises, but the point here is that we don’t need to become overwhelmed with identifying new client needs in order to be best in class. We simply need to deliver the basic category benefits, best.

If you innovate on the basics to sweeten the offer and execute better than anyone else you will be ahead of the competition. Promoting unique brand “features” should be the least of your worries. You can lead the market in simply delivering the generic “category benefits” better than your competition.

The following slide deck (sans discussion/speaker notes) gives an overview of my thinking on the subject of client service. These thoughts are not necessarily original. You can do a web search on “generic category benefits” and find that most business schools and many management consultants have written on the topic. One of the best books on the topic, which inspired my presentation, is Simply Better. If you think the following concepts interesting, I suggest you check out that book and this one, and this one, too.

Comments welcome!

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