Client feedback (i.e., talking to your clients) is an underutilized practice that can improve your client relationships and actually expand your practice. Below are a few takeaways on how to improve this skill as discussed at a Kegler, Brown, Hill + Ritter seminar entitled “After the Fact: Using Client-Focused Feedback Programs to Grow Your Practice” presented by GrowthPlay.
- Asking for feedback early on can set the tone in the client relationship and can strengthen and solidify that client relationship. This practice can eliminate the chance of any festering issues and allows for the attorney to identify areas for improvement early on. Often, clients are pleasantly surprised when their legal counsel connects with them to ask for feedback, rather than just focusing on billing and the current project. As a result of strengthening these connections early, attorneys often see an increase in work due to the deepening of the client relationship, loyalty building, and creating another opportunity to address new client needs.
- Preparation and planning is important for a successful feedback program. If you ask for feedback, it is imperative that you plan to act on it. Otherwise, you are doing yourself a disservice by highlighting to the client the areas that need improvement. As part of the preparation, consider who is best suited to ask the client for feedback. It can be less awkward to have a third party resource request the feedback or an attorney who is in a leadership role but removed from the day-to-day client relationship. Next is how to best approach asking for feedback. Should this communication be through a survey, face-to-face, or in an email? Taking the time to understand the basic who, what, and how of your plan will optimize the chances of successful feedback practices.
- The execution of the feedback program will directly determine what kind of feedback you receive. Make sure you have done your research on the client to know which individual on the client’s team you should actually request the feedback from. In some client organizations, the project team leader should be the target, but in others, the relationship partner may be best suited for the candid dialogue. When asking for feedback, a balance of broad and specific questions can make the feedback you receive more useful. Remember to listen. This sounds like a no-brainer, but can easily be overlooked when the attorney is focused on asking the questions, rather than hearing the answer.
- Lastly, don’t forget the follow-through. Immediately express gratitude to your clients for taking the time to engage and provide you with feedback. Consider a hand-written thank-you note or telephone call. While the information is still relevant and fresh, prepare an action plan to address opportunities and issues. Plans can include timelines and specific work responsibility owners of each task. Having regular internal huddles can allow for progress updates and accountability amongst yourself and your colleagues.
Follow these tips to use client feedback to fuel business development results.
Rachel Friedman is an attorney with Kegler Brown Hill + Ritter in Columbus, Ohio.