Taking a customer-centric approach to client communication, engagement, and management through technology adoption can help firms deliver value and improve satisfaction, while also building their business.
In 2013, Forrester declared that businesses had reached a new 20-year cycle, “The Age of the Customer.” Purportedly, it’s a period where the consumer gains power and businesses must become obsessed with the customer, vying for attention to survive. Since most of the businesses that consumers deal with on a daily basis have adopted a customer-centric mindset, the public expects all companies serious about wanting their business to follow suit – including companies in the legal field.
The need to implement changes that align with a digital, customer-focused mindset has been underscored by the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic forced companies to reconsider how to reach clients without being face-to-face. Law firms, like other businesses, continue to turn to technology to feed consumer desires for increased communication options and higher standards for interactions. There are several key technologies that can be adopted today to help attorneys reach and retain clients.
Reach Clients Digitally
An online presence is necessary. 2020 made it clear that businesses that rely solely on in-person interactions cannot function in a partially remote world. And while there is optimism around a reopening, people are likely to continue to look for remote interactions. A 2021 McKinsey report that reviews the effects of the pandemic on consumer demand suggests that one of the lasting impacts of the pandemic will be the focus on the accessibility of services from the home. Establishing a digital presence and making that presence accessible and available to clients will help law firms grow their business in the emerging “new normal.” These qualities are key to helping new clients find and trust a firm.
In addition to being digitally present, approachability is critical to ensure the lasting health of a business in today’s climate. A secure, professional website is often the first touchpoint a prospective customer has with a business, almost like a front door. Approachability on a corporate site helps build trust with a customer. The content on the website acts as an introduction to the client, providing them with a first look at what the firm does and an overview of why it is worthwhile to come to the firm for legal support. For website purposes, an air of mystery is not intriguing, it’s discouraging to a modern consumer who expects to be able to easily discern what the company does and why they do it. A site that makes what the firm does clear has an openness that allows consumers to feel like they understand and know the company, increasing the chances they’ll reach out.
Once a firm has an approachable site, the issue becomes how to get people there. Firms might not consider online search as a driver of prospective clients, but being searchable is key to being found digitally. Firms can evaluate their ability to be found on popular search engines and implement processes to increase discoverability and, by extension, engagement opportunities. One helpful method to evaluate discoverability is for legal professionals to try looking up their law firm using different pieces of information. This test will allow a firm to determine how much information is showing up when a potential client searches the firm online. Ideally, these searches would be done using a clean browser history, limiting interference from previous searches.
The goal in improving discoverability is to discern what a client needs to know to reach the website. Searching with different keywords, such as “law firm” combined with any case type specializations or the physical area where the practice operates are good places to start. Legal professionals can also ask themselves the following questions:
Does the firm show up if someone searches us generically? Or does someone need to type in the full name of the firm? It may also be of interest for the firm to see if they can be found through a “law offices near me” search from different physical locations — to see if someone could just “happen” to find it locally.
Answers to those questions can help a firm determine how to talk about themselves or advertise. Most search engines offer ways to advertise a business and drive prospective clients to the page. If a firm wants to get into advertising and doesn’t have the time or has trouble finding the firm website online and wants to change that, it may be worthwhile to have a third party manage ads or audit the website.
A trustworthy, easy-to-find website sets the stage for client engagement. However, people like having options. Legal professionals will need to find ways to reach customers wherever they are — whenever they are looking for information. Phone and email are standard options but are often used once communication has been established. Firms can offer alternative options for access by providing online forms, developing FAQ pages or chatbots to answer common questions, offering updates through a blog, or creating social media accounts. No matter what channels a firm decides on, action is key. Customers expect a response, so it is important that firms deliver communications consistently, both in terms of what is being said and the cadence of the responses. Firms should establish lines of communication that their staff is confident in handling, or can use tools to manage.
Manage Client Interactions and Information with Technology
Opening multiple lines of communication or diving into digital advertisements can create a host of new opportunities for a firm. It also has the potential to get messy, fast. Firms with strategic advertising platforms and multi-channel communication can collect relevant data from customers to inform and ultimately improve services for clients. Harnessed and properly managed, that data can provide useful insights into how a business is performing and which of the firm’s online efforts actually bear fruit — in the form of new clients with successful suits.
Firms that invest in client outreach online should consider tracking and information management tools. Tools to provide website analytics are a great place to start. It may also be worthwhile to invest in a CRM or customer relationship management system. CRMs allow a business to track, store, and analyze information about customer interactions. They can also be used to consolidate communications from multiple channels into a single location.
Connect Systems for a Clear View of the Customer Journey
Many systems offer ways to connect and transfer data. It is vital in any connection involving customer data, that law firms be especially aware of their system security and the personally identifiable information passing between systems. These connections can help firms enhance known information about a case. For example, ABC Legal is able to provide information back to systems at attorney offices through an EDI connection.
Attorneys and paralegals with this connection directly import information about cases into their own systems, augmenting the known information about a case as they currently understand it through early interactions with the client, discovery, and setup, with details about filing and service of process. Knowing the full picture of the case and the case results, in combination with how clients found and communicated with the firm can give attorneys a full view of their client’s journey with the firm.
Firms that find ways to invite, interest, and manage engagements effectively can find new pathways to gain new clients and work effectively with them. Combining communication information with high-level case outcomes can create a picture of the true end-to-end customer journey. Insights from this mapping can help highlight process gaps, misunderstandings, or miscommunications that get missed in the day-to-day of the legal firm. They can also be used to determine what initial expectations and engagements ultimately result in the most successful results — and lead firms to provide better solutions for clients.
Building a digital presence can seem daunting but is essential to thriving in the modern legal ecosystem. Taking a customer-centric approach to client communication, engagement, and management through technology adoption can help firms deliver value and improve satisfaction, while also building their business.