It may not be your first instinct to conduct a client feedback program while the world — and more specifically your clients — are in the midst of responding to a public health emergency. But ignoring clients’ perceptions of your performance during these critical moments can have both short- and long-term effects on your relationships.
At the moment, helping clients navigate through the COVID-19 outbreak is your firm’s most important role.
In my last post, I offered six actions you and your firm should take now, including reaching out to clients. Have your lawyers report back on these conversations to create a program to better understand what clients are asking for right now and kickstart your firm’s own COVID-19 response survey.
Once the outbreak has subsided (but not passed), it’s important to more formally assess what clients think about your performance. A survey helps your firm maintain focus on clients and be better positioned to help them through any potential difficult times in the future.
You can download 6 Questions to Ask Clients as Part of Your Crisis Response Interview here.
Timing is of critical importance for a survey of this nature. Plan and prepare now before your clients’ businesses take on whatever the new normal will look like.
Identify which Clients to Include
Identifying the right clients to survey and gathering their contact information is typically the most time and effort-intensive phase of client feedback for law firms. The most effective way to select clients is to focus on clients that account for a large proportion of your firm’s billings — say, a top 100 to 500 client list. Start gathering their contact information now so you’re ready to launch at the right moment.
Calendar Your Outreach(es)
You want to speak to clients after the immediacy of putting out fires, but while you still can be responsive to new circumstances. The ideal time to gather this feedback is when your clients move from urgent management of the situation into longer-term planning. Naturally, this is going to vary depending on where the client’s business operations are globally located and their industry. For this reason, it would be best to take a rolling approach to reaching out to clients for their feedback.
Ask the Right Questions
It is important for clients to understand that you and your firm are putting their needs at the center of this initiative. The survey should target and only address:
- The firm’s performance throughout their response to the COVID-19 outbreak;
- How clients’ needs and business pressures have evolved; and
- What the firm can do to help solve these new issues for clients.
To that end, the questions you ask should demonstrate that you are here as a partner.
Listen & Respond to the Feedback
As with any initiative involving client feedback, the most crucial step is changing behavior based on what clients are saying. Firms that don’t talk to — or respond to — clients now, risk inadvertently damaging the relationship going forward. Those law firms that do will be rewarded once conditions become smoother.